The problem for conservatives is that Trump is not
The fundamentals of American conservatism have been things like a distrust concentrated power and its corollary is that best is dispersion of power among different entities within the state and in civil society and business. Trump is a centralizer, much like many Democrats.
Another fundamental trait of American conservatism has been incremental, organic and iterative change, little faith in quick changes, especially those instituted by one leader. Relationships long established should not be changed for light or transient reasons. Trump is all about big changes, centrally commanded. Conservatives understand the nobody can understand enough to make detailed plans for a complex system, but that a good process exists if you let it work, distributed in the minds and judgement of many people, working individually or in voluntary association, each making decisions they think best.
Conservatism is a difficult sell to voters, since if you follow your values you cannot promise to give stuff to people and you understand better than most that even an honest and intelligent government cannot manage complex economic relationships. Politics, ancient to modern, has often been about buying voters with their own money or - preferably - that of others. Liberals take up this task joyfully; a true conservative does it in sorrow, pressed by harsh necessity of getting elected.
The United States was founded on principles that were called liberal at the time, but since the 1930 have become the domain of what we call conservative in the U.S. As we know, internationally "liberal" still usually refers to people who would be called conservative in the U.S. It is one of the ironies of changing terms, but we need to call things by the names most people understand, so I will stick to the commonly understood term.
There is no party that really represents conservative values perfectly, or even very well. It is in the nature of a political system, since politics favors those who are eager to use public money to buy programs constituents want.
If you try to manage with conservative principles, i.e. spend less government money, make sure that programs have substantial buy in from partners, work within limitations and relax control to allow others to use their own initiative, it works well, but with the big drawback that leaders cannot easily claim credit. Imagine the guy running for reelection with the slogan, "I did not know what to do in detail, but I had a general vision and , I trusted the process and the people to facilitate decisions by others closer to the problem at hand and they did okay. It is not the best we could do in theory, but in a complex environment with lots of differing preferences, it the best that we could practically achieve. If reelected, I will do more of the same."
The best leaders are those who seem in the background and when the purpose is accomplished the people think they did it themselves ... and they did -mostly - since the good leader helps create conditions for prosperity but relies on the people to achieve their goals. This is nearly the opposite of a successful leaders in modern political age.
John Maynard Keynes is often called liberal, but said some conservative things. Among them is this - "Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally." Politicians have embraced this wisdom and added to it a profound talent for shifting the blame and making failure seem like success.
Conservative policies have the virtue of actually working but doing so over the long run and not providing much credit to politicians. The virtue of liberal policies is that they seem to work in the short term and play well into the narrative fallacy of a strong leader directing events.
Strong leaders bringing revolutionary change produce good slogans and often catchy tunes, followed by misery. We are better off with weak leaders and a strong nation doing most of the deciding.
Posted by Christine & John at November 7, 2016 11:58 AM
I’d say your big problem is that the movement got tired of trying to succeed conventionally, and ended up embracing a lot of cognitive and political shortcuts, not to mention building up the party in oppositional terms to liberals and Democrats. In this way, though traditionally conservative principles would go for safe, cautious evolutions, the actual course of the changes were far, far more radical, far more untested, and built far more on politics than on good sense.
So if we think of Eisenhower and the state highway system are you suggesting that was a conservative principles that allowed Eisenhower to say “I did not know what to do in detail, but I had a general vision and , I trusted the process and the people to facilitate decisions by others closer to the problem at hand and they did okay. It is not the best we could do in theory, but in a complex environment with lots of differing preferences, it the best that we could practically achieve. If reelected, I will do more of the same.”
Or Kennedy and the Space program?
I don’t think so,I think it took a great many people working together, a Liberal principle, to achieve the success those program achieved C&J.
Lets face it true conservative principles work best as a watch dog of government not as a leader of government. The conservatives of today. in office, have failed to demonstrate any principles in fact it is their lack of principles that identifies them. Trump fits into that group IMHO.
The DOW is up today and some speculate that it is because of Comey’s latest announcement.
How is it that Hillary promises to tax the rich and the rich seem to love it?
Reality has a liberal bias.
Today the stock markets are starting an early celebration of a Hillary Clinton administration. Why?
Simple. She will continue the successful policies of the Obama administration.
Conservatism fell into the trap of opposing everything Obama and Democrats favored. In a recent poll, half of all Trump supporters believe the stock market has declined under Obama, and unemployment has increased.
A Trump administration would mean tariffs, a trade war, and a large decline in the dollar. The situation would get very bad, very fast.
What is conservatism? I would argue Trump is now the face of conservatism. The political philosophy has morphed into the face of the Alt-Right. It used to promote small government, tax cuts, and military aggressiveness. To attract enough votes, it relied on the Southern Strategy. The idea was to subtly appeal to bigotry and racism. Tax cuts for the rich were supposed to be a good thing because it meant minorities would not get free stuff. The difference with Trump is that he ditched the part about taxes, and instead, overtly appealed to the bigotry and racism of the base.
When military aggressiveness resulted in the disaster of Iraq, conservatives rejected the Neo-Cons. This came as quite a shock to the Neo-Cons, who believed Bush was a good president who ‘kept us safe.’ Trump publicly called out the lie. There is still a lot of unfocused aggressiveness, but now it takes the form of xenophobia.
Trump is a serial liar. But conservatism finds itself drowning in a fever swamp of right wing media lies and conspiracies. Traditional conservatism lost. The Alt-Right won, and it is a terrible thing to see. The likes of Bannon and Breitbart, Hannity, Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, and so on, won the day.
Conspiracy theories rule the roost. Political correctness is no longer necessary. The racists and bigots have a green light to express themselves, personified by Trump. In the new world of conservatism, the economy is terrible, Obama is a Muslim and not an American, Hillary is corrupt and crooked, the election is rigged, the polls are rigged, the media is biased, elites are wrong, experts are wrong, scientists participate in a hoax to push Global Warming, and everything that threatens or contradicts the new conservatism of the Alt-Right is denied and insulted.
And now, here we are.
“I would argue Trump is now the face of conservatism. It used to promote small government, tax cuts, and military aggressiveness.”
You would be wrong on two counts.
Trump is not a conservative any more than the Pope is a Lutheran.
Conservatism promotes government large enough to perform the duties and responsibilities found in our Constitution with all the rest the Liberals love left for the States to consider.
Conservatives favor taxation limited to fund what is necessary for government to perform the duties and responsibilities found in our Constitution with all the rest the Liberals love left for the States to consider.
Conservatives favor a military large enough to protect the nation so that government can perform the duties and responsibilities found in our Constitution.
phx8 wrote; “Political correctness is no longer necessary.”
Political correctness was never necessary.
Actually, that is exactly what Eisenhower did. He got the general idea after crossing the U.S. and subsequently seeing Hitler’s Autobahn.
Building the Interstate was not micromanaged. The states and municipalities did a lot of planning.
The Interstates also were an example of government facilitating but not planning prosperity. They did not determine who could drive on the highways, beyond basic licensing.
Re working together - that is a conservative proposition when done in voluntary association and dispersed decision making. The liberal vision includes government planning, redistribution and coercion.
It is interesting that there is significant overlap. Not long ago, there was a minor intellectual boomlet in Alexis de Tocqueville. Both sides claim he vindicates their point of view. During the 1990s, you could find Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich trading Tocqueville quotations.
Hillary sucks and I dislike her with a passion, but she is probably the more conservative choice in this election. She will perpetuate the status quo, which is not good but may be better than Trumps revolutionary change.
The key difference between conservatism and liberalism is the amount of government management you advocate and how you think it should be applied.
The reasons most conservatives opposed Trump is because he is in favor of expanded government management.
Trump staged a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. Most of the party leadership opposed him. I am hoping he loses. If he does, conservatives will have a chance to rebuilt. If he wins, we will essentially have two parties favoring government management and crony capitalism.
Both Hillary and Trump suck c/j. Can you stomach Hillary appointing two or three supreme court justices? I can not. It is quite easy for me to conceptualize the America that will exist after a majority liberal/progressive/socialist SC is finished with it.
Re political correctness. I despise it when it employs coercion and interferes with intellectual inquiry. MOST true ideas are offensive to somebody.
I believe in being courteous. We should never insult anybody needlessly. Good manners demand that. Good manners also demand that you not take offense if none is intended or in ambitious situations.
PC allows fools to take offense and engage in righteous indignation that they have not earned.
“The key difference between conservatism and liberalism is the amount of government management you advocate and how you think it should be applied.”
That used to be true. And it is difficult to evaluate Trump in terms of policies, because really, he does not have any. He has been on both sides of virtually every issue. During the primaries his opponents never could make any progress because most of their stands on issues were similar to Trump’s, with the notable exceptions of Social Security, which Trump did not wanted to leave untouched, and a stand on building a wall and making Mexico pay for it.
Maybe conservatism still exists as a political philosophy, but it has no followers. When 23 columnists wrote anti-Trump pieces for the “National Review,” it did not make so much as a ripple. The traditional conservative pundits had become generals with no army behind them.
Trump mouthed some conservative platitudes, but what he really appealed to was the negative emotions of the base. It was an authoritarian appeal. Some people have called Trump a fascist, but that is not exactly the right term.
He led crowds of people to chant “lock her up.” It was like something right out of a Twilight Zone episode. He said terrible things about his opponent and said she should be in jail. He has called the legitimacy of our democratic election into question without a shred of evidence to back such a claim.
I am wondering if Trump has done permanent damage to our political system. Guess we’ll find out.
This election is certainly not a referendum of liberal versus conservative policies unless liberals wish to openly condone and promote fraud, cronyism, malfeasance, and corruption.
I believe Hillary will enhance all that is wrong with Washington. Trump may try to change some.
It USED to be true and still is. That is why Trump is not conservative. He took over the Republican Party by overcoming resistance from conservatives and most of the Republican leadership. He is now in control of the party in the same way that Grant took Richmond. It does not mean that he is a conservative or that what it means to be conservative has now become Trump.
It may be true that American conservatism has lost its political influence. As I wrote above, it is difficult to advocate conservative ideas in a political environment where promises and hyperbole are important to success. If it is true, it does not mean that it is a good thing.
We can make a distinction between what is politically expedient and what is right.
The most famous part of the work of ancient author Thucydides is the Melian Dialogue, where the Athenians explain to the Melians that their justified claims to justice just don’t matter, since “the strong take what they can and the weak grant what they must.”
Like the Melians, we cannot give up the right even if we know we cannot win. Maybe it will be more like Bastogne in the long run.
Was there ever a conservative movement? Or was it just a veneer plastered on top of nationalist populism?
Are Trump’s supporters voting for him for any reason different from whatever reason compelled Reagan’s supporters to vote for him in 1980?
“Was there ever a conservative movement? Or was it just a veneer plastered on top of nationalist populism?”
That is a great question, WP. For Bush in 2004, it was Guns, God, and Gays. Bush in 1988 ran the infamous Willie Horton ads. Even Reagan started his presidential run with a speech in Philadelphia, MS, a place known for just one thing: the murders of a civil rights activistys. And Reagan frequently told a false story about a ‘welfare queen’ driving a Cadillac.
So this nationalist populism has always been there, exemplified by the Southern Strategy. What makes it exceptional now is the degree to which Trump has so overtly expressed it.
As bad as that is, I am more worried about Trump’s claims that the election is rigged, everything is rigged and biased, and that he may not concede. That is how an authoritarian talks. And he encourages his crowds to chant for the US to build a wall. Those are Americans chanting that? Hard to believe. Or worse, “lock her up.”
Our country may sicker than anyone suspected. Hopefully the vote will go smoothly tomorrow.
There was a strong conservative movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Reagan and Thatcher were the political manifestations of it, but conservatism and politics are not well-suited.
It was actually very successful. When I was in college, people really believed a lot of silly things about how you could manage the economy. They purported to be hyper rational. In sociology or anthropology, your grades would be seriously threatened if you suggested that humans were more than essentially blank slates. Free markets were misunderstood and reviled.
Today you find respect for markets even in the Obama WH. They try to match incentives and understand the need for decentralized decision making, even if they don’t like it.
Read some biographies of LBJ and his advisors. They really believed in the liberal creed. There are few people like them anymore.
I was very distressed by the popularity of Bernie Sanders. It is my opinion, but I really think that man is an idiot, in the original sense of the term. But before the conservative movement, such as Sanders were all over the place. I am afraid it might come back, but I think it is just the last kick of a dying system.
I can talk of my personal trajectory over 30 years in the USG. When I came in, my way of doing business was odd. One of my supervisors actually told me to be more liberal. Today - even in the Federal government - there is a lot more training in what I recognize as techniques based on ideas that Hayek would have understood. The idea of tacit knowledge is generally accepted today by educated people. It was not 30 years ago.
I hate the “rigged” think. But it is not only Trump. Fools on the left, such as Sanders and Warren, were the ones who popularized it in latter days. It is the old leftist formulation. Unfortunately, it has bled out to the right.
Of course, left and right are not so different in what we call extremes. A person living under Stalin would have seen most of the same sorts of behaviors under Hitler. The slogans are different, but the government tells you what to do and you end up in a concentration camp if you are the wrong sort.
There was a strong conservative movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Reagan and Thatcher were the political manifestations of it, but conservatism and politics are not well-suited.
I asked whether the electorate was conservative, not whether GOP leaders were. It seems that the same people who voted for Reagan also constituted the New Deal Coalition from 1932-1964. The working class Americans known as “Reagan Democrats” never seem to have bought into conservative ideology. Conservatives such as Reagan managed to attract these voters by packaging White ethnic nationalism within the veneer of conservatism. But true to their New Deal origins, those voters never stopped believing in the power of Central Planning and Statism.
Trump is conservative when it comes to economics and social issues. The old do as I say not as I do social issues, In fact Trump exemplifies the Gingrich conservative values of carrying on affairs while attacking others for doing the same.
Trumps tax plan is regressive and yet his conservative followers still buy into it. His 1950’s ideas of creating jobs by giving breaks to the “job creators” and bringing the jobs back from overseas is laughable but conservative none the less.
Trump has used the Reagan line of “government is the problem” constantly in his attacks on Clinton. Why according to Trump, Clinton has ran the government by herself the past 30 years and look at how bad it has done. In fact Trump has channeled Reagan, the god of all things conservative, better than any of the other bona fide conservative primary candidates that lost to him.
These are a few examples yet you would disown Trump as a conservative? Our conservative friends here on WB are closet Trump voters and supporters aren’t they? Squawks like a duck in my book.
I am proud of you C&J for recognizing the fact that conservatism and governing are oil and water, the proof we have seen from Reagan and the Tea Party. But what is being done other than dragging our government down into the slime of banana republics and other worse forms of a conservative governing?
Conservative you can call a philosophy, but what is it in practice? It can’t just be a bunch of canned platitudes, like “Small Government is best,” or, “Tax Cuts improve the economy,” or “Less Regulation.” Good conservatism has to have it’s feet solidly on the ground. Good conservatism is not built on ideology, but on discipline. One looks at the regulations, don’t just hack them. One sees whether the removal of the regulation would do any kind of good, one just doesn’t assume that.
Lets us not forget the third leg of the conservative ideology, the landed gentry (elites) should rule/vote over the rest of us. We see Trump and the GOP as a whole using voter suppression laws to shore up this principle.
Oh I know y’all speak to the working class…. but only to keep it fighting amongst itself. Blaming minorities works well but that is because the working class has been “conservatived” down over the years. The inability to reason and think critically is certainly a conservative principle that Trump has exploited this election cycle.
Watching Obamacare pass was seeing our country and politics at its very worst. It’s when I became an Independent.
Not a single Republican voted for the ACA. Democrats were so desperate to pass some kind of health care bill that fraud, threats, and bribery became quite acceptable. The president himself was capable of lying to the American people.
We know today that the ACA is doomed if not drastically changed.
My point is simple, our political parties do not have the interests of the American people uppermost in their minds and actions. Did they ever?
Best quote of the election.
“Bush I and II, Mitt Romney, the neocons and the GOP commentariat all denounced Trump as morally and temperamentally unfit. Yet, seven of eight Republicans are voting for Trump, and he drew the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of any GOP nominee.
Not only did he rout the Republican elites, he ash-canned their agenda and repudiated the wars into which they plunged the country.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/11/win-or-lose-trump-has-emasculated-ruling-class/#PjE33wkyC2mBgGkI.99
You keep on coming back to this unfortunate note of triumphalism. Congratulations, I’ve destroyed the power-structure of my own party!
Look, the reason your party couldn’t stop Obamacare is that they simply didn’t have the numbers to do it. Fact you gave up on them for that is just indicative of how unrealistic your expectations were in the first place. These guys go out of their way to pass your litmus tests, but because of the way the Constitution structures the legislative process, and your Tea Partiers’ unfortunate pension for compromising with no-one, even when it could score them lopsided deals against the Democrats, they can’t really deliver what you ask of them.
It’s an abusive relationship, really. Your people got too hasty, too greedy, too scared of what might happen if Obama marginalized your people the way Reagan marginalized ours. Result? The Party is caught up in a cycle of self-loathing and denial that has it tearing it apart.
With folks like you cheering how amazingly well this demolition is going.
Please Stephen, spare us the moralizing. I want the Republican elites gone as do most of us on the Right.
The Democrat party is already on its last legs. Just imagine, the Republicans fielded 17 candidates for the nomination and the best the Dems could do was a silly Socialist and a worn out wanna-be.
And 16 of those candidates lost to a clown. I wouldn’t be so proud of the state of the GOP, Royal Flush.
I guess I am wearing egg on my face today as the “clown” is now our President-elect. I wish him the best. Being President is a tough job and he is going to need to learn a lot very quickly.
With Trump elected President, it seems that the classical liberalism on which the nation was founded is now dead. The next Democratic nominee will undoubtedly be a socialist in the mold of Bernie Sanders rather than a liberal like Barack Obama.
Oh, shut up. You just elected the worst man out of those seventeen, and now you have to rely on him to carry out policy in the real world. You know, the guy who couldn’t keep his books straight, who stiffed his creditors left and right? I’m going to bet that being in the spotlight won’t make this guy any better at managing a budget, or any more responsible at carrying it out. I’m going to bet that somebody’s going to get their hand caught in the cookie jar.
Your little baby Trump is going to have to grow up real fast, because the Presidency is where the idealism of Congress and the reality of the world they deal with make their contact. You talk about Hillary being tired, just how much Jamaican jumping powder is he going to have to snort to get through the next four years?
“Oh, shut up. You just elected the worst man out of those seventeen, a”
No likes a sore loser.
Timmy Kaine is gonna regret that threat he made to push through Obama’s supreme Court nominee if they won back the Senate. Looks like it will be filled by another originalist like Scalia.