Nearly three weeks after the election of Donald Trump and the Right can breathe a sigh of relief.
In vanquishing Hillary Clinton, America has been spared from World War III with Russia, the abrogation of our Constitution, the imposition of one party rule through blanket amnesty, and quite possibly the beginning of a slow death for the Republic. Galvanized by the leadership of President Elect Trump, the American People have beaten back the tide of establishment power in Washington DC to restore the sovereignty of the governed over their government.
With a Republican President, Republican controlled Congress, and soon to be conservative leaning Supreme Court, the next administration will have the power and the mandate to right the wrongs of twenty plus years of corporatist rule. More significantly, with a strong Cabinet to support the President Elect, Donald Trump will have possibly the last opportunity to radically reform America’s political institutions without violent insurrection. The nation waits patiently on the cusp of the next act in the 240 year American ascendancy, a great restoration; if only Trump can successfully adapt conservative principle to brutal political reality.
Enter the present civil war within the Republican Party. Just which principles will define American conservatism in the age of Trump? Throughout the election and already in the unfinished Cabinet of the next administration, factions have begun to emerge and compete for supremacy in the new ruling party. While the dissonant cacophony of angry conservative voices raged together in opposition to a Democratic President and broken Republican establishment for eight years, now this militia must govern.
In this election, that silent majority found their voice in Trump; and this broad coalition is unified by little more than a shared hatred for the status quo. It is doubtful that an anti-trade, non-interventionist, big government, lifetime Democrat could rally Republicans from Maine to Arizona in any other year under different circumstances. Trump is a brilliant opportunist to craft such an impossible political campaign in this climate, but it will be very difficult to transcribe his promises into policy on paper without vast swaths of the anti establishment constituency feeling betrayed in some way.
Trump’s Republican Party will orbit around his patriotic-populist governing philosophy which can be summed up so simply and elegantly as “America First,” a sharp departure from orthodox conservative methodology. The fabled parties of Goldwater and Reagan were defined by ideology, by hard principles such as constitutionalism, individual rights, and economic freedom. The tragic results of this high minded approach to the nasty game of politics were, respectively, a crushing electoral defeat in 1964 and a series of small political gains reversed within a decade under George Bush and his “New World Order.”
The Party of Trump, like the Party of Nixon is a coalition which has been thrust into power to get things done. As conservatives, we admire Reagan’s eloquence and his commitment to those timeless principles which have secured for us the American way of life, the only civilized way to live; but we also must come to grips with his abject political failure to institutionalize his own hard fought reforms. Eight years of Reagan begot a ruling elite of Bush’s, Clinton’s, and other connected insiders which have pillaged the American taxpayer of his wealth, his liberties, and his political power for a quarter of a century.
Trump’s “America First” model is not an expression of philosophy or sociology, but purely of policy, as it should be. The core tenets of America’s new conservative party will not be long winded commitments to utopian visions but acute directions for government action. America First will manifest in four primary areas: immigration, trade, foreign policy, and institutional reform. On immigration, at long last, we will fulfill the 35 year old Republican promise to secure the border with an “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall,” and Mexico will pay for it. Not only will this promise be redeemed but in this new party, immigration will be a priority and it will be discussed from the axiom that immigration exists as a government program to benefit Americans.
Trade will be a crucial issue to secure electoral gains in the Midwest and Northeast and so it should and probably will remain a central part of the Trump Party platform. This is probably the most divisive issue within the Republican camp as it divides the free market fundamentalists and the left leaning protectionists; but Trump has introduced a practical compromise. The present trade arrangement is not free trade, and the advancement of intercontinental deals like the TPP, TiSA, TTIP, NAFTA, and others compromise national sovereignty. Both the free traders and protectionists agree that these have to go, and in the meantime Trump can campaign on this and win the rust belt.
The President Elect will elicit even more derision still from the conservative establishment with his practical approach to world order. Thankfully, the Party of Trump can reintroduce America to her default non-interventionist posture in foreign affairs. The Bush family and plenty of hawkish political institutions have worked very hard to brand non-interventionists as dangerous isolationists from the 1930s that will recreate Hitler; but in actuality the Cold War, and its interventions, was the exception, not the rule for American diplomacy. Eisenhower’s military industrial complex has overstayed its welcome by 25 years and both small government and fiscal conservatives should invite Trump to follow through with his promise to end the perpetual war for global hegemony.
The last and most important reform which Trump can graft onto American conservatism is the anti-establishment crusade to drain the swamp which propelled him into office. While Trump has done the country a great service in simply defeating Hillary Clinton, and while he can make tremendous strides in immigration, trade, and foreign policy, he can be among the Presidents on Mount Rushmore if he can fix Washington, if just for a moment. As Reagan and Obama learned the hard way, most policy issues which face the nation are fixable, though only a symptom of a systemic, corrupt order which rules from the highest perches of power. If the ruthlessly pragmatic and patriotic lion of this populist revolution can shepherd the nation back to a system of self government and sovereignty, then we can strive for conservative principle and its preservation.
While we root for the President Elect to make these changes and to succeed, moving forward, conservatives must be weary of Donald Trump. Over the course of the last nineteen months, it was necessary to present a unified front against such an ubiquitous enemy in the media, the establishment, and the Clinton machine to install Trump in office. Dissent and criticism against Trump was suppressed by a very vocal and dangerously sycophantic sect of the right which was reasonable given the risks and perils that loomed with the possibility of a Clinton White House. Now that the dust has settled and the revolution has survived, it is important to remember that Trump is a mortal man, and now a politician with great power; and as such susceptible to the same corruption we task him to fight.
The Right gave him the White House and a favorable balance of power in Congress and the Supreme Court, it is our obligation to hold him accountable for his promises and for his actions as he governs. The current administration ought to serve as an example of the self destruction wrought by an absence of introspection, and if the right is to rise above the failures of the petulant narcissist currently in the White House, we have to hold Trump accountable in the next administration. There is a conservative renaissance on the horizon in America, and it can succeed if we commit Trump to principle as he governs pragmatically.
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