According to a recent Politico poll, 52 percent of American conservatives would have preferred a candidate other than Donald Trump as their nominee. Paul Ryan infamously skirted around endorsing Trump for the majority of Trump’s campaign, and a number of Republican party leaders still refuse to capitulate. Conservative pundits from George Will to Charles C.W. Cooke to Glenn Beck have loudly castigated the candidate and his appendage in inanity, as the Alt-Right. Earlier this summer, Speaker Ryan made the comment that “conservatives want to know, does [Trump] share our values?” My response? Don’t be ridiculous, of course he doesn’t.
Now to be clear, I don’t even really consider myself a Republican. I’m a registered Libertarian who, if forced to choose a side, would feel a little more at home on the right. That being said, many of my objections to “The Donald” are the same as those of the aforementioned cast of Republican heavyweights.
It seems trite to comment on Trump’s character in a news cycle dedicated to that topic, but given his wild incompetence, this matters. My issue here is his uncanny ability to turn valid talking points into offensive-sounding drivel. Addressing Hillary Clinton’s hypocrisy in touting an assault weapon ban whilst being protected by heavily armed security agents is an excellent idea – Trump made it sound like a death threat. Speculating about the bias of a judge, who was a member of a pro-immigration professional organization, was not totally out of bounds – Trump made it a racial slur. And this is of course not doing justice to his countless petty gaffes over the summer (“long slender fingers,” “the New York Times doesn’t write good” and “lyin’ Ted” all come to mind). Normally, the personal life of a candidate shouldn’t have much bearing on their aptitude for presidency. In the cases of Trump and Clinton, it unfortunately really does.
For the first time in its history, the Republican Party has a bonafide mercantilist nominee. No, that is not a political hyperbole. He really wants prohibitive taxes on imported goods for the sake of “national greatness.” Free trade has been an important element of the republican platform for decades, and even if you don’t like NAFTA or the TPP, any conservative worth his or her salt would decry such an expansion in tariffs. Domestically, Trump has proposed a rather totalitarian-esque “one-time” tax on the wealthiest one percent and continues to support an iteration of the graduated income tax. It has been made clear from his rhetoric that Trump sees himself as the country’s sole economic solution. From a true conservative standpoint, change comes about through a democratically-elected legislator, not at the hands of a centrally powerful individual.
Lastly, Trump has been notoriously indecisive on a multitude of key conservative issues. In 2015, he wanted to defund Planned Parenthood; in 2016, he was lauding the organization. In 1991, he was a full-blown Libertarian on the drug trade; in 2016, he’s “cautious” on even marijuana legalization. In 2015, he thought raising the minimum wage would be destructive; in 2016, he promised to raise it. In 2002, he told radio host Howard Stern that he supported the war in Iraq; in 2003, he was against it. Now, maybe Trump has a bountiful, introspective life and has been able to significantly nuance his opinion on all of these issues … or maybe he just doesn’t know/care enough about them to form an intelligible stance. At any rate, a cautious voter should take note of the fact that a majority of his most significant policy shifts have taken place in the last six months.
None of these are issues that any true conservative (with some exceptions) spends a lot of time vacillating on. They’re issues of prodigious importance to the nation, and there is a conservative approach to them, it just isn’t Donald Trump’s. Trumpism is not conservatism, please stop saying it is.