top of page
  • Alexander Pritzen

How Donald Trump is leading conservatism to the slaughterhouse

To the False Shepherds, “You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick… brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them,” (Ezekiel 34). Disclaimer: This is not another article about Donald Trump’s big mouth, racism and lack of political etiquette. This piece will not discuss his inflammatory remarks regarding race and sex, in which we are all in agreement, but rather his following’s dangerous ideas about the economy, policy, and leadership. Although the people voted Trump to be the Republican nominee, he shares no core principles with conservatism and will destroy it as a whole. Republicans who continue to capitulate to the growing strength of the Trump campaign will regret not holding firm to their beliefs and must beware of the false preaching of the Orange Shepherd.

The philosophy and lifestyle of conservatism has inspired Republicans since the end of the Cold War. Conservatism molded thinkers and leaders such as William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, Russell Kirk and Milton Friedman to promote the general good. Russell Kirk, Political Theorist, defined what conservatism meant in a new post-war society. In his “Ten Conservative Principles”, Kirk explains “Liberals and radicals ... are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away.”

A conservative thinker or politician recognizes that viewing all movement forward as progress is dangerous. The conservative leader also understands the best way to lead is through restraint, Kirk writes, “Constitutional restrictions, political checks and balances, adequate enforcement of the laws, the old intricate web of restraints upon will and appetite [are the] instruments of freedom and order.” The Trump mentality infects conservative thought regarding prudence and restriction, that his leadership, will quickly change to “law and order.” The conservative movement quickly adopted the economic policies and ideas promoted by Milton Friedman due to his emphasis on liberty and free trade. Friedman, an American economist and advisor to Ronald Reagan, advocated for free trade throughout his career. Friedman explained that the use of tariffs only for the desirable end of the creation of jobs “is clearly wrong. … Our real objective is not just jobs but productive jobs--jobs that will mean more goods and services to consume.” Trump’s “Make America Great Again” protectionism insinuates that the U.S. must do whatever it takes to bring jobs back home. Trump advertises a “favorable balance of trade” of sending goods with more total value than the goods we import; Friedman also unpacks this myth, writing, “In your private household, you would surely prefer to pay less for more rather than the other way around, yet that would be termed an ‘unfavorable balance of payments’ in foreign trade.” Friedman even suggests that the message of the U.S. should be: “We believe in freedom and intend to practice it. We cannot force you to be free. But we can offer full cooperation on equal terms to all. Our market is open to you without tariffs or other restrictions.... In that way cooperation among individuals can be worldwide and free.” Friedman’s message today has become foreign. The Republican message under Trump promotes fairness over freedom. Trump and the Republican party’s new message to China and other trading partners would be “free trade or no trade.” Friedman and Kirk’s definition of conservatism contradict the policies and persona of Trump.

From his inflammatory comments to his toxic policies and questionable backers, Trump does not act like a normal Republican, politician, or person. The alternative right has been in favor of Trump since the beginning of his campaign. A British journalist for Breitbart News and alt-right spokesperson, Milo Yiannopoulos, explains the alt-right and their endorsement of the “human biodiversity movement… who strode eagerly into the minefield of scientific race difference”. This movement claims that the color of a person’s skin can determine their behavior and intelligence. According to Yiannopoulos, the Alt right believes that “establishment conservatives… care more about the free market than preserving western culture.” Yiannopoulos goes further claiming that their “intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race… that some degree of separation between people is necessary for a culture to be preserved.” These comments eerily remind one of the days of Jim Crow. Trump also claims the full support of former conservative news outlet Breitbart News.

Now run by Steve Bannon, the newest campaign manager for Trump, Breitbart has become an outlet for the alternative right. Ben Shapiro, former writer for Breitbart and editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire, went as far to say that Bannon “turned Breitbart into a Trump Pravda.” Every day, their headlines usher support for Trump and more attacks on Clinton. For example, on Sept. 19, 2016 the headlines included “LOW ENERGY HILLARY: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ‘DOWNRIGHT DEPRESSING’” and “Khan of Londonistan Speaks at Clinton Global Initiative.” The writers and readers of this increasingly popular news source continue to invade the thoughts and feelings of conservatives. Trumpism promotes a demagoguery which has taken hold of the right. Ann Coulter, political commentator and Trump backer, sums up the atmosphere of Trumpism simply based on the title of her newest book “In Trump We Trust”. Replacing the word God in this popular phrase proves how Trump nationalism has eclipsed the conservative meanings for freedom, liberty and leadership. Nothing will define Trumpism better than Trump himself. On his official campaign website, he takes stances that are uniquely him rather than conservative. Trump plans to expand “Unemployment Insurance to include 6 weeks of paid leave” opposing the idea that government should distance themselves from private businesses. Regarding trade, Trump claims that “The trade deficit... costs the US jobs… [hurting] working Americans because good-paying manufacturing jobs are hard to find” and plans on applying “tariffs and duties to countries that cheat.” These positions are a clear divide with any form of Friedman conservative economics. Trump’s solutions to the economy are more government involvement and less opportunities for the individual business owner. Republicans, in order to preserve the ideas of conservatism, must distance themselves, or soon free trade is bound to perish.

The implementation of Trump’s policies is dangerous, but the true danger is the passing of the conservative ethos. As the Trump camp grows in strength, and as the polls continue to tighten, people on the right are beginning to abandon principles to secure a position in the future. Laura Ingraham, radio talk show host and conservative political commentator, clearly changed positions following the tide of the Trump campaign. On Jan. 20, 2015, Ingraham tweeted, “Paid sick leave...paid maternity leave...paid childcare… and it’s all freeeeeeeeeeeee!” Then, on Sept. 13, 2016, in response to Trump’s unveiling of his child care reforms, which include a government mandate for paid maternity leave, Ingraham tweeted, “Need to see details re. How Trump proposes to pay for a new 6-wk maternity benefit. Savings bc those women won’t go on disability?” The clear movement of such a fundamental conservative belief in one year is troubling. Brad Thor, New York Times Bestselling Author and conservative thinker, has followed suit with many other conservatives, abandoning principle to stop Hillary Clinton. In May 2016, on Glenn Beck’s show, Thor made some scathing comments about Trump. Thor proclaimed that Trump is more like “the strong men of Latin America... He is a Chavez. He is a Peron.” Their nationalistic and protectionist policies, Thor continues, have “destroyed Latin America. It has destroyed any hope of democracy down there. He will do the same thing here” and to “all of those cowards that are throwing in behind Trump because he’s the Republican nominee and they say ‘it’s too late to do anything.’ Shame on you.” Then on Aug. 16, 2016, Brad Thor tweets “I believe one hundred percent in standing on principle. Principle, in this case though, will not cure cancer.” Linked to the tweet was a piece he wrote in Hot Air claiming that the country was offered two drugs to cure her cancer: Drug #1 is Hillary Clinton and Drug #2 is Donald Trump. “Drug #1 will kill us – no question. Drug #2 might kill us, but it also might: A) Slow the cancer, or even B) Cure the cancer.” The fear is that more conservatives will follow and leave their principles behind.

The change within the Republican Platform demonstrates how much can shift with just Trump’s nomination. The 2016 platform reads “free trade will truly be fair trade for all involved” while in 2012, “international trade is crucial for our economy. It means more American jobs, higher wages, and a better standard of living… A Republican President will complete negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership.” The platforms of 2008 and 2016 diverge regarding social security, too. In 2008, the platform stressed the freedom to “choose to create your own personal investment accounts which are distinct from and supplemental to the overall Social Security system”, while under Trump’s platform the government will “accept the responsibility to preserve and modernize a system of retirement security.” Changes have also occurred on immigration policy, the shift since the 1980 Republican platform can partly be attributed to expansions within the welfare system of the United States, but the overall tonal differences can be pinned to the Trump persona. The Trump platform’s “highest priority, therefore, must be to secure our borders and all ports of entry and to enforce our immigration laws.” In contrast, the 1980 RNC platform read, “Republicans are proud that our people have opened their arms and hearts to strangers from abroad and we favor an immigration and refugee policy which is consistent with this tradition.” The clear mutations of the Republican Party after Trump’s nomination are clear. The platform will continue to devolve into Trumpist nationalism throughout his presidency, unless Republicans hold firm with their principles. Future historians may look back to the 2016 RNC as the moment where conservatism died.

The people voted Trump as the Republican presidential nominee, but he is barely a Republican and definitely not a conservative. His policies regarding government power, trade and leadership endanger the future of this nation and continue to infect the atmosphere of the GOP. The United States is a constitutional republic and her citizens have the freedom to vote and choose a candidate. Conservatives, however, must own this freedom, and loudly practice it because this may be when conservatism dies.

bottom of page