Conservatives like myself have, rightly, been slow to warm to Donald Trump.
Among the serious contenders in the Republican Party primary, Trump was perhaps one of the least intellectually and temperamentally conservative, with the possible exception of his positions on immigration and taxes. In fact, some of Trump’s stated positions (such as those on tariffs) are essentially torn from the Bernie Sanders playbook.
That’s not even to mention his hundreds of vulgar, untrue, sexist, and/or racist outbursts throughout the campaign season, apparent ignorance of basic concepts of economics and national defense, and his sordid personal history.
For these reasons, many of us chose to vote third party on the presidential level once Trump had secured the Republican nomination.
Despite this defection, Trump was able to win relatively handily, aided in no small part by the Democratic Party’s nomination of the most corrupt and weakest presidential candidate in modern history, Hillary Clinton. While we will never know for certain, it is likely that any serious Republican could have beaten Clinton even more soundly without the personal and ideological baggage Trump brings to the table.
Although that outcome may have been greatly preferable, and Trump’s primary victory seems to represent a huge missed opportunity, it is no longer worth rehashing the divisive GOP primary. Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States. Republicans now hold 33 of 50 state governorships and majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
With two to four Supreme Court appointments likely to come up before 2020, conservatives have a chance to hold a 7-2 majority on the nation’s highest court, an advantage that will last decades due to the court’s demographics. Democrats also have to defend ten Senate seats in states Trump won during the 2018 midterms.
So what can conservatives do in order to ensure that the GOP establishment, as they are wont to do, does not squander this tremendous opportunity?
Conservatives do hold a great deal of leverage in the current situation: none of Trump’s nominees or policies will be passed through Congress without support from either Democrats or the principled conservatives within the GOP. But we must not be under the illusion that the GOP establishment will hold Trump to our principles, as it has wholeheartedly embraced the man.
First, we conservatives must ensure that President Trump’s feet are held to the fire on key issues.
The GOP-controlled Senate must not rubber-stamp any of Trump’s nominees. Although his Supreme Court shortlist seems impressive at first glance, the Senate needs to do its job and thoroughly vet any candidate he puts forth (to avoid a David Souter scenario).
The Senate also must “trust but verify” when it comes to executive branch appointments. The current list of candidates for cabinet secretarial posts includes some excellent conservatives, but also a large number of moderate-to-liberal candidates. The nominees for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense will be particularly important given Trump’s inexperience with foreign policy (John Bolton and Jeff Sessions would be excellent picks).
Additionally, conservatives in the House and Senate should quickly advance bills on which they can make common ground with Trump’s loudest campaign promises-such as on immigration (with a border security bill and on defunding sanctuary cities), healthcare (with a comprehensive market-based replacement to the “Affordable” Care Act), education (with a bill enabling funds for school choice at the federal level) and taxation/regulation (slashing taxes and regulation on individuals and businesses to promote economic growth).
It is also important that we minimize the influence of the nationalist-socialist-populist far-right fringe on the direction of this country.
Trump himself does not seem to be as much a racist or sexist as someone who says whatever he thinks might be funny without thinking (after all, his transition team includes several women and ethnic minorities, and yesterday he told his fringe few supporters who have been doing so to stop harassing minorities). But it is clear that Trump’s success bucking political correctness has attracted and enabled a (relatively small) creeping mass of truly racist, sexist, and worse people in this country. While the obvious example is the KKK’s resurgence (see David Duke’s emergence to run for Senate in Louisiana), any person who views Trump’s victory as a win for “white males” only or exhibits a tendency toward these nationalist-socialist-populist beliefs, or wishes to use the Trump presidency to wage war on political enemies within the “establishment” should be totally marginalized.
This election was about a total repudiation of the left-wing politics that have plagued this country for a decade, destroying our fundamental liberties, shutting down our industrial economy, withdrawing from our leadership role in the world, and stoking racial divisions. Doubling down on identity politics, isolationism, and redistributive economics would be a catastrophic mistake.
Conservatives believe in increasing opportunities for everyone through the free market, while this lunatic fringe believes only in shifting the benefits of the federal welfare state from minorities to whites. It is utterly imperative that conservatives like Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and Former Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner win the battle for Trump’s “ear” on policy within his transition team.
Once these important personnel battles are over and the “low-hanging fruit” of policy objectives have been achieved, Trump and conservatives on Capitol Hill will need to negotiate solutions with regard to his other promises.
He has promised a gigantic infrastructure program (which, although expensive, is probably not the least productive way to spend money) but has proposed no adequate solution to fund such a bill. Conservatives would probably be willing to agree to such a plan as long as it was managed efficiently and costs could be offset by cuts to entitlement spending as proposed by Paul Ryan in his “Better Way” plan.
Another conservative pet project, privatization of social security, could also go a long way towards funding such an ambitious proposal.
He has also promised a solution on trade deals that will help revive the coal and manufacturing industries. While the electorate is clearly passionate about this issue, conservatives must not bow to the pressure to institute across-the-board tariffs, which will only serve to dramatically increase consumer prices.
We will likely be facing a recession anyway as the increasingly-politicized Federal Reserve raises interest rates—reversing the positive growth effects of cutting taxes and regulation by instituting tariff increases would doom Trump’s presidency and immediately put in peril the resurgence of the GOP.
Economists on both sides of the aisle agree that across-the-board tariff increases are a terrible policy (even wage subsidies for affected industries are more efficient) and that the best way to promote fair trade without hurting consumers is to enter into free trade agreements that require member countries to meet the same labor standards as our own.
In what will likely be his first real test as a policy-maker, Trump will need to find a way to both satisfy his Rust Belt base and accommodate the economic facts on this issue. Hopefully, the economic growth provided by cutting taxes and regulations will be enough to increase the labor participation rate to a satisfactory level before tariffs can be considered.
Also, conservatives must watch Trump carefully with regard to his dealings with Democrats. He may find it easier to make “deals” with congressional Democrats than to craft great policy that will unite all factions of the GOP.
Liberal policy priorities have been utterly rejected by the American people at the ballot box—in other words, Trump has a strong mandate to govern as a conservative. However, Democrats clearly believe they can win negotiations with Trump, as high-ranking congressional Democrats have announced their willingness to do business with him.
We all know that for Democrats like Chuck Schumer, “bipartisanship” means “my way or the highway”. It’s obvious that the reason they are suddenly singing a different tune with regards to Trump is that they think they can manipulate him into passing their policy agenda in the name of “bipartisanship”.
Ever the egomaniac, it will be very difficult for Trump to reject the media adulation such actions could bring him in the short term.
This is further a concern because Trump has announced his intent to listen to counsel from Barack Obama, his own daughter Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, who are all known to be extremely liberal. While there’s nothing wrong with listening to and incorporating all sides of the argument, if Trump begins championing liberal priorities under the GOP banner, conservatives should use every tool at their disposal, up to and including impeachment, to bring him back into the fold and hold him to his promises to the American people.
A full term of doubling down on the same left-wing policies that were rejected in the 2016 election would be fatal to Trump’s future election chances and the future of the Republican Party, and indeed quite harmful to this country in the long run.
Hopefully, Trump’s advisors will ensure he realizes this and he will stay far away from the biggest potential pitfall he faces: the betrayal of his base for fifty pieces of silver from the media and congressional Democrats.
Finally, we must resist the “Clintonization” of the GOP.
Similarly to Bill Clinton, Trump’s celebrity and affable-yet-boorish demeanor uniquely position him to weather storms of criticism for misbehavior and corruption. Unlike how Democrats reacted to Clinton’s horrendous personal conduct while in office, Republicans must ensure that Trump toes the line with regard to his personal conduct.
While we may forgive him now for his past indecencies, he must be made to realize that similar despicable personal behavior will not be tolerated while he is in office as President of the United States.
Should Trump have a scandal while in office, it would be foolish for the GOP to circle its wagons around such a character—we just saw what happens to a political party when it puts all its eggs in the basket of a person who has betrayed the public trust.
Holding him accountable would be a far better political strategy, not to mention the right thing to do.
With regard to that last point, some free advice for the left: You created Donald Trump.
Stop with the demonization of every Republican as “racist” or “sexist” or “bigoted” simply because they disagree with you on public policy. The media and liberal politicians have spent so long loudly levying unjust personal attacks against good men like Mitt Romney (“binders full of women”), John McCain, the Bush family, Ted Cruz, and Mike Pence that when a candidate (Trump) finally did come along who deserved at least some of the outrage, the electorate assumed that it was all just run-of-the-mill demonization of the Republican frontrunner.
Additionally, liberal academia’s creation of excessive political correctness and the atmosphere of divisiveness it fostered gave Trump a giant straw man that he relentlessly attacked to the great delight of the public, obscuring his lack of policy depth.
Further, the liberal mainstream media, in an attempt to bolster Clinton’s chances by propping up the most vacuous Republican candidate in this year’s field, gave Donald Trump a two-billion-dollar advantage in free coverage throughout the Republican primary, suffocating more serious and qualified candidates like Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio.
Lastly, the Democratic Party ran a candidate that took the election for granted (despite her various scandals) and didn’t even attempt to win over the votes of people from blue-collar backgrounds, instead threatening to continue President Obama’s destructive policies by “putting coal miners out of business” and dividing the country along racial lines. It’s very likely that almost any other Democrat could have beaten Trump handily had they avoided the pitfalls of Clinton’s pervasive arrogance and at least pretended to care about uniting the country.
Clearly, however, liberals have not yet learned their lesson: the post-election hysteria about Trump’s victory and Pence’s past socially conservative stances has been comedically unhinged.
If you’re going to protest, maybe wait until a real bill is being considered that will actually harm you? You might find that a surprisingly large number of conservatives are willing to join in. There’s no way conservatives in Congress are going to approve bills to nationalize the police force, force conversion therapy on gays, ban all forms of birth control, or deport American citizens based on race or religion (some of the more ridiculous policies these “protestors” in my Facebook feed claim to believe Trump will institute).
In fact, there is no way that Trump, even if he did believe such things (spoiler alert: he doesn’t), would even submit such ideas to Congress as they have no chance of passing and are far more likely to end with his impeachment.
Maybe the real reason hysteria is setting in is because “progressives” are realizing their years of divisive rhetoric and destructive policies are coming home to roost, and the American electorate is no longer prepared to tolerate such things from their leaders.
Regardless, Donald Trump is our President now.
It is our duty as Americans to give him a chance to lead this country, and pray that he receives the guidance he needs on policy matters and that he will lead this country with a level head. Conservatives should enthusiastically support him politically to the extent they support any politician: to the extent that he fights for our values and ideals at home and protects our nation abroad.
Although Trump is no more an ideological conservative than he is a racist or sexist or liberal, assuming he is able to assemble the right team (Mike Pence was a good start) this administration has a chance to lead the greatest conservative resurgence since Ronald Reagan was president.
If President Trump’s first term leaves us with several excellent Supreme Court justices and he accomplishes even half of what is set forth in these pages (without engaging in some sort of unforeseen international crisis), we will be well-positioned to expand the conservative movement as a faction of the GOP for years to come, and the nation will be relatively united based on the success of these policies.
But if Trump and the new GOP majority choose to pursue the destructive policies of identity politics, an expansion of the welfare state through tariff increases, withdrawing from our foreign obligations, or approval of non-originalist Supreme Court justices, conservatives should fight these actions tooth and nail, with even more ferocity than when Barack Obama pursued such goals because of the mandate we now hold from the American public.
Even those of us who never supported Donald Trump during the campaign can be cautiously optimistic, while at the same time holding him accountable if he strays from our beliefs.
Donald Trump wasn’t the first choice of ideological or temperamental conservatives, but he might be someone we can work with to bring our vision of prosperity in America through the free market and respect for the God-given rights of individuals to fruition.
Let’s give him a chance to prove himself and pray for his success in this endeavor.