Win or lose, Trump must not be linked to conservatism

During the modern conservative movement’s delicate beginnings – when a tactical blunder could have had massive strategic implications – writer William F. Buckley drummed the heresies of Objectivism and Bircherism from our movement’s ranks.

Disciples of Ayn Rand and Robert Welch were effectively banished to the margins and Americans began to slowly associate our political philosophy – and to an extent the Republican Party – with the principles of limited government, individual rights, free markets and a strong national defense.

Americans liked those ideas, and the energetic advocacy of conservatism led to the largest landslide in modern electoral history (every state went red in 1984, except Minnesota), while the consistent application of conservatism led to the largest expansion of prosperity and freedom in history.

There’s no question about it: conservatism wins when it’s on the ballot, and is effective when it’s in office. Too bad it isn’t tried very often.

True, we may have lost a few races since the Reagan era, and some of us feel that we’re in the political wilderness, but we’re in real danger of losing our entire movement if the stink and stain of Trumpism isn’t thoroughly washed from our hands, regardless of what happens in November.

Because if Trump wins, the conservative brand will be further weakened, and if he loses, the conservative brand will be further weakened.

Either way, to modify the maritime saying; the ship doesn’t need to go down with its captain.

So can we cut him loose?

Buckley has been dead for more than eight years and conservatism has failed to find his equal, especially someone with the wit, wisdom, and credibility to evict something as stealthy and vigorous has Trumpism.

Moreover, even if such a person were alive, nobody really has the authority to do so – there’s no pope of conservatism, thank God. That leaves the rest of us – everyone who calls themselves a conservative and who actually knows what that means – to accept the responsibility to act individually.

So with that, let these words sound loud and long: Donald Trump is not, nor has he ever been, a conservative. His campaign isn’t based upon our movement’s guiding principles, and if elected, his administration will undoubtedly govern contrary to a great many of them.

Nowhere in Trump’s speeches will you ever hear recognizable echoes of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman or Russell Kirk. Nowhere in his proposals will you find clear and consistent appeals to federalism, the principle of subsidiary, or even to the constitution.

Instead, Trump’s supporters use terms like “populism” and “agrarianism” and “nationalism” to describe his thinking. Good. Let them have those words, for they’ve nothing to do whatsoever with conservatism.

If he loses, Trump and those senseless concepts are to blame, not conservatism. It’s nowhere on the ballot (except maybe for his vice presidential pick, Governor Mike Pence).

If he wins, Trump and those senseless concepts will also be to blame for whatever happens, not conservatism. If it’s welcomed into West Wing deliberations, it’ll likely be largely ignored. Just look at his campaign. Does he listen to anyone? No.

Vote for Trump if you like (I’m voting a straight Republican ticket, so he’ll get my vote), but don’t lose your mind and especially your conscience in the bargain.

Trump’s and Clinton’s opposition to the conservative movement is only a question of degree. It is the duty of all conservatives to recognize this fact and act according to their conscience and ability to confront them.

Don’t give me any of that nonsense about people like me being on the side of the party establishment, either, or that I fear Trump because he’s … well … whatever he is. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Jeb Bush and the rest of them are as much of a scourge on the spirit of the movement as Trump.

This whole dang election is a national nightmare and the worst part about it is that when we finally wake up, it’ll only get worse.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 9th, conservatives will have to face the stark reality of dealing with a president-elect with either strong liberal tendencies or straight-up Marxist ambitions.

At least conservatives cannot be blamed for one of them.