Angry, Not Happy

13 October 2020


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

American Conservativism After Trump


Someday, perhaps someday very soon, Donald Trump will be an ex-President of the United States. On that day, the future of the Republican Party will be up for grabs, and with it, the fate of American conservatism. The future of the country and the world will be forever changes based on what becomes of the party and the movement. For good or ill, the crossroads are ahead.

In the last generation or two, American conservative thought has been divided into four distinct but not mutually exclusive groups. The first is the small government strand of the movement. The second is the social conservative strand. The third is the corporate welfare segment. Fourth and finally, there is the national security or imperialist branch. Donald Trump did not change any of this, but he stirred the pot so vigorously that a new balance will be needed.

The main observation is that the Republican Party has become the party of Mr. Trump. He is the leader, and what he wants is what the party stands for. There is no 2020 Party Platform. The party chose not to draft one, merely stressing that it was a Trump vehicle. That means that there is no real heir apparent and very few people have much of a power base that is not directly tied to him. True, there are the never-Trumpers and the Lincoln Project, but they are fighting a rear-guard action against the invasion of Trumpism.

Some of the rebalancing will depend on how Mr. Trump winds up leaving office. If he is defeated three weeks from today, he will be a force within the conservative movement, but he will not have any governmental power nor any governmental responsibilities. He will be a president-in-exile uncutting the Biden administration. That is the case unless he winds up on trial and in jail, which are distinct possibilities. Prison would render him largely irrelevant. If he wins re-election, the American conservative movement will be able to implement more of its agenda through presidential actions and manipulation of the courts.

The big winners in either case will be the corporate wing of conservatism. They are most aligned with the Trump view of the world. The stock market is his measure of economic success. The governmental policies he has pursued is not free-market capitalism but rather is corporate cronyism.

The small-government crowd will be the biggest losers. Never has the Republican Party actually pursued smaller government. They love the lower taxes, but when it comes to taking away services, they have no interest in it. Unlike the tax-and-spend Democrats, the GOP is a party of borrow-and-spend. Mr. Trump has done nothing to change that.

It is more of a mixed situation for the national security conservatives. Mr. Trump has destroyed the fabric of American alliances, and he has undermined the foundations of them. He has also demoralized the intelligence community. However, the corporate wing benefits from the defense spending the Republicans have undertaken since 1981. To the extent that the money goes to useful defense programs and intelligence operations, it will partially balance out the harm he has done.

The oddest spot is for the social conservatives. With the appointment of another conservative justice to the Supreme Court, there is a fair chance the Roe v. Wade will be reversed, banning abortion as a right. When that happens, it will be a huge triumph for the social conservatives. It has been their Holy Grail. Having achieved their great objective, though, one must ask, what comes next? Attacks on the LGBTQ community are possible, but they don't resonate quite the way the abortion issue does. Racial issues will be a problem, but they are not going to intensify much. The social conservatives are in danger of being like the British Brexit Party. Having achieved their goal, they have no real purpose. They won't be irrelevant, but they will be directionless for a time.

No matter what happens, though, the happy, smiling right wing of Ronald Reagan is gone. The scared, angry right wing of Mr. Trump will endure beyond him.

© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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