Social and broadcast media exploded on Thursday with the release of National Review’s “Against Trump” and “Conservatives Against Trump” articles. The first was a summary statement by the magazine’s editors and the second a collection of short essays from nationally significant conservatives.
In short, they explain from different perspectives and on various topics why Donald Trump is not a conservative and should therefore not be supported as the Republican candidate for the Presidency.
The initial impact was most significantly felt when several of the contributors joined NR’s editor Rich Lowry on Megyn Kelly’s show:
Here are the key comments from the short essays:
Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.
When conservatives desperately needed allies in the fight against big government, Donald Trump didn’t stand on the sidelines. He consistently advocated that your money be spent, that your government grow, and that your Constitution be ignored.
From a libertarian point of view — and I think serious conservatives and liberals would share this view—Trump’s greatest offenses against American tradition and our founding principles are his nativism and his promise of one-man rule.
L. Brent Bozell III:
A real conservative walks with us. Ronald Reagan read National Review and Human Events for intellectual sustenance; spoke annually to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Young Americans for Freedom, and other organizations to rally the troops; supported Barry Goldwater when the GOP mainstream turned its back on him; raised money for countless conservative groups; wrote hundreds of op-eds; and delivered even more speeches, everywhere championing our cause. Until he decided to run for the GOP nomination a few months ago, Trump had done none of these things, perhaps because he was too distracted publicly raising money for liberals such as the Clintons; championing Planned Parenthood, tax increases, and single-payer health coverage; and demonstrating his allegiance to the Democratic party.
Is Trump a liberal? Who knows? He played one for decades — donating to liberal causes and politicians (including Al Sharpton) and inviting Hillary Clinton to his (third) wedding. Maybe it was all a game, but voters who care about conservative ideas and principles must ask whether his recent impersonation of a conservative is just another role he’s playing. When a con man swindles you, you can sue—as many embittered former Trump associates who thought themselves ill used have done. When you elect a con man, there’s no recourse.
The case for constitutional limited government is the case against Donald Trump. To the degree we take him at his word — understanding that Trump is a negotiator whose positions are often purposefully deceptive — what he advocates is a rejection of our Madisonian inheritance and an embrace of Barack Obama’s authoritarianism.
I would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Many of the Republicans who have declared that they would never vote for Trump gave carte blanche to politicians who have been complicit in the growth of the government leviathan. These Republicans have ignored conservatism in the name of party politics, and their broken promises gave rise to Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Stephen F. Hayward:
After Obama — after three generations of liberalism only slightly interrupted by the Reagan years — the conservative president we desperately need requires a paradoxical combination of boldness and restraint. The president will need to be bold in challenging the runaway power and reach of his own branch, against the fury of the bureaucracy itself, its client groups, and the media. This boldness is necessary to restore the restraint that a republican executive should have in our constitutional order. Trump exhibits no awareness of this supreme constitutional task.
He doesn’t know the Constitution, history, law, political philosophy, nuclear strategy, diplomacy, defense, economics beyond real estate, or even, despite his low-level-mafioso comportment, how ordinary people live. But trumping all this is a greater flaw presented as his chief strength. Governing a great nation in parlous times is far more than making “deals.” Compared with the weight of the office he seeks, his deals are microscopic in scale, and as he faced far deeper complexities he would lead the country into continual Russian roulette. If despite his poor judgment he could engage talented advisers, as they presented him with contending and fateful options the buck would stop with a man who simply grasps anything that floats by. Following Obama’s, a Trump presidency would be yet more adventure tourism for a formerly serious republic.
The Federalist (No. 39) speaks of “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” Hasn’t Donald Trump been a votary merely of wealth rather than of freedom? Hasn’t he been animated by the art of the deal rather than by the art of self-government?
Trump, on the contrary, offers himself as the alternative to our weak and foolish leaders, the guarantee of American superiority, and the cure for all that ails our society; and when pressed about how he will succeed in these ways, his answer pretty much amounts to: “great management.” The appeal of Trump’s diagnoses should be instructive to conservatives. But the shallow narcissism of his prescriptions is a warning. American conservatism is an inherently skeptical political outlook. It assumes that no one can be fully trusted with public power and that self-government in a free society demands that we reject the siren song of politics-as-management.
Why is there a double standard when it comes to evaluating Donald Trump? Why are other politicians excoriated when they change their minds — as, for example, Rick Perry did on the question of whether HPV vaccinations in Texas should be compulsory — but when Trump suddenly says he’s pro-life, the claim is accepted uncritically? Why is it unconscionable for Ted Cruz to take and repay a loan from Goldman Sachs to help win a tough Senate race but acceptable for Donald Trump to take money from George Soros? Why is vetting Trump, as we do any other candidate, considered “bashing”? Aren’t these fair questions? Just a few years ago, I and many others were receiving threats for promoting conservative policies and conservative principles — neither of which Donald Trump seems to care about. Yet he’s leading
The global jihad is complex, comprising terrorist organizations and abettors that include rogue nations and other shady accomplices. Their fluid alliances and internecine rivalries often defy the Sunni–Shiite divide. Matters are complicated further still by ideological allies such as the Muslim Brotherhood that feign moderation while supporting the jihadist agenda. The threat is openly aggressive on its own turf but operates by stealth in the West. A president may not have to be good with names to oppose it effectively, but he has to grasp the animating ideology, the power relations, and the goals of the players—and how weakening one by strengthening another can degrade rather than promote our security. Donald Trump does not have a clue about any of this, careening wildly from vows to stay out of the fray (leaving it in Vladimir Putin’s nefarious hands) to promises that the earth will be indiscriminately scorched.
For decades, Trump has argued for big government. About health care he has said: “Everybody’s got to be covered” and “The government’s gonna pay for it.” He has called for boycotts of American companies he doesn’t like, told bureaucrats to use eminent domain to get him better deals on property he wanted to develop, and proudly proposed the largest tax increase in American history. Trump has also promised to use tariffs to punish companies that incur his disfavor. He offers grand plans for massive new spending but no serious proposals for spending cuts or entitlement reforms. These are not the ideas of a small-government conservative who understands markets. They are, instead, the ramblings of a liberal wannabe strongman who will use and abuse the power of the federal government to impose his ideas on the country.
If Trump becomes the nominee, the GOP is sure to lose the 2016 election. But the problem is much larger: Will the Republican party and the conservative movement survive? If Asians and Latinos come to reject Republican candidates as automatically and overwhelmingly as African Americans do, the party will lose all chance of capturing the presidency, and, inevitably, it will face the disappearance of its congressional and gubernatorial majorities as well. There is one sure strategy to pursue if the GOP for some reason wishes to suffer such self-inflicted wounds: nominate a presidential candidate who exemplifies the most unpleasant, and non-conservative, characteristics that the mainstream media and liberal pundits invoke to demonize the Right.
Edwin Meese III:
Questionable assertions that an opponent is not eligible to run, or that another cannot be elected, or that still another lacks enthusiasm or energy, are a poor substitute for addressing the real issues that should be the basis for a positive campaign: restoring economic growth, strengthening national security, eliminating cronyism and corruption, and improving the lives of all Americans. At a time when the nation is suffering under one of the most divisive and incompetent presidents in history, our people need positive, unifying leadership, not negative, destructive political rhetoric.
Trump can win only in the sort of celebrity-focused mobocracy that Neil Postman warned us about years ago, in which sound moral judgments are displaced by a narcissistic pursuit of power combined with promises of “winning” for the masses. Social and religious conservatives have always seen this tendency as decadent and deviant. For them to view it any other way now would be for them to lose their soul.
We have already suffered seven years of feckless leadership that has invited the contempt of our enemies and the distrust of our friends. We remain the world’s strongest power and can recover; but to inspire the respect that creates fear and trust when and where each is necessary, we will need a president who summons our strength with a reality-based strategic vision, not one who summons applause with tantrums and homicidal fantasies.
The rabid defense he gets from some quarters is astonishing. Trump’s liberal positions aren’t in the distant past—he has openly promoted them on the campaign trail. Trump isn’t fighting for anyone but himself, which has been his pattern for decades. Conservatives have a serious decision. Do we truly believe in our long-held principles and insist that politicians have records demonstrating fealty to them? Or are we willing to throw these principles away because an entertainer who has been a liberal Democrat for decades simply says some of the right things?
In any integrated personality, the id is supposed to be balanced by an ego and a superego—by a sense of self that gravitates toward behaving in a mature and responsible way when it comes to serious matters, and, failing that, has a sense of shame about transgressing norms and common decencies. Trump is an unbalanced force. He is the politicized American id. Should his election results match his polls, he would be, unquestionably, the worst thing to happen to the American common culture in my lifetime.
He presents himself as a Strong Man who promises to knock heads and make things right again. In this, he has a lot more in common with South American populist demagogues than with our tradition of political leaders. But I suppose that’s the reason for his popularity. The middle-class consensus in America has collapsed. This is the most important political and social earthquake since World War II. The conservative movement’s leadership isn’t up to the challenge, and a good number of voters are willing to gamble on Trump’s bluster. Bad bet. Our nation’s solidarity is being tested. It will only make things worse if we go Trumpster diving.
Elections, however, have far more lasting and far more serious—or even grim—consequences than emotional venting. The actual track record of crowd pleasers, whether Juan Perón in Argentina, Obama in America, or Hitler in Germany, is very sobering, if not painfully depressing. After the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, we are entering an era when people alive at this moment may live to see a day when American cities are left in radioactive ruins. We need all the wisdom, courage, and dedication in the next president — and his or her successors — to save us and our children from such a catastrophe. A shoot-from-the-hip, bombastic showoff is the last thing we need or can afford.
Anger is not policy. Trump channels a lot of the righteous (and some of the unrighteous) anger of voters and sees the solution as himself. Isn’t a narcissist what we currently have in the White House?
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