Since the rise of Trump, conservatives have been questioning what it means to be conservative in the Age of Trump and if conservatism needed to change in response to his populism.
I don’t think Trump teaches us anything at all about conservatism because while he will likely do some conservative things, he fits no definition of conservative thought I am aware of – he is objective oriented and will use any tool at his disposal to achieve that objective. Underlying principles aren’t the primary concern, the goal is everything.
That is an effective way to attack and achieve objectives but often leaves substantial collateral damage that takes years to repair, if they ever can be repaired. This is what progressives have done to the country for years, most recently with Obamacare – their objective was to put America on a path to single-payer socialized medicine under the guise of insuring the uninsured. As the program has proven, the progenitors of Obamacare could care less about people with $6,000 to $15,000 deductibles who can’t even use their coverage without the very same (or heavier) financial burden as before the ACA was signed into law.
Oh, of course the defenders of the program will do what they always do, they will roll out specific individual success stories but will never recognize that the general population is actually the worse off for the program. Same song we always here, for a program to be a failure, every single aspect of the program in general has to fail but success can be defined as a single success no matter how much damage the program does.
That’s why the Democrats are dancing naked around bonfires, casting spells and invoking their demon gods – Trump is playing their game – he is dancing naked around the same bonfires, casting the same spells and invoking the same demon gods.
So far, Trump is winning the principle-free war – as noted, he is after specific results – a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach – but if you think about it, it isn’t so much that his objectives are absent principle, it is they are built on principles purloined from somewhere else, i.e. from conservative thought. Even though Trump doesn’t really care about the philosophies the objectives are built upon, he seems to intuitively know that achievement of the objectives are very good for America or maybe he just isn’t blind to the fact that the opposing goals of the progressive Democrats have proven not to be good for the country. That’s not such a bad thing – sometimes knowing what not to do is a good thing even if you don’t know what to do.
Some would say I’m almost describing him as an Objectivist, but I’m not sure he is Randian – I haven’t seen signs that he thinks that deeply. I would say he is more of a “proceduralist”, someone dedicated to making a list and working from it. As to his agenda, he’s ticking things off the list that got him elected. If my observations are accurate, Trump will eventually run out of objectives to fight for – because objectives are based on principle – unless he adopts more from conservatives.
The thing to watch is when he finishes that list, what goes back on and where they came from will tell the tale.
What conservatives can learn from Trump has nothing to do with conservatism, what they can learn is how to better fight the war they have been losing for fifty years.