The Conservative Case Against Trump

From:,  by Ross Douthat,  on May 7, 2016,  see the article HERE.

cartoon of pres trump about to launch

THERE are many lessons that conservatives need to learn from the rise of Donald Trump. There are elements of his message that the party should embrace. There are grievances among his voters that the Republican Party must address.

But for conservatives to support Trump himself, to assist in his election as president of the United States, would be a terrible mistake.

It would be a particularly stark mistake for conservatives who feel that the basic Reaganite vision that’s dominated their party for decades — a fusion of social conservatism, free-market economics, and a hawkish internationalism — still gets things mostly right.

In large ways and small, Trump has consistently arrayed himself against this vision. True, he paid lip service to certain Reaganite ideas during the primaries — claiming to be pro-life, promising a supply-side tax cut, pledging to appoint conservative judges. But the core of his message was protectionist and nativist, comfortable with an expansive welfare state, bored with religious conservatism, and dismissive of the commitments that constitute the post-Cold War Pax Americana. And Trump’s policy forays since clinching the nomination have only confirmed his post-Reagan orientation.

Reaganite conservatives who help elevate Trump to the presidency, then, would be sleepwalking toward a kind of ideological suicide. Successful party leaders often transform parties in their image. William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson between them turned a conservative Democratic Party progressive. Dwight Eisenhower all but extinguished G.O.P. isolationism. Reagan himself set liberal Republicanism on the path to extinction.

A successful President Trump (and to support him is to hope for such a thing) could easily do the same to Reaganism. In a fully-Trumpized G.O.P., Reagan’s ideological coalition would crack up, with hawks drifting toward the Democrats, supply-siders fading into crankery, religious conservatives entering semi-permanent exile. And in its place a Trumpized Republican intelligentsia would arise, with as little interest in Reaganism as today’s conservatives have in the ideas of Nelson Rockefeller or Jacob Javits.

The things conservatives are telling themselves to justify supporting him —at least he might appoint good judges — miss this long-term point. The Reagan coalition might — might! — get an acceptable Supreme Court appointment out of the Trump presidency. But that could easily be the last thing it ever got.

But what if you’re a conservative who isn’t a Reaganite, or you believe that Reaganite ideas have long passed their sell-by dates? What if you agree with Trump about the folly of the Iraq War, the perils of open immigration policies, or the need for a different right-wing economic agenda? What if you think his populism might bring about some necessary creative destruction to a backward-looking G.O.P.?

Then supporting Trump for president could make ideological sense, and the crackup I’ve just described might seem like an advertisement for doing so.

But there still remains the problem of Trump himself. Even if you find things to appreciate in Trumpism — as I have, and still do — the man who has raised those issues is still unfit for an office as awesomely powerful as the presidency of the United States.

His unfitness starts with basic issues of temperament. It encompasses the race-baiting, the conspiracy theorizing, the flirtations with violence, and the pathological lying that have been his campaign-trail stock in trade.

But above all it is Trump’s authoritarianism that makes him unfit for the presidency — his stated admiration for Putin and the Chinese Politburo, his promise to use the power of the presidency against private enterprises, the casual threats he and his surrogates toss off against party donors, military officers, the press, the speaker of the House, and more.

All presidents are tempted by the powers of the office, and congressional abdication has only increased that temptation’s pull. President Obama’s power grabs are part of a bipartisan pattern of Caesarism, one that will likely continue apace under Hillary Clinton.

But far more than Obama or Hillary or George W. Bush, Trump is actively campaigning as a Caesarist, making his contempt for constitutional norms and political niceties a selling point. And given his mix of proud ignorance and immense self-regard, there is no reason to believe that any of this is just an act.

Trump would not be an American Mussolini; even our sclerotic institutions would resist him more effectively than that. But he could test them as no modern president has tested them before — and with them, the health of our economy, the civil peace of our society and the stability of an increasingly perilous world.

In sum: It would be possible to justify support for Trump if he merely promised a period of chaos for conservatism. But to support Trump for the presidency is to invite chaos upon the republic and the world. No policy goal, no court appointment, can justify such recklessness.

To Trumpism’s appeal, to Trump’s constituents, conservatives should listen and answer “yes,” or “maybe,” or “not that, but how about…”

But to Trump himself, there is no patriotic answer except “no.”


I liked this article. I think that Mr. Douthat has accurately captured what elevated Donald Trump to his lofty position as the presumed nominee for the Republican Party. He’s also identified Trump’s foibles and weaknesses that make him unfit for the presidency. I also think that he’s correctly identified the kind of president he’d be: a Caesarist – an emperor. I also liked his term for Trump’s “personality” as being one of “proud ignorance and immense self-regard.” For me, Mr. Douthat nailed it.

For those who may not be familiar with Mr. Douthat, he is a token conservative op-ed writer for the New York Times. He’s a smart guy, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard and also a Phi Beta kappa. 


Categories: Political


12 replies

  1. I never read the NYT. I never thought that anyone in the NYT would have anything to say that I would care to read. But Mr. Douthat in this article makes sense. *gasp* Did I just say that? Token conservatives usually are not very right wing, I’ve found. This this man’s reasoning makes sense. Trump will try to be the American Mussolini. I hope and pray that if he’s elected the other powers in DC can stop him. He’s a liar of the worst kind. I’ve noticed that lately he’s a lieing machine with the of off switch broken off in the on position. Pathological, you’d say and getting worse as time goes by. He lied about Rubio calling him. Rubio’s out of the country in the ME and surrogates said he never called Trump. He just said Ryan called him on the eve of his NY win to congratulate him. Ryan never called him according to his surrogates.

    But I don’t believe Trump can win over old communist Hillary. He’ll lose. And so will we.

    PS Jonathon Hoenig, capitalist, follows me on twitter. He’s a very conservative capitalist and believes in our Constitution. He appears on FOX Business Sunday mornings and Eric Bolling has been hosting. (Trump supporter) Jonathon just told him yesterday that he would vote for Hillary over Trump. Reason? The mess we will find ourselves in with Trump, do we want this to be blamed on Republicans? He thinks it will be laid at the feet of Dems with a Hillary presidency so will vote for her.

    The decision we have is pretty scary.


    • I don’t read the “fish-wrap of record” either, I just caught a link on another site. You know, when I think of the NYT, I think that it’s a perfect newspaper analogy for Donald Trump. It’s self-important, boastful, left-leaning, arrogant and all of the other adjectives we can use to describe The Donald. It makes me wonder if Donald has grown into a “human” representation of the NYT or if they have taken on his repugnant personality? No matter, they were made for each other. Another common trait is that you can’t expect to get the truth from either one. Whatever is said by either will be self-serving.

      Mr. Douthat is probably kept chained up in a dank basement, fed scraps of bagels and pizza crust, just so they can say they represent conservatives too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. After having read a bunch of the essays here, and added a few comments of my own, I want to thank you for dropping by my place (The Island) and letting me know you were back up and running. I added a link on my Blogroll.

    Typically, when I arise each morning (Like that? “Arise”? How biblical of me! I don’t just “get up” like normal people…), I spend a couple of hours online reading news and commentary, and part of my normal routine is to read some of the other bloggers’ stuff, people I’ve known from back in the old TH days. So since it’s been there, I’ve always swung by Nox & Friends. Still do.

    But I’ve noticed that over the past few months a lot of the people whose stuff I really enjoyed have seemed to stop contributing, and just about everything that gets posted there just seems to be boilerplate Hairboy rah-rah cheerleading. I rarely bother even reading the essays anymore because just the headlines tell me it’s a waste of my time… and I sure never bother to comment.

    Well… Now I know where y’all went! I’m glad to see it, and I’ll be by daily now, and even throwing in my own $0.02 in comments as necessary.

    Thanks again.


    • It’s good to “see” you again! Thanks for coming by. So you noticed that we anti-Trump folks got tired of skirmishing with the Trumpanzees at Nox’s place and came back here. Now we’ve got Kathy, CW, Crawfish, and Tannngl from H&F and Aftershock has recently joined us. We also added a new guy, Curtis who is a sharp thinker and totally un-Trump too. We’re pretty much in the vehemently anti Hairboy mode full time and although we failed to stop him from winning the nomination, it ain’t over yet.

      Anyway, glad to make contact again. I’ll keep a sharp eye for any new stuff at the Island and perhaps cross post some of your stuff here as well, if that’s ok.

      Best regards to you, my friend.


      • “Trumpanzees”… that’s hilarious! I wish I’d thought of it.

        Yeah, I’m glad, too. And as I said, I’ll be by daily. And sure, it’s fine with me. I just joined the “Band of Bloggers” group on Facebook, too.

        Thanks again for the heads up, pard. BTW, I sent Clyde an email telling him about what’s happening here. His computer’s on the whack again — he has absolutely the WORST luck with them — but he’ll be swinging by once he’s back online.


      • Guys, allow me to add my two cents’ worth here also and say it’s good to see you drop in Brian. I appreciate your input and your take on things. Life for me has gotten very busy, at least for a while, so I don’t post as often as I did at H&F, but Garnet’s good with that. We’re pretty laid back, but our conservative values haven’t changed.

        Anyway, glad you found us.


  3. The Trumpbots have put us all in the worst situation we could possibly be in. Even if we hold our noses and vote for Trump, there’s a good chance Hillary gets the job. If we don’t vote at all, there’s an even better chance that she gets the job. Mr. Douthat tells us what NOT to do, but in November we have to make a choice, so I would ask him – ‘what would you have us do?’ Do we choose death by gun or knife?


    • One of the few bright spots we have considering our quandary is that we don’t have to make that decision today. In fact, it serves no real purpose to make that decision prematurely. Let’s wait and see what shakes out. If some unfortunate incident should befall either of the presumed candidates (be it natural or unnatural), the whole equation changes. If nothing changes, we still don’t have to make that disturbing decision before entering the voting “booth.”


  4. I’m sure Trump’s supporters would point out that Reagan gave us the first wave of amnesty, so in their minds it’s not such a bad thing if Trump is the anti-Reagan (never mind that the Trump supporters I know have been singing Reagan’s praises for as long as I’ve known them; what people said yesterday no longer matters).

    I’m not familiar with Mr. Douthat but I agree with him that to help elect Trump is to aid and abet the further marginalization of conservatism at a time when we need it more than ever. Trump supporters will breathlessly respond that insufficient support for Trump will lead to a victory for Hillary, to which I would say that they’re right, which is why they should have considered that before they forced us between a rock and a hard place. Instead they thought it was such a fun game, proving that Trump could win in spite of his unpopularity with conservatives. Apparently it didn’t occur to them that giving us a terrible alternative to Hillary would dampen our enthusiasm for voting, and their fun game could result in the worst outcome they could imagine – President Hillary Clinton.


    • I think you called it correctly, CW. For many of the Trumpites, it did become a game. An “us” against “them” game and they won. Like Trump hisownself, they hadn’t thought out what they were going to do after they won – that was secondary. Winning was the goal, and the only thing that mattered. And so they rose up and carried The Donald into the Republican nomination on their shoulders and just assumed that we REAL conservatives would just follow along. But that’s ok, who needs party unity – Trump himself says he doesn’t need us, but you know who will get blamed if he loses to Hillary? That’s right, conservatives who didn’t worship at the feet of the Trumpmeister.


  5. Yes, this piece was largely spot on. I’m amazed it saw light in the NY Times.

    I have great difficulty with the concept of supporting Trump.


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