The Conservative Future Requires Optimism and Confidence

Donald Trump’s post-November 3 conduct has been consistent with his entire presidency: wholly centered on Donald Trump. One of the worst consequences of this self-indulgence for conservatives is the treacherous fixation on whether one agrees or disagrees with Trump. Even when he embraces some element of conservative truth, he typically so exaggerates or distorts it that one can barely discern the underlying principle.

Or worse. Remember, for example, his diktat at an April 13 coronavirus briefing: “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.” An unvarnished Trumpism, made in Trumpian style, and utterly contradictory to American conservative thinking. 

Rather than aligning with principle (which Trump lacks), long-standing conservatives torqued themselves uncomfortably to support his positions. This is unnatural and unwise, and we must stop it. Politics based on personality rather than philosophy is not conservatism’s credo. When politicians go astray, we judge their failures against our principles. We do not readjust our principles to suit their personal interests, as the paradigm case of Richard Nixon demonstrates. James Buckley, New York’s Conservative Party senator, was the first Republican to call for Nixon’s resignation. In the congressional delegation to the Oval Office that told Nixon he had to go, Barry Goldwater had the most impact.

Liberal pundits complain ceaselessly that today’s Republicans do not demonstrate sufficient courage against Trump. This is surely what liberals want to believe, but they misread conservatives as badly as Trump’s misreading that he owns the party.

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