Even though I am a conservative Trump detractor, I'm not sure I would feel any more comfortable in a gathering of other such people than I would among Trump supporters.
Because half the reasons the people who say Trump is not a conservative would, outside of neoconservative circles, be considered reasons that he is a conservative, and the reasons he is really not a conservative are reasons that the new, hip, politics of what's-happenin'-now, socially liberal Republicans doesn't really want to talk about any more.
Talk about a Surrender Caucus.
The two primary reasons given by Trump detractors that he is not a conservative are, first, that he is an economic populist, and, second, that he is not a foreign policy expansionist. This is the reason, for example, that Pat Buchanan supports Trump: Buchanan ran against George Bush, Sr. on these very issues.
The problem, of course, is that Trump is largely right on a large part of both of these issues. Trade deals have cost American jobs, and the Iraq War was a mistake—and one we should not make again.
To say that these are not conservative positions is to betray a blithering ignorance of historical conservatism. The political movement that began with Edmund Burke and today can claim a figure like Pat Buchanan has no sympathy for the Religion of Democracy or the Religion of the Free Market. Conservatism has always balanced an acknowledgement of the macroeconomic realities of the free market with the microeconomic realities of real people, and has always believed (as Buchanan once said) that we are a republic, not an empire.
Contrary to what all the Rush babies out there seem to think, conservatism is not a political ideology. An ideology is a political religion. It seeks salvation in the political realm. It looks at elections as eschatological events with the potential to usher in the Millenial Kingdom. This attitude should be left to the liberals. Instead, we have conservatives (people like Sean Hannity come to mind) who are just as politicaly utopian as liberals: If we could just establish a society in which there was a completely free market—or one in which America rules the waves (and the fields and mountains), then all would be bliss.
But it is supposed to be liberals, Richard Vogelin pointed out, who "immanentize the eschaton," not conservatives. This is secular religion and no conservative worthy of the name could embrace it. And yet many who claim the title do.
When it comes to social issues it is as Michael Barone has said: Trump "speaks conservatism as a second language he hasn’t bothered to master." He doesn't need to speak conservativese when he talks about shipping jobs off to foreign countries or opposing American imperial foreign policy because conservatives just don't talk about these things, except to defend them on the basis of "free trade" and "exporting Democracy."
But he does talk this way when it comes to social issues, which is why he made the blunder about punishing women who have abortions. He just didn't know the issue well enough to know that that is not the pro-life position. It's also why he talks very little about the marriage issue. And its why, when he talks about being a Christian, he sounds like someone who just fell off the theological turnip truck.
I'm not opposed to Trump because he's wrong on all the issues; I'm opposed to Trump because he's a less intelligent version of Willy Stark, the Huey Long-like protagonist of Robert Penn Warren's All the Kings Men, a basically decent person deep down who discovers the usefulness of political populism, the use of which for seemingly noble purposes corrupts him in the end.
This is the dilemma for traditionalist conservatives like me: If we could create our perfect candidate, he would have about half the qualities of Trump and about half the qualities of Cruz. Let's give him a name: "Crump."
Crump would have the following Trump characteristics:
- Masculinity (e.g., throwing reporters out of press conferences, and talking back to them before he does; taking no guff from others running for the same office, refusing to kowtow to the Approved Opinions, etc.)
- Opposition to Political Correctness (e.g., bearding the feminists)
- Opposition to trade policies that result in job loss for Americans
- Opposition to nation-building foreign policy
- A willingness to defy the establishment
Crump would also have the following Cruz characteristics:
- A functioning brain
- A mouth that will cease operation before something idiotic comes out of it
- A principled opposition to abortion
- A principled opposition to same-sex marriage
- A willingness to defy the establishment
Problem is, I can't have Crump. I must settle for either Trump or Cruz. So I have chosen Cruz and here's why:
First, the good aspects of Trump are the things that this country can still have even if Cruz wins and does something else by hopefully finding a candidate with better foreign and economic policies later. Besides, we're not in danger of any new, unnecessary war anytime soon, partly since the Iraq War is still fresh in our memories (we'll need a better candidate 20 years from now, when everyone has forgotten the last time our nation-building efforts failed).
Second, the good aspects of Cruz are things that the failure to secure will ruin everything else. The culture of death and the anti-marriage movement are things that will destroy the culture if not quenched. You can talk about all the foreign policy and all the economics you want, but if we lose the concept of the value of life and we end up with a culture in which most children are raised without a father or a mother, then we're hosed. It's over. Bring on the next civilization because this one's finished.
Oh, Crump, thou Blessed Hope. Whence art thou? Thy people fail for lack of hope of you. In the meantime, thy people (or at least this one) shall support Ted Cruz.