The place of conservatism?


Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Collin Smith, Opinion Editor

In the wake of the Alabama election, a serious question must be asked: What happened to rational conservatism? As of now, there seems to be only two options: undying support for Trump or detesting his every single action —⸻ there is no spot in between to support Trump when he gets stuff right and criticize him when he gets stuff wrong.

Rather than liberalism and conservatism, our politics are now defined by Trumpism and Anti-Trumpism; this decomposition of politics represents one of the greatest threats to rational conservatism in recent history, as the quality of an idea now hinges on whether or not Trump’s name is attached. A recent Harvard study demonstrated that when asked about the tax plan, people overwhelmingly disapproved, but when asked about specific portions, people overwhelmingly approved (Page 53, 54, 55).

The Democrats often accuse Trump of reckless rhetoric, but when it comes to a modest tax decrease (otherwise known as giving people back their own money) it is the end of the world. Prominent Democrats from Rosie O’Donnell to Nancy Pelosi have said these modest tax cuts will kill people, create a plutocracy, and have even attempted to bribe politicians. The tax cut puts our corporate rates around Europe’s — I thought copying Europe was what Democrats wanted. The dangers of our political climate of Trumpism, Anti-Trumpism and propagandistic media are currently on display; good policy falls prey to polarization, and America ends up the loser in this situation.

We have a party structure for a reason. As a party, we tend to agree on certain core principles, and these translate to positions that our candidates usually hold. I don’t need to agree with everything a candidate says or does in order to support him or her, but core principles ought to be the same. With Trump, this doesn’t matter. With Trump, the conservatism inspired by Ayn Rand, Edmund Burke and Milton Friedman loses its relevance. This then raises the question, where is the place for conservatism?

Those that decry our current political situation as armageddon or the end of the world tend to be sophists, cult members to an ideology or flat-out crazy; however, the uniqueness of the situation must be recognized. Since the days of Reagan, Republicans have not had a chance such as the one currently presented in Congress, and to sit on the sideline because of dislike for Trump is, to quote Hillary Clinton, “deplorable.” There is an argument that because Trump is the current leader of the party, he must be followed. This too is wrong, especially if what the party does is clearly against core principles.

All this being considered, there is another option — being strong, involved and devoted to conservatism enough to not get caught up in the rush our politics. Senators like Sasse, Ernst and Flake have done a commendable job of this. They all have done well, Sasse especially on Twitter, with commending Trump when does right as well as criticizing him when he does wrong. They may not gain friends, they may be traitors, fascists or RINO’s, but maintaining a voice of conservatism must be done.