It’s not conservatism, it’s Trumpism!
This may be one of the dumber statements floating around as conventional wisdom on the Right. I just watched Trump’s speech at the Friday morning session of CPAC. What I heard was smash-mouth conservatism. Here is a list of policy goals President laid out in his speech:
Peace through strength — Conservative
Rebuild the military — Conservative
Law and order — Conservative
Protect the Second Amendment — Conservative
Lower taxes — Conservative
Decrease regulations — Conservative
Take care of veterans — Conservative
Bring back jobs — Everyone says that, but still a Conservative idea
Jobs not welfare — Conservative
Pro-business — Conservative
Border enforcement (Obey the law) — Conservative
American exceptionalism — Conservative
Trade protectionism — NOT CONSERVATIVE
Praising Bernie Sanders’ trade position — NOT CONSERVATIVE
Cabinet — Conservative
Supreme Court nominee — Conservative
You can watch it here:
The press is already chomping on the red meat that President Trump threw CPAC attendees during his introduction. Trump clarified that he was for free speech saying, “I love the First Amendment. Who loves it more than me?” But he also said this of some in the media: “They’re very smart, they’re very cunning, they’re very dishonest.” He poked them for using anonymous sources and urged them to be honest.
That’s not at all what he did. He said that criticizing people who criticize him is also using the First Amendment. https://t.co/9oQhCSnqKh
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) February 24, 2017
Dutifully taking the bait, the media was lost after the first five minutes. In psychological terms, they were “flooding” and could not even hear the rest of the president’s words.
Instead, they focused on Russian flags. This diversion is irritating and stupid. You can go here to find out what happened. Again, the media misses the president’s message and simultaneously proves his point.
The president noted the mess in Europe with mass immigration and terrorists lurking among the migrants. He said that he loved Sweden, but “they know what I’m talking about.” Here, he was implying that the elites there and in their media might be hiding the truth, but the people know what’s going on there.
As President Trump moved more into the policy positions, it felt like listening to an executive going down his To Do list. He recounted what had been accomplished so far but then listed what he wanted to do. The list was everything mentioned above, plus talking about cleaning up inner cities. He specifically mentioned Chicago and seven shootings in recent days.
For those bored of these speeches because they sound alike, it might be best to get comfortable. Donald Trump’s messages are repetitive sales pitches. He’s following a basic script:
This speaking style might drive a listener nuts, but it works. While the media tilts at windmills, the people who continue to listen after his opening salvo hear what he’s actually saying. They hear the meta-message, which is this: No more bowing and scraping, no more apologizing for being American, no more global village hoo-ha, no more gutting of the military, no more getting side-tracked on meaningless issues like bathrooms, no more moral equivalence, no more denial of obvious reality.
Dana Loesch summed it up efficiently:
While the media jousts with phantoms, the Democrats see what’s happening, which is why there is a near-collective psychotic break on the Left. For eight years, they ignored real issues and “won” on topics that mollified extremists in their part but angered everyone else being crushed by regulation, taxation, Obamacare, and a strangled economy.
So the Democrats lost. The media lost and seems intent on making losing a high art. Globalists lost. Far left activists lost. These folks are finding it distressing how easily their gains are being undone.
Guys like Paul Ryan are finding it distressing how difficult it is to extricate the federal tentacles that touch nearly every part of American life. The Democrats empowered, emboldened, and enlarged the bureaucracy. It will take time to undo it.
Donald Trump supports the undoing. That’s conservative.
The essence of conservatism is conserving. President Trump wants to conserve the unique American culture. He wants to conserve American exceptionalism. He wants to conserve the values that made America great. He wants to conserve the rule of law. He wants to conserve the military and veterans.
The president’s calls for protectionism worries many conservatives, including this writer. That view is not what is considered conservative by modern conservatives. It is Republican, though. Time will tell what economic “fairness” looks like to the Republican president. When President Trump talks about trade policy, I hear Ben Stein’s voice in my head teaching the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act to drooling high schoolers:
“Did it work? No, it did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression.”
That’s the fear. Yet there is much to cheer in this Republican administration thus far, and President Trump’s conservative speech at CPAC reinforced the cautious optimism many conservatives and Americans generally feel.