Common sense about Trump and conservatism

This is a very accurate article about a truly vexing question. It is by John O’Sullivan and surprisingly in National Review: Conservatives in Crisis — American 2016 Edition. And if you doubt my own belief that I am a conservative, here is some evidence from just this year – The Indispensable Roger Scruton. Here, however, is O’Sullivan saying what needs to be said, which begins by noting how many different varieties of conservatism there are.

So give me a break! Stop yattering on about th­­­­e death of Republicanism or the terminal crisis of conservatism. They’re not even in the intensive-care unit. This is not their finest hour, perhaps, but they will survive.

But what will they survive as? Both Trump admirers (broadly defined) and Trump detractors (ditto) see Republican and conservative establishments reeling before a hostile takeover by an invasion of populist Vikings and Visigoths who have come from nowhere under the banners of “No Entitlement Reform” and “America First” nationalism. Peggy Noonan celebrates this; Jonah Goldberg will resist it just short of in perpetuity. But the main truth here is that this invasion doesn’t come from outside. It is an invasion mainly of people who have been in the ranks of conservatism all along.

It is understandable if most commentators haven’t fully grasped this, because the invasion is led by Donald Trump, who does come from outside both movement and party and who, as Camille Paglia noted in a very different context, makes a very fetching Viking (“bedecked with the phallic tongue of a violet Celtic floral tie . . . looking like a triumphant dragon on the thrusting prow of a long boat” — wow!). But the more we look at who votes for The Donald, the more they look like people who have voted Republican in the past. As Michael Brendan Dougherty, echoed by Ross Douthat, points out, they may belong disproportionately to the working and lower-middle classes, but they also belong to the Republican-voting sectors of those classes. (They were voting in GOP primaries, after all.) And if common observation counts for anything, it is the lower social end of the Republican electorate where conservative views are most often to be found (though less on finance, say, than on crime.)

It is a long but excellent article, worth every minute of your time. My only caveat is that I do think of Trump as conservative in a similar mould to myself.

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