What would they know about the meaning of conservative? First we have Paul Kelly writing his column with the heading Conservative principles and values are being trashed. And then there’s Brian Loughnane with this as the highlighted quote from his article, also in The Oz, “Trump is the most serious challenge to conservatism since World War II”. Really, what would then know? Michael Anton, on the other hand, does know.
And the question asked in this column, naturally not at The Australian, is this: Why did so many conservative intellectuals become Trumpists. And here is the conservative answer: there was and is no other way to save our civilisation from collapse. Even with the election, there is hardly any certainty we have turned the corner, but at least there is now the possibility. This, apparently, is the part of the conservative world in which I belong. The Anton referred to in the passage below is Michael Anton who wrote, under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus, the much-discussed article, “The Flight 93 Election” which I blogged on at length on three separate occasions during the election. Since he and I see things almost identically, this is how we are described:
The crux of Anton’s case for supporting Trump was that if he didn’t win, it would mean the effective end of self-government in the United States. For eight years Obama expanded the administrative state more radically than any president since Lyndon Johnson, injecting intrusive regulations much further than ever before into the health-care sector, the energy sector, marriage, religion, even bathroom use in public schools. If Hillary Clinton prevailed, it would mean that those innovations would become the new baseline for even more acts of administrative overreach. After four to eight more years of that, the century-long progressive transformation of the American regime would be complete, rendering constitutional government and the conservative movement lost causes once and for all.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Anton (as Decius) came out in favor of Trump, in part, because he hoped the real-estate mogul would serve as a blunt instrument to bring down key elements of the administrative state, including those outposts of the conservative movement (which he memorably dubbed “Conservative, Inc.”) that live like parasites off of the federal government even while criticizing it and waiting for the next election that gives them an opportunity to trim it at the margins and change nothing fundamental about it at all. But Anton also hoped that Trump’s full-throated defense of the nation, borders, and citizenship would catch fire among the American people, who would at long last rise up to demand that the administrative state be put back in its place — to make room once again for constitutionalism, statesmanship, and republican government of free and equal citizens.
I remain mystified by anyone who does not see things this way. And if you do not, you cannot call yourself a conservative. And if you don’t understand his point, you have no idea what being a conservative is or what conservative principles are.