Conservatives Fretting that Trump is Too Good to be True. @PeterBerkowtiz, @HooverInst

Jan 28, 2017, 06:18 AM

01-28-2017 (Photo: Donald Trump executive order Keystone XL pipeline) Twitter: @BatchelorShow

Conservatives Fretting that Trump is Too Good to be True. @PeterBerkowtiz, @HooverInst

"...In “Our Country Split Apart,” Peter Augustine Lawler shrewdly observes that Trump ran as a conservative in an old-fashioned and neglected sense. The GOP nominee took Rust Belt voters and their concerns seriously, “promising to protect what they have—their industrial jobs, their unions, even their Social Security and Medicare—while restoring at least some of what they’ve lost.” Their losses, according to Lawler, a professor of government at Berry College, have been considerable. They include a sense of “personal dignity” that accompanies living in strong families and robust communities—along with the confidence that comes from knowing you are respected by your fellow citizens, not least the political and cultural elites who set the national tone.

Notwithstanding its benefits, globalization has hit working-class men and working-class communities hard, argues Lawler, depriving breadwinners of their livelihood by stimulating the flow of cheap labor into America and the shipping of manufacturing abroad to take advantage of cheap labor in distant locales. At the same time, elites whose work revolves around the manipulation of words, images, and concepts look down on those who work with their hands, who lift and move heavy objects, and who protect and defend. Elites are keen to employ “scripting and nudging—gentle but increasingly intrusive modes of controlling” to improve blue-collar workers while disdaining to actually get to know them.

Having felt this condescension for many years, middle-class voters use the democratic process to find representatives who honor them and their concerns. But the Obama years have witnessed a change. Whereas the Tea Party was an essentially libertarian movement that sought to restore respect for limited constitutional government, the populism that propelled Trump to the White House, maintains Lawler, allows for “a huge role for government and its capacity to provide security and make good deals for Americans.”..."

In “Can Conservatism Rise Again?”, Lee Edwards agrees with Lawler that Trump has the potential to advance conservative concerns, in part because “he tapped into a constituency that has been at the center of the Republican Party and the conservative movement for six decades—Middle America.” A distinguished historian of American conservatism and a Heritage Foundation fellow, Edwards argues that the Republican Party—like the conservative movement—“has always been comprised of distinct factions with their own interests, often united by a common enemy as much as a common cause.”

Although the GOP and conservatives are not inextricably bound to one another, together they are well positioned to deal with “the problems and divisions revealed by this election.” That’s because the conservative movement and the Republican Party that has provided its political home have always needed to reconcile competing elements.