Liberals and libertarians cannot meaningfully counter Trump—but conservatism can.
The conservative movement, which is constituted by a dynamic tension between libertarians, traditionalist conservatives and neoconservatives, now faces the real threat of dissolution. Surprisingly, the cause of this threat does not come from within the movement, but from without. It is the result of an idiosyncratic version of populism called “Trumpism.” A toxic mix of reality show romanticism, resentment, cynicism and paranoia, Trumpism has deeply divided the conservative movement along a fault line that cuts across all three of its traditional divisions. Yet as George Nash points out in a recent issue of the New Criterion, “Trumpist Populism is defiantly challenging the fundamental tenets and perspectives of every component of the post-1945 conservative coalition.” Whether one’s primary concern is free trade, traditional marriage and the family, the protection of unborn children, or a robust foreign policy, one will not find much to cheer about in Trumpism. What is a conservative to do?
American conservatism is not identical to Republican Party politics, and it is in deep conflict with Trumpism.
It is important to understand that American conservatism is not synonymous with the conservative political movement. American conservatism is a public philosophy, a form of classical liberalism rooted in the principles of the American founding. Conservatives believe that those principles, furnished by the careful equilibrium of liberty, reason, and tradition, provide for human flourishing better than any competing public philosophy. American conservatism, therefore, is not identical to Republican Party politics, and it is in deep conflict with Trumpism.