TORONTO, Ont. Jan. 24, 2017 /Troy Media/ – U.S. President Donald Trump’s ascendancy as a political tour de force is nothing short of remarkable. He ignored the conventional political handbook, defied conventional political wisdom, and ran one of the most unconventional – and successful – political campaigns of all time.
Attempting to understand Trump’s political mindset has, therefore, been a daunting task for most analysts, commentators and pundits. Understanding the new president’s guiding political philosophy, often described as “Trumpism” (for a lack of a better term), has been nearly impossible.
Trump is neither a conservative nor a Republican. He doesn’t have a consistent political ideology. He has been able to mix right-leaning (war on terror, tax reform) and left-leaning (economic nationalism, same-sex marriage) positions almost at will. As Kelefa Sanneh wrote in The New Yorker on Jan. 9, “Electing Trump was a way to take a stand against both ambitious liberalism and insufficiently ambitious conservatism.”
This isn’t the case for Trumpism’s adherents, however.
Many of the conservatives, libertarians and other right-leaning devotees who support Trump’s political revolution are attempting to put an intellectual spin to their figurehead’s mishmash of views on politics, economics and culture. This will be done through his senior advisers, cabinet members and even the leading lights behind the Trump-inspired publication, The Journal of American Greatness.
These ideologues will disseminate a non-ideological Republican president’s words and ideas – and, in time, build an alternative political ideology to ultimately supplant the modern U.S. conservative movement. In other words, it will be done by force rather than by intelligence, general acceptance and/or ideological evolution.
If this does happen, Trumpism could gradually evolve into one of two political movements. It would either become a short-term shift away from modern conservatism or morph into a long-term offshoot that replaces small ‘c’ conservatism for good.
It could succeed.
While many conservatives remain true to their principles, conservatism is on life support. Conservative leaders such as Canada’s Stephen Harper and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy are out of power. The United Kingdom’s Theresa May and Germany’s Angela Merkel have watered down their philosophies to a liquid form. Meanwhile, nationalists like the U.K.’s Nigel Farage and France’s Marine Le Pen are beginning to win over more conservative support with concentrated attacks on globalization and immigration.
In the U.S., Republicans won both chambers of Congress last November. Many people originally attributed it to the party’s down-ballot campaign to counter Trump’s erratic style and behaviour. However, it appears that this electoral success was largely due to the president’s populist demeanour and astonishing ability to cross the left-right political divide without batting an eye.
John Steele Gordon’s Jan. 14 Wall Street Journal opinion piece argued that Trump’s victory could end up being one of those “rare occasions” in which “deep historical currents and extraordinary political talents produce an entirely new order.”
He may be right. For without Trumpism and the shift to (shall we say) crazy conservatism, it’s quite possible the Republicans could have been badly wiped out by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other senior Republican leaders likely know this. That’s why they’re willing to break bread with Trump, no matter their personal feelings about him.
Then again, political parties and ideologies have their ups and downs. This could simply be a case of the Republicans having a short-lived identity crisis in the face of Trumpism’s monolithic success in blurring the political lines.
If so, the crisis involving small ‘c’ conservatism would disappear, and the ideological right’s fortunes in America and beyond would rise like a phoenix once more.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. Michael is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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