Is Donald Trump a Conservative?
This is a question that has bothered me for a long time. Is Donald Trump a true conservative?
Mr. Trump has been endorsed by Gov. Palin, Senator Sessions, Dr. Ben Carson, and Gov. Jan Brewer; no one would question their conservative credentials. Yet there are still times when we’re left scratching our heads.
What is a Conservative?
The first question we need to look at is what makes someone a conservative?
American conservatism is defined by distinct characteristics. I’ve grouped them into 5 categories:
- Smaller government/Lower taxes/Limiting government spending
- Liberty/States’ Rights/Protecting constitutional rights
- Strong national defense
- Family Values/Traditional marriage/Pro-life
- Free Market Capitalism/Pro-business/Anti big labor unions
Let’s take a look at these 5 groups and see how Mr. Trump stacks up.
1. Smaller government/Lower taxes/Limiting government spending
We covered last week an interview Donald Trump did with Anderson Cooper where he defined the three essential functions of the federal (national) government.
His answers in order were:
- Good Neighborhoods
His first answer was good. However, his next 4 answers would not be classified as conservative. Conservatives have been fighting federal government control of healthcare (Obamacare) and education (Common Core). Both of these (and public housing) increases the size and dependency of federal government. In his defense, Mr. Trump, when pressed, did attempt to clarify his answer on healthcare.
Here’s a link to Trump’s tax plan:
- Reduces tax brackets
- Eliminates certain taxes
- Simplifies the tax code
- Encourages businesses to spend money in America
- It’s paid for by limiting deductions or raising taxes on the very rich
- Restricts businesses ability to do business abroad
There are certain elements of Trump’s tax plan you could label conservative. But for corporations and the wealthy, Trump gives and Trump takes away. He’ll lower some of your taxes but raise some others.
2. Liberty/States’ rights/Protecting constitutional rights
Let’s start with the good stuff here. Donald Trump has been a strong supporter of the second amendment and your right to bear arms, there is no question about that. This is a strong conservative view.
However, the rest of the Constitution wouldn’t fare too well under President Trump.
Here’s an article that shows Trump wanting to arrest protesters at his rallies, effectively ending the right to free speech:
And here’s Trump threatening to take away freedom of the press:
If that wasn’t enough, here’s Trump threatening to shut down Mosques:
The list goes on: from imminent domain to campaign finance reform, Trump is not measuring up.
3. Strong national defense
This might be where Donald Trump is the most conservative. Whether it’s on immigration or terrorism, he will no doubt take a tough and proactive stance. He’s stated over and over again his desire to rebuild the military and make America great/win again. You may disagree with his strategy, but we’ll consider this conservative.
4. Family Values/Traditional marriage/Pro-life
This is where things get a little hairy. We’ll start with this interview Trump gave a while ago:
Here’s an interview since declaring his candidacy:
In a debate last year, Trump declared he had an “aha moment” and evolved into pro-life. Of the previous interview, Trump said he was answering as a businessman. What does that mean? Does this mean he’s allowed one set of beliefs as a normal citizen and another as a presidential candidate? Judge for yourself in this clip from that debate:
Here’s some more comments from Mr. Trump about gay marriage:
Like I said earlier this is a tricky one. Lots of politicians have “evolutions” in their views. It’s always hard to determine the authentic from the phony. I will say he does leave a little to the imagination in determining just how much he’s willing to fight over these issues.
Now as for family values, would you consider this person to be conservative:
And don’t forget this exchange with Megyn Kelly:
5. Free Market Capitalism/Pro-business/Anti big labor unions
This is another tricky area to nail Mr. Trump’s views down on. He’s obviously been a business guy all his life. He knows what takes to run a successful business.
I’ve already highlighted his business/corporate tax plan in the first section. We concluded it’s a mixed bag. Mr. Trump has had a good relationship with unions in the past:
This isn’t necessarily a non-conservative position. Listen to this clip of Trump talking about taking advantage of bad laws to make money:
Here’s Trump talking about tariffs on imports:
Is this a conservative strategy? Some would justify it, others would say this is the farthest thing from free-trade.
The problem is we constantly question his true beliefs and motives. One would think Trump would be good for American business growth. But is he a conservative?
Is Trump a conservative? I wouldn’t call him a conservative. I think there is a more appropriate term for Mr. Trump. Donald Trump is a populist. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a populist combines the issues of the day with popular opinions of ordinary citizens to form a political agenda or platform. A populist uses the hopes and fears of the population to their advantage. This isn’t a necessarily a good or a bad label, it all depends on the person leading the movement. Both Ralph Nader and Ross Perot were considered very influential populist.
Donald Trump is a populist with some conservative leanings. But he has some moderate, liberal, and libertarian leanings as well.
It’s important to note that there are many type of conservatives. The Bush’s are considered compassionate conservatives. The Paul’s are labeled libertarian conservatives. There are neo- and paleoconservatives as well. Who knows, maybe Trump will grow his own very twisted and confused wing of conservatism?