Donald Trump Refreshes the Parts Other 'Conservatives' Fail to Reach

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 25, 2016 | Go to article overview

Donald Trump Refreshes the Parts Other 'Conservatives' Fail to Reach


Byline: Amol Rajan

IT HAS already become fashionable in respectable society to argue that Donald Trump is not a conservative. This view, aired ad infinitum after his triumph in Nevada, is now a crutch for those trying to explain the intellectual and moral collapse of the Republican Party. That it is naive, patronising and -- ironically -- intellectually shallow has been no impediment to its ubiquity; and because it misunderstands both the US and conservatism it is likely to damage both. What, after all, is conservatism? It is an exercise in social ecology that is sceptical of grand schemes for world improvement, cherishes attachment to the familiar over the far away, and sees humanity through the prism of what Edmund Burke called "our naked shivering nature". "To be conservative," wrote the late Michael Oakeshott, a dear friend of this column, "is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."

This amounts more to a temperament than an ideology. Trump's profound nostalgia to "make America great again" is consistent with it. And yet, in its usually peerless editorial column this week, the Financial Times said: "By any conventional measure, his message is not conservative."

The paper then lamented Trump's proposed closure of overseas military bases, rescinding of trade deals, plans to erect a wall on the Mexican border, and antipathy toward Muslims. But such measures are consistent with the conservative temperament, not counter to it. "Far from preaching the virtues of small government," said the FT, "Mr Trump would drastically increase federal powers. …

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