Mr. Trump is not and never was a movement conservative. Apart from a youthful flirtation (is there any other kind?) with Ayn Rand, he has displayed little to no patience for libertarianism, traditionalism, neoconservatism or the other endangered ideological species that the movement has sought to conserve for so many decades. “Don’t forget,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News during the campaign, “this is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.”
He raised in that remark, glancingly, the possibility that conservatism ought to be measured by the standards of Republicanism, or at least ought to be defined in conjunction with Republican principles and history, rather than the other way around — that is, rather than simply taking today’s conservatism as the standard to which to hold the Republican Party. Mr. Trump’s policies suggest that what he calls his “common sense” conservatism harks back to the principles and agenda of the old Republican Party, which reached its peak before the New Deal.
In those days the party stood for protective tariffs, immigration tied to assimilation (or what Theodore Roosevelt called Americanization), judges prepared to strike down state and sometimes federal laws encroaching on constitutional limitations, tax cuts, internal improvements (infrastructure spending, in today’s parlance) and a firm but restrained foreign policy tailored to the defense of the national interest. Are these not the main elements of Trump administration policies?
It’s not that Mr. Trump set out consciously to…
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