I have previously made the policy case for why I believe conservatives should support Donald Trump. Briefly, the two main pillars of Trump’s campaign, support for immigration restriction and opposition to global “free” trade deals, are conservative in effect and in the most basic sense of the term, contrary to the protests of some free enterprise uber alles “conservative” ideologues. Trump is actually attempting to conserve something concrete, the American nation state, from a post-national globalist elite. Imagine that.
On immigration in particular, I have argued that immigration should be the overwhelming issue of concern for conservatives because if current immigration trends are not halted, the country will turn irreversibly Blue at the national level in just a few more election cycles and the entire conservative agenda, to whatever degree, will be off the table. This is not a statement of political opinion. This is a rather simple math problem. As Anne Coulter has pointed out, post 1970 immigrants vote 8 to 2 for Democrats. Look at the current and projected demographics of the country and do the math. The whole conservative agenda rises or falls on successfully halting current immigration trends. And don’t be fooled by fantasy talk about Hispanics (or any other large immigrant group) being natural conservatives ripe for recruitment into the GOP fold. We have the survey data on this, and it simply is not true.
Regardless of how “good” your other candidate of choice is on immigration, and that’s a sorry tale itself, Trump has put the issue on the map and has significantly shifted the Overton Window, and that’s true whether you think Trump just happened to stumbled into his success on the issue or not. Which candidates were seriously talking about a border wall before Trump’s announcement speech? Which candidates were talking about birthright citizenship? Which candidates were talking about using immigration policy to decrease the risk of domestic terrorism?
Because all this seems rather obvious to me, I have had little tolerance for the ideological gatekeepers who oppose Trump because his position on this or that is out of line with the official conservative check list. As I have already conceded, Trump is not an ideological movement conservative. While I think he is viscerally a “Red,” his gut instincts and long held public opinions are Middle American Radical (MAR). Most MARs are Reds these days.
Now let me make a strategic case for Trump as well. Anyone who knows my history might find this sudden distaste for ideological gatekeeping a bit odd coming from me. I have long advocated placing principle before pragmatism in the political arena, and I have a long history of supporting ideological primary challengers against Establishment incumbents, supporting the most conservative available candidates in open primaries, and supporting third party candidates in the general. For the record, I supported Pat Buchanan in the GOP primary in ’92, ’96 and ’00 and Ron Paul in ‘08 and ‘12. I have supported the Constitution Party nominee in every general Presidential election since ’96, and I would have written in CP nominee Howard Phillips in ’92 if I had been familiar at the time with the write-in laws in my state. In fact, I even got very exercised about the nomination contest of the Constitution Party in 2008 because I thought potential nominee Alan Keyes was a poor issues and philosophical fit for the party. So why am I now suggesting that people put aside their ideological objections and support a candidate who is on certain issues, undeniably flawed?
Some believe I have grown. Some believe I have sold out. I don’t believe I have done either. There has always been a method to my madness which continues unabated. While I have always been inflexible, shall we say, on certain issues, I do not believe I have ever been naïve. I never supported a primary challenger or a quixotic primary candidate or a third party candidate because I thought they could win. For me, it has never been primarily about winning a particular race because I don’t think we are at the point where a single winning candidate can actually have much of an impact on the current illegitimate regime. For me it has always been about backing a candidate who gives me and other dissidents the best platform for rhetorical bomb throwing and inflicting maximum damage on the current regime. (The age old principle vs. pragmatism debate is about just that, but an underlying issue is often how far gone you think the current situation is. Winning elections and having “a seat at the table” is less meaningful if you believe the system to be beyond repair.)
For example, I enthusiastically supported Ron Paul in ’08 and ’12 because I agreed with him on most every issue, and I thought his Constitutionalist purity and consistency were a useful contrast to the faux Constitutionalists and conservatives who were apoplectic about his supposed heterodoxy from movement conservative dogma. His campaign served as a platform from which to instruct his mainstream conservative and Establishment detractors in authentic Constitutionalism.
That said, I never though Ron Paul had a chance of winning the GOP nomination and not just because of Republican Party’s shenanigans to deny him. I used to wince when I heard Paul supporters make statements such as “Paul would win if only the media would tell the truth about him.” While I appreciated their earnestness, that statement is actually the opposite of the truth. Paul did as well as he did precisely because a lot of people who supported him (especially peripherally) didn’t actually understand the full implications of what he believed.
Ron Paul served as a kind of a Rorschach Test for the politically disaffected. Libertarians rightly saw a fellow libertarian. Constitutionalists rightly saw an old school Constitutionalist. But those are a small fraction of the electorate. Moderates saw someone who was less dogmatic on social issues. Peaceniks saw an antiwar candidate who wanted to defund foreign adventuring and used the money to “take care of problems at home.” And as the Trump campaign has illustrated, a lot of right-wing populists saw a candidate who best expressed their dissatisfaction with the Powers That Be. Authentic Constitutionalism (meaning primarily the belief in enumerated powers doctrine), not to mention philosophical libertarianism, proposes the radical downsizing of the Federal Government and the elimination of many very popular programs. It is a low single digit position when taken as a whole. I don’t like it, but it is what it is.
Yes, I have an ideal policy outcome I would like to see enacted, something like the Constitutionalism espoused by Ron Paul. Heck, truth be told, I’m actually an anti-Federalist and would like to restore the Articles of Confederation, but I’m not naïve, and I realize such an outcome is not politically feasible at the moment and likely never will be again. Therefore, my primary motivation when I decide who to support is who can serve as the best vehicle to strike a blow against the current regime which must fall before any positive progress (actually regress) can take place.
As I see it, there are two types of candidates who can potentially advance the cause – principled issues candidates that run primarily to carry a banner rather than win the election, or candidates that have a plausible shot at winning and whose election could actually make a difference, not because they are correct on all the issues (that is precluded by the plausible shot at winning), but because they fundamentally challenge the current reigning orthodoxy. The latter types of candidates are actually rarer, and Trump is the latter type of candidate. Trump’s campaign represents an opportunity to shake up the status quo that doesn’t come along very frequently. That’s why it should be embraced by those interested in real change, rather than ideologically nit-picked.
Regarding the ongoing Republican Presidential primary, I do not believe there is really an ideological candidate to get behind. I don’t want to turn this into a rant against Rand Paul, but Rand, as the son of Ron Paul and the presumed inheritor of his legacy, could have run as an ideological candidate. The problem is that Rand fails as an ideological point making candidate for reasons that are beyond the scope of this article. Unfortunately, many of Rand’s supporters seem to think he warrants the ideological standard bearer designation and are among the most vigorous of the gatekeepers. Well I’ve got news for them. Rand Paul is no Ron Paul and this is true for more reasons than the concession that Rand toned it down a bit to make himself more electable. Rand’s supporters can be a bit on the sanctimonious side, as could, admittedly, Ron Paul’s supporters, but Ron Paul at least justified sanctimony. Rand does not.
The other potential ideological candidate, Ted Cruz, also fails as a point making candidate. Ted Cruz challenges the regime on matters of style. He is not a go along to get along candidate, but he is generally running as the more conservative by degree candidate. He is not fundamentally challenging the current template. He is running as the more precise version of the existing template. In contrast to Trump, he only recently came around fully on immigration restrictionism and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in response to the wishes of his potential base.
The entrance of Donald Trump into the race and the surprising (?) enthusiasm for his campaign, with his highlighting of the immigration issue and his long history of economic nationalism, has turned this election into a potentially transformative meta election. Normally we have a Presidential election that regardless of whatever real differences there may be between the parties, basically pits Globalist Post-Nationalist Candidate A vs. Globalist Post-Nationalist Candidate B, both of which echo the ruling consensus of the power elite. (… Bush I vs. Dukakis, Bush I vs. Clinton, Clinton vs. Dole, Bush II vs. Gore, Bush II vs. Kerry, Obama vs. McCain, Obama vs. Romney… Anyone notice a pattern here?)
The nomination of Trump would be a fundamental challenge to the power elite and the current ruling order, in a way a Rand Paul or Ted Cruz nomination never could be, and the elite know it. That’s why they are so hysterical about the prospect. Clinton vs. Trump would be Globalist Post-Nationalist Candidate A vs. Patriotic Economic Nationalist Candidate B. This is a game changer, and could potentially realign electoral coalitions for years to come. Now is not the time to nit-pick about eminent domain or whatever other conservative/libertarian box Trump fails to check. The conservative gatekeepers are seriously missing the forest for the trees here (or are actually comfortable with the current globalist post-nationalist regime). This is not about abandoning principle for pragmatism. This is about strategy. Now is the time to seize this unprecedented opportunity to strike a serious blow against the forces that are aligned not to “Make America Great Again,” but to make the nation state of America increasingly irrelevant in a globalized post-national world.
(For those who might suspect that this article is an attempt to excuse abandonment of principle and justify my support of Trump, I made a very similar argument in favor of Libertarian Party members considering nominating Jesse Ventura despite his less than plumb-line libertarian stances on all the issues, and that article is dated well prior to the entrance of Trump into the primary.)