It’s time we got something straight. Wearing the label of Republican does not make you a conservative. Just like wearing Colin Kaepernick jersey doesn’t make you a pathetic excuse for a football player.
Trump, and many of his prospective cabinet/staff appointments (Christie, Gingrich, Giuliani, Bannon, etc.), are by no means “conservative”. One could even argue it would be a stretch to say they are on the “right” end of the political spectrum.
For our purposes here, a conservative is one who holds to 5 foundational principles. Namely (1) truth, (2) equal God-given rights, (3) government’s only job is to protect those rights, (4) the people hold the power over the government, and (5) the ability to alter government to fulfill its real purpose.
Conservative In Name Only
As Trump and his sidekicks demonstrate, it is possible to be a proponent of certain conservative policies without being a conservative. And this is why we see someone considered by many to be a conservative or on the right, supporting life, the Second Amendment, etc. while at the same time promoting liberal policies such as government healthcare, government paid maternity leave, and government bailouts.
Their ideology (or lack thereof) allows them to pick and choose the policies they want to support. Whereas, someone who holds to those 5 principles of conservatism has their policy decisions dictated by those principles.
Principle Before Policy
For instance, why is Donald Trump pro-life? He says he is currently pro-life because a close personal friend had an experience that changed his mind on the subject. Fine and dandy. But a policy position based on that is on shaky ground and liable to change.
Why is a conservative pro-life? Because of limited government. A conservative believes that government’s only job is to protect our rights. One of those rights is life. Therefore, a conservative supports government policies that protect life.
Why has Donald Trump proposed a massive expansion of government power by providing 6 weeks of paid maternity leave to working mothers? Probably because his daughter thought it was a good idea, it was a way to get votes, or maybe because he actually thinks it’s a good idea or just the “nice thing to do”.
Why would a conservative oppose such a thing? Is it because conservatives hate women? Of course not, after all there are conservative women, and I’d rather doubt they hate themselves.
A conservative would oppose such a policy because it is not government’s job to mandate a business provide 6 weeks of maternity leave and it’s certainly not government’s job to pay for said maternity leave (plus in case you haven’t heard, the US government is kind of broke).
A conservative’s principles will say government must be limited to its proper role. Therefore, even though it may get you votes, even though liberals will tell you it’s “the nice thing to do”, a conservative will oppose policies that violate conservative principles.
Republican vs. Conservative vs. Progressive
It is vital that we draw a distinction between Trump and conservatism. While at times they may espouse conservative policies, people like Trump, Gingrich, and the gang are giving conservatism a bad name. And if we’ve learned anything from this election, perception is everything.
For instance, say Trump pushes through his proposed tax cuts (a conservative policy), but then also pushes through his infrastructure stimulus plan (a liberal/progressive policy). Then the economy tanks. Who gets blamed?
When Trump’s watered down conservative policies are mixed with liberal/progressive policies and it ends in failure, conservatism could be left holding the bag. It’s up to us to know the difference and be able to point it out.
Conservative policies flow from those 5 revolutionary ideas listed above. The result of the implementation of those principles can be summed up as limited government. If these principles are faithfully held to, limited government produces the most freedom and opportunity, the most success and prosperity, for everyone.
The principles of conservatism (aka limited government) work every time they are tried. The key is that they have to be tried.