Trump’s Triumph Should Signal an End to ‘Checklist Conservatism’

By | 2016-11-18T19:09:00+00:00 November 18th, 2016|
"Strong military"? Check. "Free markets"? Check. "Family values"? Check.

“Strong military”? Check. “Free markets”? Check. “Family values”? Check.

Conservatives who supported Donald Trump for president are going to be disappointed eventually. Perhaps even pretty soon. And that’s a good thing.

While liberals obsess over Trump’s alleged affronts to their cherished identity politics, conservatives are going to discover that many of the pieties they’ve held for a generation are suddenly obsolete.

Liberals have invested a lot in creating a cartoon caricature of a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic monster taking over the executive branch. We’ve seen it in the protests and vigils following the election. We’ve seen it in the anguished commentaries about why Hillary Clinton lost. The general consensus seems to be that a solid plurality of Americans is hopelessly racist and sexist. Keep thinking that way—it’s a guaranteed path to irrelevancy.

Conservatives in the meantime have their own problem with irrelevancy.

For the better part of a generation, all one had to do to be considered a “true conservative” was swear allegiance to what might be called the right-wing trinity: a strong military, free markets and “family values.”

Everyone wants a strong defense. Many Americans still prefer capitalism to state-managed socialism. And people like families.

But let’s face it, “family values” is a phrase so amorphous as to be virtually meaningless. As my American Greatness colleague Chris Buskirk has pointed out, “family values” morphed into “compassionate conservatism” which in turn was used to justify every crazy scheme “from open borders to Obamacare.”

Over time, conservatives rendered a “strong military” and “free markets” virtually meaningless as well.

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.

About the Author:

Ben Boychuk
Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. He is a regular columnist with the Sacramento Bee, a weekly syndicated columnist with Tribune Media, and a veteran of several publications, including Investor's Business Daily and the Claremont Review of Books. He lives in California.
  • Severn

    The trouble with things like “free markets” or “family values or “limited government” is that they are slogans, and slogans open to a wide variety of different interpretations. This is how people on the right keep voting for people who espouse their commitment to “the constitution” or “limited government” and keep getting disappointed with the results.

    I suppose that everybody on the right (and a lot of people on the left for that matter) think of themselves as supporters of “limited government’. But that phrase means very different things to different people. For libertarians and neocons it means something like “The control that ‘the people’ have over government should be limited, and the elites should effectively run the country’.

    Or take “the constitution”, a slogan employed extensively by Cruz supporters this year. Do they mean the constitution as exemplified by Wickard vs Filburn, or Roe vs Wade, or Obergefell vs Hodges? Or Dred Scott vs Sandford? They don’t. But they also do not see that simply appealing to “the constitution” is frequently an insufficient attempt at argument from authority

  • AEJ

    Who would believe we ‘Conservatives’ would ever be thinking such things (and voting the way we have voted pertaining to them) which the author writes about in this piece?…. For 35 years we’ve continually given our assent to “Checklist Conservatism” and “Checklist Conservatives”.
    And then came Trump.
    Who would believe this, really?!
    Yet here we are; and reading Ben Boychuk’s piece (yes, I read the entire, at the Bee link), let me say: Yes, yes, and yes and yes and yes!
    “And that’s a good thing”, the author writes, in his opening. Yes. Yes it is.

    When Decius wrote in his piece (post-election) that a ‘purist’ like Cruz couldn’t have won the General, I agreed. Like Decius, I knew America had moved past electing such a ‘purist’. I accept that. For that reason, I didn’t vote -for instance- for Cruz in the Primary. I didn’t think he could win the General. I thought Trump might be able to.
    (I live in Blue NJ and it’s tempting to not bother voting in the General – my Red vote doesn’t matter [though I DID vote; at minimum, I wanted my vote to show up in the Popular count]. But my vote always might matter in the Primary.)

    And the rest were ‘same old same old’ – Checklist GOPe.

    I am rethinking much (I know I’m not alone)…
    How about this, too, Mr Boychuk? Along with agreement with all the points in your piece, I found myself thinking very hard about what Decius stated about Unions in this piece:

    http://amgreatness.com/2016/10/21/conservatives-were-doing-great-just-ask-us/

    “The Trump rebellion is fueled in very large part by blue collar workers fed
    up with the economic trajectory of the post-NAFTA era. What does gutting their
    unions do to conserve their jobs, their communities, their allegiance to the
    Republican party? It’s great for the donor class—I get that. But how hard is it
    to see that, at the very least, the results of this policy are not perceived or
    experienced as great by the people it directly affects, many of whom the Party
    desperately needs to win elections?

    That’s to leave completely aside the justice of such measures. A non-doctrinaire conservative
    should be able to see that voluntary, private sector unions are useful and just
    when they protect the legitimate interests of workers against overweening
    capital, harmful and unjust when they stifle productivity and promote
    rent-seeking. Circumstances matter. The days of industry-crushing Big Labor are
    long gone. In hedge-fund, Davos America, the little guy needs help.

    Next up is that perennial urban right-wing bugaboo, the teachers unions. I
    admit, I too used to be hard over on this one. Bad unions! And, to be clear, I
    still oppose public sector unions in principle. But I have come to believe it’s
    much too pat to ascribe all our schools’ problems on the unions. The collapse of
    sensible curricula may have been abetted by the unions. But that movement was
    devised in the universities, evangelized by the ed schools, and enforced by the
    feds.

    Besides, the deeper problem is the students—specifically, the flooding of so many formerly American districts with foreign, non-English-speaking children whom our system is not designed to teach,
    and whom in any case it was not built to teach and should not exist to teach. It’s supposed to be for us, the citizenry, and our posterity. To blame decent, decently educated middle-aged
    women for failing to make Central American economic migrants—many with no father—achieve at the level of American kids is perverse. One thing the unions do accomplish is to give middle class Americans—actual citizens, born here—a lifeline to live and earn a living in the communities
    where they and their forebears have lived for generations.
    Outrageous!”

    Conservatives considering that the “little guy” might have no other prayer in today’s America except UNIONS (Unions?! Really?!) is shocking… a cold water wake up. And I AM considering it… and am shocked that I am! The effects of the abandonment by the GOPe can lead to rethinking on a stunning level.
    Decius made me think about the Utility, and the Justice.

    And this piece of yours addresses other very important items that are up for a ‘rethink’. Thanks for a great article.

  • Bedarb

    “call yourself a patriot, a nationalist, an America Firster, but don’t even use the word ‘conservative.’ It doesn’t mean anything any more.”

  • Deplorable Me

    Conservative, Inc. is manned by elites, just like liberals. They’ve always lacked common sense and think words matter more than action. Just look at the primary, all 16 candidates espoused, “I’m the real Conservative!” while supporting liberal ideas like amnesty, foreign wars, and expansion of entitlements.

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