Movement Conservatism Was Dying Before Trump

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference is upon us, and its speakers list has caused some longtime conservatives to bemoan the state of the movement. Noting the invitation of French National Front leader Marion LePen, former UKIP head Nigel Farage, and others whose provenance lay soundly in what Steve Bannon called the “economic nationalist movement,” these disaffected conservatives wonder what has happened to their movement. National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser goes so far to saythe conservative movement is no more. Its destroyers are Donald Trump and his admirers.”

Well. Far be it from me to question someone whose first piece for the movement’s intellectual flagship appeared 48 years ago, when I was a mere lad and the author was only 15. But I have been active in the movement since the mid-1970s and it seems to me that if the movement is dead, it was destroyed from within, not by Trump and certainly not by his admirers.

That’s not to say there are not serious questions about Trump as a man and as a president. I share many of the qualms Brookhiser and others have about him, although I suspect I see him more positively now than do they. Rather, where we differ is on what the movement’s health was before his arrival. The sad truth is that movement conservatism has been dying from sclerosis for years.

Movement conservatism in its heyday was a confederation of political tribes united by common enemies. It sought to project something more than that, contending that the philosophy of “fusionism” originated by NR editor Frank Meyer gave the union intellectual gravitas. But in fact libertarians had little in common with Kirkians, neocons, social cons, and all of the other elements that went under the nomenclature of the “conservative movement.” What they shared was an implacable opposition to Soviet Communism and a strong desire to halt the growth of a unified, nearly omnipresent and omnipotent national government.

By 1996 they appeared to have won both battles. The USSR was no more and the former Soviet satellites were moving towards market capitalism faster than a mouse moves towards cheese. Bill Clinton’s effort to adopt a national health care system had been defeated and the first modern GOP electoral wave had given Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1954, leading the triangulator par excellence to declare “the era of Big Government is over.”

Once victory had been achieved, however, the constituent parts of the movement started fighting with each other over what to do next. Was it time for the original libertarian impulse of the movement to lead, shrinking government dramatically? Was it time for America to use her world domination to fight other foes who might become the next USSR, such as China or radical Islam? Was it time to prioritize healing the culture now that the economy was strong and the nation secure? Each position had adherents in the movement, but none could command the movement’s unified assent.

A strong movement would have engaged in intellectual inquiry as deep as that which marked its founding. Rather than build a confederation whose strength came from the fear of a strong enemy, the movement could and should have moved towards a more perfect union, focusing more on what it was for than on what it was against. But it did not take that course.

Instead, the movement fell back on what unified it, opposition to the enemy. Liberalism, always the foe, became the only source of unity for the movement. Increasingly what marked movement conservatism was its implacable opposition to whatever could be characterized as “the Left.” The era of “the shouters” of movement conservatism had begun.

I don’t mean to denigrate those on the right who were able to irrigate the arid desert of center-left media dominance with new voices. But too often, these new megaphones were used merely to drive home a drumbeat of opposition to liberalism. So long as the Left, and especially its political incarnation, the Democratic Party, was opposed, all else could be forgiven. Examining the underlying premises of the American center-right was not a particular pre-occupation of the entertainment and ratings-driven right.

Victory uber alles meant that George W. Bush’s attempt fundamentally to reinvent conservatism went virtually undiscussed during the president’s eight-year tenure. Not only did the president fail to make a consistent and coherent case why, for example, it was conservative to expand Medicare without paying for it; other elements of conservatism largely failed to offer a coherent alternative. Here and there one would find opposition to one or another measure, but nowhere in the intellectual conservative right (as distinct from the libertarian movement) did one see the sort of coherent exposition of ideas that were commonplace in the National Review of the 1950s, 60s, and even the 1970s.

Thus by the early part of this decade, CPAC had already become little beyond an annual showcase for virulent anti-liberalism. Sarah Palin could get rapturous applause for a 2013 speech that offered nothing beyond anti-Obama one liners and jokes about her breasts ( remarking about her husband, she said “he’s got the rifle, I’ve got the rack”). Birtherism, the modern equivalent of John Birch Society Founder Robert Welch’s hyper-conspiratorial theories about Communist influence in America, was tolerated in speech after speech during the Obama era. Either Ron or Rand Paul won five of six CPAC straw polls, showing that the “conservative” movement was increasingly becoming the preserve of the sort of unelectable and dogmatic libertarian that Bill Buckley had opposed decades earlier.

Today Trump stands triumphant and many of the same attendees who cheered Ron Paul will cheer Farage, LePen, and Trump himself. This seems incongruent until one recognizes that each person possesses the one virtue that unites today’s movement: they all drive liberals crazy. Trump worship thus understood stands not as the rejection of the movement but rather as its apparent fulfillment.

Brookhiser calls for rebuilding the conservative movement, and I stand with him in that desire. But that cannot be done unless the movement decides not just whom it is against, but what it is for. That in turn requires going back to first principles and arguing with each other about justice, the good, and the role of the state in achieving such things, all conducted against the backdrop of current challenges and current opinions. Doing this requires real courage and a real and a practical commitment to ideas. Above all, it means acknowledging our failings and resolving to overcome them. And that requires a clear-eyed examination of why Donald Trump swept through the Republican Party like Sherman marching through Georgia.

It turns out that the plurality of Republicans didn’t think movement conservatism addressed the challenges they wanted addressed. It turns out that most Republicans aren’t movement conservatives at all (see the book I co-wrote with professor Dante Scala, The Four Faces of the Republican Party, for the full argument and proof: the article that spawned the book is here) and those voters liked the call to vigorous government action Trump’s platform implied.

Further, it turns out that most movement conservative voters care more about religious liberty and social issues than they do about the size of government, and that Trump has formed a covenant with them that allows them to overlook his many sins. It turns out that many presumed neoconservatives are quite happy with a president who occasionally questions NATO so long as he is rock solid in the defense of Israel. And it turns out that “fiscal conservatives” care more about tax cuts than controlling spending, as the House Freedom Caucus’ actions demonstrate. (Indeed, this has been clear since Steve Forbes beat Phil Gramm for the favor of these voters in the 1996 Republican nomination race).

Trump has given every element of the conservative movement what they want, save one. He has never given the movement intellectuals what they want, a coherent argument for his vision that meets their approval and a demonstration that he is a serious man. But it turns out that conservative intellectuals, like Stalin’s Pope, don’t command many divisions.

A reformed or renewed “conservatism” would take these challenges head on. Renewed conservatism would seek to define itself more by what it is for than by whom it is against, even if this means that some people who call themselves conservatives today would leave the renewed movement. Renewed conservatism would reject what I call “click your heels conservatism,” the tendency of many, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, to hope to go back to Kansas by clicking their ruby slippers. These conservatives believe that by repeating old platforms and old mantras we can return to the glory days of 1976 and 1980. It’s not happening.

Renewed conservatism would place the individual, not faith in ideology or creed, at its center. Most importantly, such a renewal would take Trump and Trump supporters seriously as an authentic expression of the modern American right. It would thus look much more like what the editors here at American Greatness are attempting than what most NeverTrump laments ever contemplate.

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114 responses to “Movement Conservatism Was Dying Before Trump”

  1. I’m in full agreement, but the question is whether economic growth, plus increased revenue from tax cuts will sufficiently offset the spending time bomb. At the end of the day, the math matters for generations to come. For this new Trumpian worldview to have longevity, it has to compute. I really want it to and hope it will… but time will tell.

    • Rush quoted someone, and I forget whom but the quote goes like this: “once the people figure out they can vote themselves free money, they’ll never stop voting accordingly” …….. that is not an exact quote but the spirit is correct.
      If we are to vote in spending responsibility it will have to be done in congress, not the presidency.

      That’s not to say Trump isnt trying BUT, he also knows the lay of the land and knows full well, he has so little support in congress (roughly 35 combined senators and congressmen) to actually run a surplus budget and get our debt under control. So Trump is doing what he can and increasing revenue to government, with most likely a prayer that congress doesnt spend it all (as a prayer is about the best anyone can hope for). But its up to us, not only in our own voting habits but to convince our neighbors of the right way to vote in every aspect of our voting, from the presidency down to dog catcher. We are the only ones whom can make the difference in government spending, we cant lay it at the president’s feet and expect him to do it all. We know what must be done, and that is not to give the president the support he says he wants. Afterall, he’s still stuck with what he has for support and it’s so little that even he doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of getting a decent amount of support. We need to give the president the support he needs. Fiscally conservative candidates, brave enough to take the media rectal exam, and then once we elect them, hold them accountable.

      Steve Bannon was right when he said this is going to be a 20 year fight…… we need to approach it with that mentality and resolve.

      • I quit listening to Rush years ago, but many of talk-radio”s “conservative” motor mouths are fond of citing a variant of this quote: ““A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.” – Henning Webb Prentis Jr. February 1943.

        According to Wikiquote it has been misattributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (October 15, 1747 – January 5, 1813) and Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859).

        My variant of this is basically that a democracy dies the moment a majority of its elected officials grasp that they will remain in power as long as they keep delivering on their “more free stuff” campaign promises.

  2. Excellent. Why are so many Beltway pundits deranged?

  3. There is no all encompassing “conservative movement” and considering the fact that you did not offer up a single specific, I would suggest that there isn’t ever going to be.

    “Birtherism, the modern equivalent of
    John Birch Society Founder Robert Welch’s hyper-conspiratorial theories
    about Communist influence in America”

    In Obama’s own book he claims to have been born in Kenya. So you are a Bircher if you think that the Law should be followed?! Your disdain for the Constitution is a great example of why there is no conservative movement, namely that those who would be our intellectuals are more interested in how they are seen on Twitter than honesty.

    Under Obama the US literally owned a stake in GM. The very definition of “government ownership of the means of production”. The government spends over $4,000,000,000,000 a year. Seems like Welch and Birch were more correct than not.

  4. “Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank in Washington D.C. He is also an editor at
    where he writes about populism and politics around the world. He is the
    co-author, with Dante Scala, of The Four Faces of the Republican Party
    (Palgrave, 2015) and is the author of The Working Class Republican:
    Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism (HarperCollins,

    Lives in DC. Check. Receives tax dollars via “think tank” in DC. Check. Thinks that it doesn’t matter if the Constitution should be followed in regard to “natural born citizen” and other pesky areas. Check.

    Swamp Creature.

    • Absolutely! An arrogant twit who engages in perpetual navel gazing and has no clue about real life outside of DC and in the trenches of political combat. A fatuous, pseudo intellectual, with nothing to say but dull bromides, yet disparages those who have actually done something!

  5. SARAH PALIN was the major force in taking over Congress in 2010 and Senate in 2014 elections, plus many republican Governorships.

    It was SARAH PALIN who started *America First * Nationalist Populist Movement and paved the way for Donald Trump to become President.

    SARAH PALIN picked Donald Trump out of 17 republican candidates.
    She endorsed him when everybody was laughing at him and called him a joke.

    Her endorsement gave him instant validation and acceptance by conservatives, evangelicals, libertarians, millions of her staunch supporters and others.
    His poll numbers went straight up high.

    Donald Trump took her mantle of conservative – libertarian political philosophy, Palinista Nationalist-Populist doctrine, he ran with it and WON, Big Time.

    Without SARAH PALIN there would be no Donald Trump Presidancy.

    Even Barak Hussein Obama knows and acknowlesges that:

    “I see direct line from SARAH PALIN to Donald Trump “. — Barak Hussein

    But phony worthless Swamp “intellectual conservatives” can’t see that or don’t want to see that, they are blinded by their elitisim, globalism, neocon warmongering, arrogance and envy.

    • Absolutely, while this guy was somewhere in an Ivory Tower, sucking his thumb!

      • His thumb along with other miscellaneous objects.

    • Indeed, most people are unaware that Make America Great Again was trademarked in 2010 and Trump’s entire campaign message and strategy were laid out in a Patrick Buchanan 1996 think-piece. Hardly a frivolous, impulsive notion to run for president – a plan long in the making. Note also the resemblance between the Palin rallies and Trump’s campaign rallies. President Trump noticed what escaped the notice of the MSM, the Republican party, pollsters etc., ad nausea; Comes the hour, comes the man.

  6. Brookhiser’s “movement Conservatism” currently consists of Brookhiser, Bill Kristol, and a handful of National Review writers.
    The label “movement” implies…. followers. The Brookhiser cabal is a handful of self-proclaimed leaders, with no followers.
    They could hold their convention in a phone booth.

      • And it’s also remarkably stupid. Consider this gem of wisdom from Brookhiser:

        “Donald Trump is un-conservative, ignorant, inexperienced, malignant, and unstable.” (NR 11-4-16)

      • Brookhiser is a Jew. Jews are the racial enemies of white Christians.

      • Brookhiser has many failings, but being born to Jewish parents isn’t one of them.

      • The Forward, National Review, Commentary Magazine, First Things, The Hoover Institution, The Daily Show???? Has he masturbated on anybody in public?

      • Wow, I guess i didn’t really I was on a white supremacist site.

      • Really? Do you want to remove that comment? I suggest you should.

      • All true. And I would add amoral, ill-spoken, boorish, vulgar, misogynist, racist, and impulsive.

  7. Excellent analysis, and I especially enjoyed your takedown of conservative intellectuals.
    I supported Cruz in the primaries, as I doubted whether Trump was even a real conservative.
    However, after reveling in the successes of Trump’s first year in office, I’ve gained an expanded perspective of just what American conservatism really is and isn’t.
    While upholding ideals of limited government forms our foundation, understanding that we are essentially in a continuous war with those opposed to those principles is important, and waxing eloquent upon principles doesn’t win battles against the leftist media/academia/government bureaucracy/crony capitalist/welfare state constantly attacking and undercutting hard-working citizens striving to live free and without burden upon their fellow citizens.
    Trump understands that they are in a war against us, and that fighting back against them is just as important as fighting the wars against tyranny that our forefathers did.
    Conservatism is as conservatism does, and fighting hard against those attacking it is the most fundamental part.

    • I was a Cruz supporter as well. I voted for Trump with some trepidation. Next election I will run to be first in line to vote for Trump.

      • So, you are confirming that your response was intended as a threat?

        I don’t care about any pity party. It is illegal, even in an internet forum, to make threats. That’s my only concern here. Just FYI, for that reason, I am blocking you from here out. So, no need for another lame response. Buh-bye!

      • I’m confirming squat, old man. Now do indeed throw yourself a maudlin pity party. And fuq off.

  8. I gather author is a NeverTrumper. He seems to be one of the sort so perfectly described by Michael Anton in “The Flight 93 Election,” as “Conservative,Inc.” A devious swamp creature.

    Re Trump conservatism: Its overriding principle is CONSERVING AMERICA. That is more important than any other principle. Movement conservatives seem to have lost sight of that little thing, what between globalism and open borders that your donors espouse.

    As Anton says, Trumpism broadly is economic nationalism, interests-based, controlled immigration and interests-based, America first foreign policy. That is a coherent whole.

    Re big government. Did the author not note that Trump is SHRINKING the size. He is cancelling programs, reducing personnel. You have to be willfully deaf, dumb and blind to have missed Trump talking about reducing the stranglehold of government regulation. And although Trump has not articulated it, we can assume he is dismantling the weaponization of the bureaucracy – e.g., the Consumer whatever it’s called that Warren set up under the Federal Reserve to shake down corporations. Doing away with massive regulation and weaponization is a big step towards reducing size and intrusion of government.

    Movement conservatives can crawl back into their think tanks with their donors and let us close our borders, get back manufacturing and try to save America with Trump.

      • Enforcing existing law – what a novel concept. That’s exactly what President Trump is doing with our immigration mess … and the unhinged Left and hand-wingers on the Right are apoplectic.

  9. Conservatism IS a movement, a bowel movement. If Trump’s brand of bigoted, misogynist, vulgar, anti-environment, nativist, ill-spoken, inarticulate BS is the revival if Conservatism than bye bye and good riddance to Conservatism in America. Don’t forget, you preening Conservatives, Trump lost the popular vote by over 3 million and his popularity is well down from there. His core supporters: 55+, under-educated, bigoted, low-functioning, angry, white , gullible male slobs don’t live long. Throw in a few other assorted misfits and you have the “new Conservatives”. Demographics will cull the Neanderthal herd in America soon enough. Trump has permanently destroyed civility in America and our standing in the world. Rock bottom.

    • I know…..we know…..
      You love Crooked Hillary and Cigar Willie – the Perrvertt and Muslim loving Marxist, ‘community organizer’ *Paling around with Terrorists* (Sarah Palin coined the phrase) Barak Hussein Obama and other left wing traitor nut jobs.

      Yes, there are Neantherthal hordes in America, and they are coming from “Sh!thole” countries of Africa, Mexico, Central America and 7th Century Muslim world primitive savages.

      But tide is turning around, Americans are taking their country back.

      Thank GOD, AMERICAN people, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin
      Donald Trump is President and Crooked Hillary is boozing up and screaming profanities.

      • You sound nice…kind of like a septic tank explosion. Sarah Palin is the lowest point in American history.

      • No, libttard,
        Crooked Hillary and Cigar Willie – the Pervert are the lowest of the low corrupt, criminal scumbags in American political history.

      • You guys really didn’t expect to lose, did you?

        Here champ, get this. We don’t have elections for President of California, so put your Popular Vote where the son doesn’t shine. I know you were itching for that $15.00 an hour job in a guard tower at a concentration camp, but that won’t be happen now, will it?

        You’ll just have to settle for .02 cents a word from ShariaBlue.

        When a Democratic nominee can’t win the Dukakis Six States, she’s officially the wrong candidate.

        But you could have nominated Bernie. You didn’t because the Banksters control the Democratic Party, and Hillary was their stooge. Your entire party is a Big Lie.

        So’s the Beltway GOP, btw, but I just love sticking it to Lefty Activists who are really just 2004 Tad and Muffy Bushies in Disguise, and won’t admit it.

        Now you can go back to sticking pins in your Sarah Palin doll. It’s what you’re good at.

      • Section 9; I assume that is your location in the State Asylum? You’re effing nuts little fella.

      • Why are old nasty conservatives obsessed with butts? Part of the personality disorder?

    • This entire screed is extremely vulgar, ill-informed, and bigoted. That you’re calling anyone else vulgar and bigoted is obviously just projection.

  10. Libz and spineless RINO neocons,

    If you think Donald Trump is causing your heads to explode, just wait for 2024.

    Madame President 46 – SARAH PALIN will cause many of you to jump off the cliff, because she will crush you and put many of you in prison for corruption, she will drain the Washington Swamp, like she did in Alaska.

    All of you know that, that’s why you hate her so much, that’s why you are mortaly afraid of her, that’s why you tried so viciously to destroy her and her children.

    • I dunno. I always thought they fear Mrs. Palin because she can shoot, kill, and field dress a moose and might do the same to them.

  11. Regardless of a political label, one must look at whether freedom and civil liberties as enshrined in the US Constitution have diminished. There is no doubt that they have. Any elected official who has worked towards that end..regardless of party affiliation…is complicit in treason against We the People.

  12. It died because they didn’t deliver. So we got Trump.

  13. I think the author here, like so many others, didn’t pay any attention to Trump’s message during the run up to the election that resonates so well.

    This is why we got him, and will get him again for round 2.

    Personally, I couldn’t be happier, having gone from wary acceptance to wholehearted approval throughout the year.

  14. “He has never given the movement intellectuals what they want, a coherent argument for his vision that meets their approval and a demonstration that he is a serious man. ”

    Trump has always offered a coherent policy and arguments. He even wrote a book way back when he started to campaign. I get so tired of supposed “intelligent” men basically signaling they’re part of the “elite” by acting a like brain dead snobs. How hard is the concept of “America First” in context of where America was supposed to throw money at every problem and be everyone’s free security guard?

    And of course he’s given all sorts of coherent arguments. Pick a rally speech. UN speeches? State of Union? Read his book. Read the campaign white paper, if they’re still around.

    If people from Ohio with high school diploma can understand his policies and arguments, I’m sure a senior fellow at “think tank” can manage it too.

    • Remember, “none so blind as those who will not see”.

  15. Jews are preventing conservatives from embracing white identity and white identity is the future. What the hell is Ben Shapiro doing over there any ways? Mona Charon?? Please.

  16. My view – Donald J. Trump, or President Trump, is an old-school Republican. Trump is on the order of the party as it was when I was growing up, more like my father’s GOP. Trump is more akin to Rockefeller, G.W. Romney, Eisenhower, Nixon, etc.
    The so-called conservatives took over the party after the fall of Nixon – they took over the party and insisted it had to be remade to distance it from Nixon’s disgrace. The party changed and IMO, not for the better.
    Trump reminds me of the party as it WAS – before Reagan – back in the 50s and 60s, etc.
    Am I wrong??
    I don’t like the extreme direction it’s gone and that’s likely why we KEEP LOSING at the national level. (and we can’t get any freakin’ laws passed – the few extreme-right block our every move “not conservative enough”.
    Fine – do it your way and pass NOTHING ever.

    • I agree. Except find him to be more of an old school Democrat than Republican. I think he’s trying hardest to reverse the dramatic leftward shift in the Democrat Party. Indeed, he won the election by winning blue collar votes in the rust belt with his anti trade talk. Even split the union vote with immigration and infrastructure talk. Brilliant politically speaking.

  17. Maybe the difference is that Trump supporters actually want concrete results and victories not just rhetorical triumphs that achieve little and do nothing to retard or roll back the advance of progressivism.

  18. Can’t you define what you are for by the antithesis of what you are against?Example, I am anti-abortion which means I am pro-life. I am against further ME wars involving American troops so I am for peace. I am in favor of preserving our nation and our heritage which is why I am opposed to multiculturalism. I am in favor of putting Americans first.

  19. What the author is describing is the difference between offense and defense. Trump is a clown but is successful largely because he stays on offense. Something the movement hasn’t seen since Newt Gingrich and Reagan before him. Paul Ryan is perhaps the best conservative spokesman today because he is positive and is prepared to govern with ideas rather than simply criticize. Olson is right. The founding principle is the individual. As in individual responsibility. After all, this is the unspoken half of the social contract that makes self government posible. This is what MAGA means to me.

  20. I began as simply a fiscal conservative and was never much of a social conservative until 2015. Once the Yale hissy fit over Halloween came, though, I became FAR more scared of the fact I can no longer speak than I was of taxes.

    I’m trying to get a PhD and have gotten very close to fire once when I was speaking freely, joking, and voicing incorrect thoughts while I was with other students–I was briefly afraid of getting thrown out of the university with what resulted–a complaint saying I made some people “uncomfortable.”

    I have no desire to repeat that experience–having those few terrifying days where I apologised for being rude and hoped the complaint progressed no further and was forgotten. Thankfully, it was, but I have no confidence that it would be forgotten today.

  21. “Victory über alles”? (BTW, there’s an umlaut on the “u”). Seriously, Mr. Olsen? So, that is your diagnosis for a dying conservatism? I guess you were on vac while:

    ~ Romney simpered his way to his still-baffling 2012 loss
    ~ A lame duck Republican congress passed a whole year of funding for all Democrats’ pet projects before the new R congressmen could be sworn in
    ~ Chronic isle-crossers were proposing the umpteenth open-borders amnesty bill
    ~ McCain threw the election to Obama in ’08
    ~ The House was passing show-votes against Obamacare knowing that the president would veto each repeal
    ~ Corker changed senate rules to let Obama win on the Iran nuclear deal, snatching yet one more defeat from the jaws of victory
    ~ Swamp republicans in the House refuse to enact Trump’s agenda (something else very obvious that you, from the height of all your papered credentials, do not see) and de-facto let Liberals call all the shots.

    You have it upside-down, with all due respect. We voters, whose eyes are not made dull by Swamp fever, were sick of the “losing with dignity” reigning principle, of Republicans being paralyzed into inaction by their fear of the media, and of a party that (so much for Trump’s lack of a vision / agenda) stood for nothing but living comfortably in second place, taking donors’ money and putting on meaningless show-votes.

    We voters have it up to our back teeth with “think tankers” who swan around fashionable Acela-corridor cocktail parties while giving each-other prizes for their latest essay, the nation be damned. And with a political party that plays footsie with a cynical, soulless Chamber of Commerce while our nation is losing its ethnic, cultural and economic identity.

    We have been screaming ourselves hoarse for at least 30 years about 1) stemming the tide of third-world immigration, 2) not entering economic treaties that disfavor American employment and manufacturing, 3) reclaiming lost ground on social issues, and 4) bringing back law and order. Your lot kept living their intellectual-aristocracy insulated lives, while an ill-concealed scorn for We The Rubes became increasingly evident. It was your ilk that shat all over the TEA Party, distancing yourselves from it like it had bad B.O.

    Then came a fighter whose agenda focused on these very points. His agenda has been on his Web site all throughout the most interminable campaign in recent memory. His agenda has been repeated at every rally and TV appearance. Yet, you still manage to miss it and still miss it now! And from the few of you who didn’t, we keep hearing a variation of “sure, that may be very well in practice, but does it work in theory?”

    Bottom line: “Trumpism” was a thing long before Trump. Whether it is out of his red-blooded American psyche or out of business-savvy cynicism or a combination of the two, he ran with it and made minced meat of the 15 perfumed, well-coiffed cardboard cutouts that your class was pushing on us. We understood that there’s more can-do in Trump’s pinky toe than in all the politicians you’ve been foisting on us for the past 30 years. Trump could die or resign tomorrow–if you think those of us who supported him would ever go back to a Romney or Kasich, you will have validated every single stereotype of Swamp blindness that has ever circulated (and with reason).

    Or, put another way: you dislike Trump because he is Not-One-Of-Us™–we like him precisely for that reason. Mostly by omission, “Movement Conservatism” has given us the corrupt, feminized, deracinated, vulgar, nihilistic, bloated and soulless America of today. For it was too icky to actually make your manicured hands dirty–it’s so much cleaner to just write essays and champion yet another castrated seat-warmer, as long as he can quote from Buckley or Kirk. No, thanks. It’s high time Movement Conservatism go the way of another kind of “movement”–swirling down the bowl with a gurgle as an exclamation point. You are extinct as a useful specie.

    • Absolutely great analysis!!!
      Keep hitting and b!!ch slapping these castrated eunuchs!

      • tough enough for your
        your self-fellating fantasy is showing, missie

    • Just for the record, McCain did NOT “throw” the election to Obama in 2008, and Romney’s loss was not “baffling” to anyone who is not a complete idiot. No Republican could have won in 2008, and no president seeking reelection after his party has controlled the White House for only 4 years has lost in the 20th or 21st centuries except Jimmy Carter.

      • I found McCain clearly worse than Obama in 2008. God knows, the last thing we needed in 2008 was another war.

        In 2012, there was no clear difference between Obama and Romney; both hated the native working class with all their heart and soul and the MSM was on Obama’s side.

        All of this relates back to those of us got burned voting for the idiot GW Bush in 2000. But then again, what was the difference between what Al Gore promised and what W did? Another war.

      • And neither of them are conservatives, yet both are more conservative than Trump.

    • Love your comment. It can be distilled into one sentence.
      People who voted for Trump did so because they realized they finally had a fighter. Not only a fighter, but one who was not afraid to get low down and dirty.
      Sorry 2 sentences.

      • Or: “People voted for Trump because it allows them to be honest about their racism.”

      • Madonna is a racist, George Bush is a racist, Barbara Walters is a racist, Heidi Klum is a racist, New Gingrich is a racist, Mahatma Ghandi was a racist, all Indians are racist, Michelle Obama is a racist, Mother Theresa was a racist, Angela Merkel is a racist, the Pope is a racist, All Argentinians are racist, Jesus was a racist, Kim Jon Ung is a racist, Tiger Woods is a racist, Lindsey Lohan is a racist, Hugo Chavez was a racist, all whites are racist, all people who eat 3 meals a day are racist, Mikael Gorbachev is a racist, Geraldo Rivera is a racist, climate deniers are racist, all Africans are racist, George Washington was a racist, all people who are not visually impaired are racist, I am a racist, You are a racist, Nancy Pelosi is a racist, Rudi Gulianni is a racist, Michael Brown Jr. of Ferguson is racist, The Nation of Islam is racist, Mohamed was a racist, all trees and animals are racist, all inanimate objects ( such as the rock on Rick Perry’s hunting camp) are racist, the whole world is racist, the whole universe is racist and above all God definitely is a racist, SO SCOTT WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR POINT?

      • Brilliant. And made it even more fun to block the whiner.

      • Very gratified to see you agree all the rest are racist.
        BTW even a non-existent entity such as God ( why are you putting God in capitals?” ) can definitely be a racist. That is the sheer beauty of racism. Don’t you agree????

      • Or: People voted for Trump because they chose not to distinguish between his lies and the truth.

      • Don’t be so hard on Obama. Just because he lied :
        “If you like your Insurance plan you CAN KEEP IT,
        If you like your doctor you CAN KEEP HIM
        If you like your hospital you CAN KEEP IT.
        All families in USA will save at least $ 2,000 on their health care premiums.

        ” I promise to close Guantanamo.”

        “I can guarantee that we will have, in the first year, an immigration bill that I strongly support.”

        Blah, blah, blah, Don’t be so racist as to hold all those lies against him.

  22. I gave up on movement conservatism around 1989 when the NeoCons took it over. Most Conservative leaders are Whiggish losers suffering from Stockholm Syndrome

  23. The Conservative Movement was receding because it was losing. Year in and year out, the left pushed the culture more and more in a Marxian direction while denigrating their conservative opponents with vilification born of application of Alinsky techniques the Conservatives never countered. The Conservatives never countered them because they were so concerned with being gentlemen and appearing mature that getting into the pit to fight their opponents at the level of the tactics of their opponents was just beneath them. And so George W. Bush lost control of Congress largely because he and Cheney and others ingnored the constant attacks that they lied, ignored the unending vilification and over time the Big Lie beat them . . . . . and McCain and Romney. The low point was when Romney, a boy scout if ever there was one, was successfully depicted as a Scrooge like abuser of all workers.

    And along came Trump. Trump who is a small c “conservative” man, one focused on solving problems in the real world not spewing ideology – but a man who through calculation and instinct was brilliant at countering the Democrat vilification by responding in kind and more effectively than the Democrats ever did. A man who was so quick with Reparte that he got inside the OODA loop of the Democrats – meaning that as the Democrats started to launch an attack Trump would see it and counter it before the Democrats and their media shills even got the story out – allowing him to highjack their own vilifications. (The seizure of the term “fake news” was a perfect example but there are many, almost weekly). The reason Trump wins is that he is smart, quick and acts instinctively while the Democrats need focus groups and coordination with their media shills to get their stories out. Trump realized that by coupling his attacks with outrageous headline grabbers he could get his message out immediately and go over the heads of the media. The more rigid conservative types who were too blindered or too slow to see what Trump is doing whine and winge about his quick, lightning strikes using outrageous statements as a syringe with which to inject his message into popular discourse – but the truth is that normal people see it, see the humor in what he is doing trolling the Democrats and support him all the more because he can pull it off, the undecided people are put off by using the outside the box additions but over time they hear his message over and over and couple that with recognition of the real events they see in their lives and over time support him more and more, and the only people who oppose him are two groups – the Democrats who would hate him no matter what he does and the rigid, low-emotional intelligence, “Never Trumpers” who would rather lose as gentlemen than restore America using the full range of available tactics.

    Since I love America more than I love Conservative ideology, even though I have been a libertarian and Objectivist movement Conservative for many decades, I fully support Trump because he has arrested the tide of political correctness, hyper-regulation, deindustrialization, and growing taxation, brough a great Conservative to the Supreme Court, is restoring the rule of law and repealing Obama’s many rule-by-fiat policies, does not seek NeoCon foreign adventures, and actually is Making America Great Again – and not a moment too soon. I just wish the damn Congress could do its job to support him (the House is pretty good but the Senate is filled with two many of the American version of squishy Tories – AKA RINOs.)

  24. This is utter BUNK !

    If this guy olsen thinks that habitual lies, cheating, adultery, bankruptcy, scams, chaos populism is going to ‘save’ Conservatism… then the time has come to kill the Conservative ‘movement’ and time to kill the Republican Party.

    It is time for… a New Conservative party of Ethics, Integrity, Conservative Principle. NO trumpers allowed.

    • Have at it.
      You’re right wing version of the Green Party will be every bit as powerful.

      • And your trumpy lies, fake promises, immorality, and stupidity will alienate most of your non-koolaid drinking supporters.

  25. Turns out the average Republican and/or conservative voters doesn’t give a rat’s behind for the intellectual arguments of the “movement conservatives”. Take “birtherism”. There is apparently no greater sin among NeverTrumpers. Yet the average conservative understands that birtherism is not meant to be taken literally. It is not negated by Obama producing a birth certificate. It was and is meant as shorthand for Obama’s atypical outlook on America, its role in the world and the superiority of western civilization in general. To put it mildly, Obama’s infatuation with marxism and the anti colonialist outlook of his father was certainly obvious to everyone but was not allowed to be discussed – except by Trump in his own crude way. Trump received points for simply refusing to be embarrassed and cowed.

    No matter his personal failings as a man, Trump has succeeded simply because he has caused the American left and their media allies to become irrational, hate-filled and unhinged. He has made them unmask themselves. Rather than defeating his enemies, Trump has been able to make them defeat themselves. So, who do we want for a leader – proper West Point graduate George A Custer or vicious street fighter “Old Hickory” Jackson.

    • Britherism is a lie, plain and simple. And why repeat a lie if it is not meant to be taken seriously? Of course it was meant to be taken seriously. But nice try.

  26. When you mention old style conservatism I think of Bush, Romney, Flake and McCain. The people who failed repealing ObamaCare after saying they would. The ones who advocate open borders, untethered free trade and never ending wars. The ones who seem to despise Republican grassroots. Not only are these positions extremely unpopular, it’s the same as the Democrats. As for the parts that are popular: restricted abortion, defend Israel and 2nd amendment, Trump is rock solid on them. Politically if not personally at least.

    • Bush, Romney, Flake and McCain are not conservative by any definition

      • Who put you in charge of defining “conservative”? Bush, McCain and Romney are conservative by MY definition, and if they are not then neither am I. But what matters is what you believe, not what label you attach to it.

      • The definition of those “conservatives” is progressivism, but a little bit slower.

    • As long as you don’t mind hitching your wagon to a sexual predator and out-and-out racist who in all likelihood is a Russian agent of influence, then you’re in great shape!

      • I am willing to bet you hitched your wagon to the Clinton crime family

  27. Defining conservatism is not hard. It is the defense of all that is good and proven in tradition and history, and of the key pillars of society – faith and family – against reckless and irresponsible “change” and “progress” that lead to destruction. Whether anyone likes it or not, on the issues, Trump is a conservative. What he is not, is a libertarian or neoconservative.

    The “modern conservative movement” included those other factions, and as the article correctly recognizes, everyone who was opposed to communism and socialism abroad and at home. That opposition to communism and socialism was born of the circumstances of the day. When the USSR and the Berlin Wall fell, it began to disintegrate. Since 1989, the failures of “movement conservatism” have been clear. “Globalization” has not only demonstrably degraded the economic lives of the American middle class, it ended up embracing “free trade” with Communist China, which has strengthened the PRC while siphoning off 3% of US GDP every year in massive trade deficits. The War in Iraq, which was a wholly neoconservative venture, was poorly planned, and based on magical thinking. As it dragged on, it removed any credibility from the neoconservative world view.

    Meanwhile, conservatism (as defined in the first paragraph) was all but completely surrendered by the Republican establishment and “conservative” intellectuals. And then came the crash, TARP and Barack Obama.

    Obama dedicated his administration to the advancement of the “identity politics” agenda of the far left that raised him, while continuing the elite agendas of globalization and democracy-promotion. Because Republicans and “movement conservatives” in Washington saw little deviation from elite consensus on economic and foreign policy, they were exposed as not being conservatives at all. Their faint-hearted opposition to Obama’s Cultural Revolution against Western Civilization did not go unnoticed by the voters. To put it mildly. It also did not go unnoticed by Donald Trump, who is a conservative.

    Libertarians are not conservatives. They are classical liberals. Neoconservatives are not conservatives. They are Wilsonian progressives. Conservatives among the American people have been homeless since the end of the Reagan Administration, with no one in Washington defending them, while the left has carried out a merciless crusade against them.

    When over 30 states, including California, vote to maintain traditional marriage, and their votes are wiped away by a Republican appointee to the Supreme Court less than 10 years later, and when big business boycotts states to oppose religious liberty and force men into girls’ bathrooms, while Washington tolerates wide-open borders for decades, how can anyone be surprised that conservatives turn on the non-conservative elements of the Republican Party?

    Those of us not living in a bubble have seen and felt the country, its economy and culture disintegrating for years, while the Republican and “conservative” establishment yawns and plays golf. Something had to give.

    • Excellent analysis. Libertarians are liberals but some of them find shelter from big government in the Republican Party. Neo conservatives, as the name implies, are former liberals opposed to American isolationism. They moved into the Republican establishment during the Reagan era. Because most neoconservatives are in fact elitists, they bitterly oppose the populism of Trump. Nevertheless, it does not profit true conservatives to reject potential allies in the life and death struggle for the soul of this nation against the left.

      • Conservatives have not rejected those allies. They have rejected conservatives. And in general, they are the elites, and conservatives are the voters. That sums up everything.

  28. What is conservatism? The article notes correctly that many of us who joined the movement (I was young and uninformed when I did) in the sixties and early seventies were driven by anti-communism (a clear and present danger we believed) and the seeming disintegration of US society (riots, chaos, etc). Some of us anchored those beliefs with actually reading books and trying to craft together a philosophy but there was never agreement on what a “conservative”. We were the “anti” people more than being “for” anything. Re “conservatism” Former Soviet Spy Whittaker Chambers referred to himself not as a conservative but “a man of the Right”. Ayn Rand, who was anti-government, anti-God and pro little other than uber Capitalism was no conservative. Likewise, Donald Trump is many things (just ask him) but conservative is not one of them. Without malice I note he is a nationalist, anti globalist (except when it affects his bottom line), secularist (he is no “born again”) anti or unintellectual (take your pick), xenophobic (pick your fear) and supported to GOP agenda for record increases in spending (hardly a deficit hawk). He is many things but not a conservative – perhaps instead a man of the Right? The Kristol, George Will crowd, btw, represents nothing and no one. Maybe conservatism has no meaning in the 21st century and different labels and paradigms are developing.

    • Conservatism lost its way when it attempted to emulate the left and become an intellectual “system”. But conservatism has never been amenable to systematizing by intellectuals. Instead, it followed Burke in identifying those aspects of human existence shown to be essential by long experience. First, the family, second faith and third the nation. Interestingly, these are the primary targets of the left. Conservatism cannot easily be derived from “first principles”. Instead, it develops slowly from empirical experience.

  29. Trump saving conservatism is the most laughable nonsense I’ve heard in a long time. As evidenced by this year’s CPAC gathering Trump conservativism is a sewer of white nationalists, black helicopter loonies, out and out racists, Russian apologists, and haters of law enforcement. Roger Ailes created a media outlet for stupid people who think they are conservatives but who are, in fact, simply bigots and idiots and Trump latched onto it. The result is the end of conservatism as a legitimate political force, probably for a generation

  30. A lot of old school movement conservatives don’t realize that the voters that understand traditional American conservatism have been diluted by immigrants that do not understand the Constitution, the invisible hand, natural law, private charity, a Christian culture and the other elements of our national heritage. They think our way is universal, when it is actually millennia in the making, from Greece and Rome to today. The average IQ in Haiti is 67. Think those voters can manage a Republic?

  31. So, we think conservatives are the republicans we have seen for decades in congress who have talked a good game of being conservative and remaining true to their conservative values, but in truth these same so-called conservatives time after time roll over and “kick the can down the road” so that we now have a 20+ Trillion dollar debt. President Trump promised much and has delivered little because of the resistance from inside his own party. Much more would have been accomplished if a small number of senate republicans had done what they promised to do on the campaign trail. For the liberals, the media and the small numbers of establishment republicans it all centers around Trump’s hateful language and hubris. For the rest of us it is about actions. And actions speak louder than words.

  32. Conservatism has been dying ever since Bill Buckley handed control of his magazine over to Jews.

    This is the cold, hard, sad truth.

  33. Federal receipts were up 60% during the eight years of GW Bush, in spite of 9/11 and the housing crash (also enabled by Bush). This abandonment of the American taxpayer and conservative principle sacrificed the moral high ground for ALL “conservatism”. There is no reason that the Bush Presidency should not have ended in surplus.

    Now, the government receipts are on pace to be about $3.5T (vs Clinton’s last year of about $1.5T). If Trump were to use the predicted increased revenue from the tax cut plan to actually balance the budget (or even go into surplus), then a new base for “movement conservatism would be built, and easily expanded on.

    On the current path, conservatism will die at $30T national debt.

  34. Before Trump, movement conservatism was a sad, pathetic, little debating club of comfortable gentry that talked big and accomplished little. How insanely angry they must be that the “un-conservative, ignorant, inexperienced, malignant, and unstable” Trump accomplished more in 1 year than they did from their sad beginnings to their, well, sad, ending in November 2016.

  35. Good points. 45’s detractors generally seem to enjoy ‘conservatives’ – GOP types – that give great concession speeches. The rest of us want fighters, avengers and winners

    • So more important to win than have values? That’s not very conservative of you.

      • On the issues, Trump is the most conservative president since Reagan, arguably even more conservative, as Reagan had alot of other influences. His personal character and personality are surface issues. He made conservative promises on the issues, and to this point he has kept them as much as possible. Which is more than can be said for most Republicans.

  36. What the author appears to miss is that Conservatism isn’t a movement, it’s a political philosophy. It also has nothing to do with social issues, other than with respect to whether current law is or isn’t suitable to address said issue (i.e. the classic Anti-ERA amendment argument – all people already are protected and we don’t need a law addressing a subset of them). The problem is that what is called conservatism today isn’t conservative so much as it is an agenda of talking points by people who find that calling themselves conservative is good branding.

    It would be nice to have some true political philosophy from both the liberal and conservative perspectives. Right now we have hacks who band together to fight over re-election.

    • You will never get your wish of “true political philosophy”. Politicians have only one goal, getting elected. They leave intellectual discussions to others.

    • Conservatism has nothing to do with social issues? You have no clue what conservatism is. And it’s not complicated. Or, more likely, in typical progressive form, you’re trying to take a word that has a meaning, and redefine it to push a different agenda.

  37. the GOP deserved to get left behind during Obozo’s tenure ‘cuz they NEVER opposed him!
    finally we have a quasi-libertarian in Trump,
    THAT’s why he WON!

  38. This was the subject of much debate in the summer of ’16.

    “Trump isn’t even a conservative, he’s a New York liberal!”

    My contention was that this New York liberal was the only person capable of saving conservatism, and that it would be accomplished through his choices for the Supreme Court.

    We can put up with almost anything for 8 years (the era of Obama is proof positive), but if the court went to the leftists, they would do all they could to squash conservatism…. they would end e.g., public displays of Christianity, they would change the age of sexual consent, etc.. etc. Thankfully, we made the right choice.

  39. It’s a little late in the day to be hearing the complaints from all these conservatives about Trump. Where were they when W was undermining the GOP and the conservative movement? The movement and the party became so stagnant that it was ripe for a Trump takeover. Fine by me. I wasn’t hearing anything from any of his opponents in the primaries that was worth listening to from a conservative POV.

  40. I remember as a nationalist begging Conservatives to align with us in the 2000’s. I knew the “desert wars” would lead to democratic victories. They scoffed and laughed. Quite frankly Movement conservatism can die in a ditch for all I care.

  41. Trump saved USA from hillary and the dems version of banana republic. She would have open borders, tons more muslims and PC gorilla land where up in down and down is up. I never thought 1 pres. Odude could so so much damage to USA. If the demons get to be pres again the destruction of USA will happen.

  42. President Trump stands behind what’s good for America and we should stand behind him!

    Democrats want to extend ALL of America’s Rights to illegal aliens! American taxpayers will be required to pay for them!

    Dems want the illegal votes in November in hopes of gaining seats in Congress!

    I’ll never vote for another democrat!

    America First!

  43. Repost because of spam filter:

    These so called “Movement Conservatives” remind me of this fantastic quote (yes, it is about suffrage but it can be changed for just about any “conservative” issue):
    “It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always, when about to enter a protest, very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to a–es. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.” – [Robert L. Dabney – Essay on Woman’s Rights.