There really are not going to be very many silver linings for conservatives coming out of this election season. Hillary Clinton is going to be President. That is a given. The Supreme Court is going to move left. That is a given. The regulatory state is going to expand. That is a given. Congressional Republicans, in an effort to appear reasonable, will cut bad deals. That is a given.
All of these things are the logical outcome of Donald Trump’s disastrous campaign. His supporters are now fixated on the idea that those of us who warned them of the consequences of their actions are to blame for those consequences. It is akin to being blamed for a death when you warned the person the gun was loaded so they shouldn’t point it at their head and pull the trigger.
The small silver lining is this. There are loud voices who had seats at the table of conservatism who jumped on board the Trump Titanic in the primary. And there are loud voices who jumped on board with gusto once Trump won the nomination. These are different from those who resigned themselves to Trump. The difference between Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee is that Rubio resigned himself to Trump while Huckabee’s daughter went on the Trump payroll and Huckabee gave himself a Brazilian for Trump.
Those who joined with gusto can be ignored as conservatism digs out of the hole they put us in. Their ideas have failed. Their anti-immigrant rhetoric discredits them. Their economic protectionism and business irrationality leaves them on the outside of a free market movement. Their nationalism has no business being tied to conservatism.
The conservative movement has, for a very long time, been stuck in the Reagan era. The ideas the conservative movement advocates for are the ideas of the 1980’s. Conservatives seem to have forgotten that the ideals and principles should remain unchanged, but not the actual issues and policies. We need the Reagan optimism. We need the Buckley principles. But we need ideas for the era of technological advancement and employee displacement due to that advancement.
When you go to a meeting of conservatives, the conversation typically turns to new branding for old ideas. “We are going to attract new people to conservatism by just changing our language instead of our focus” seems to be the thinking. But the world has moved on.
Millennials, for example, do not want career stability. They are more likely than any other demographic to give up a well paying job for a rewarding job. So perhaps conservatism does not need to repackage job security for millennials, but find a way to show them less government is a good thing for them too as they seek rewarding jobs and opportunities.
Conservatism gets to begin again anew in November. The principles and ideals will still be the same. We will still believe in limited government, personal responsibility, and that in the balance of freedom and equality we should lean toward freedom, but hopefully we will move on from tax cuts as a panacea. Perhaps we will focus more on education as a civil right and work to expand school choice. Perhaps we will be more willing to really address immigration reform once we’ve found a solid position on securing the border first. Perhaps we will be able to contemplate how conservatism works in a society of singles and what might we do to incentivize marriage and children. Perhaps we will really support free markets and main street instead of corporatism.
These are all conversations conservatives were on the verge of having until Trump. Now we can, at least, have them without having to give the Trumpeteers seats at the conservative table. They’ve chosen nationalism and rejected conservatism. They’ve chosen the strong man, not the strong citizen. Conservatives should remember the American dream is for everyone, not just for those already here. Conservatives should deny seats at the table to those who believe we need a strong man in Washington to solve our problems instead of strong citizens solving their own problems while government keeps them safe.
There are faction, fractures, and fissures within the movement right now. At least, come November, there’ll be a little less dead weight to shackle us. That is a good thing.