Donald Trump, National Review, And The Battle For The Conservative Mind

The editors and writers of National Review recently did something extraordinary. They came out en masse against a Republican candidate during the primary. Their “Against Trump” symposium and accompanying “Editors introduction” offer up a barrage of attacks on Donald Trump’s surprising presidential candidacy.

For the symposium, National Review assembled an enormously diverse group of conservative thinkers, from “movement conservatives” to more “establishment” types, to “conservatarians.” Clearly, this is no monolithic bloc. Yet there they are—an eclectic bunch of odd bedfellows making the same core argument: Donald Trump is not a conservative based on any meaningful definition of the term.

The National Review’s writers make this case fearlessly, meticulously, and thoroughly. In past and current statements or actions, Trump has violated virtually every pillar of conservatism. Some of his positions defy constitutionally limited, liberty-motivated government (e.g. his support of eminent domain); contradict traditional values (e.g., his sometimes support for Planned Parenthood); and call into serious question whether he really is a foreign-affairs conservative by any measure (e.g. his protectionist proposals on trade or his willingness to contemplate Russian hegemony in the Middle East). On whether Donald Trump is a consistent, true conservative … the case is arguably closed.

But if National Review editors’ intent was to cause Trump supporters to question their loyalties, such efforts are doomed to fail for one simple reason: Many Trump enthusiasts are not the reliable conservatives that National Review wishes them to be. Consider:

One widely touted source, YouGov, reports that only 13 percent of Trump voters describe themselves as “very conservative” versus 20 percent that describe themselves as liberal or moderate. Only 30 percent of them say that they identify with the Tea Party movement, according to a Newsweek summary of the YouGov data on Trump. In short, the “Trump is not especially conservative” refrain doesn’t work with his supporters because neither are they.

How can it be so? How can it be that the Republican currently garnering a large plurality of support in a crowded but highly qualified field of candidates (many of them unquestionably conservative) is the one with the feeblest conservative credentials and some of the most heretical statements and positions?

One plausible and compelling answer to this question is embodied in Tim Groseclose’s path breaking book, Left Turn. The book covers an awful lot of ground, beginning with a detailed demonstration of how to define, quantify, and trend liberal media bias; and an amazingly rich and systematic account of how liberal media bias actually happens in practice. These are, in themselves, hugely important contributions.

But the most relevant finding of the book is reflected in its subtitle: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Simply put, liberal media bias is exerting an independent effect on the “political quotient” of the average American and is moving it steadily and substantially leftward. By Groseclose’s math, media bias has shifted the average American political quotient approximately 20 percent further left, to the point where it is worth about 8 points in presidential elections in favor of Democrat candidates. That is significant.

Other widely accepted data sources validate the trend, if not the causes. According to recent data from Gallup, the percentage of Americans who identify as “conservative” outnumbers “liberals” by 37 percent to 24 percent (with 35 percent identifying as moderates). But in 1992, that same percentage for conservatives was 43 percent versus 17 percent for liberals. A 26 point gap between conservatives and liberals has shriveled to 12 points in just over 20 years.

Is America still the “center-right nation” it is so often assumed to be? Perhaps. But it is far less so than it was, not even a generation ago. True, the fight isn’t fair. Undoubtedly, liberal media bias forms colossal, perhaps even insurmountable headwinds for conservative ideas.

Regardless, it seems abundantly clear that the conservative punditry is overestimating the conservatism of the Republican and national electorates. Just to offer a couple of examples, the current Republican front runner frequently argues against entitlement reform. Worse still, the Republican candidates (as a group) are talking less about the debt and deficits than at any other point in recent memory.

Put differently, conservatives must confront the simple reality that they are losing the argument. This being the case, at least one truth is manifest: effectively making the case for conservative ideas is more important today than ever before. Conservatives can either take up this fight, or accept being mere enablers in the self-reinforcing “triumph” of American liberalism.

Certainly, conservatives can (and should) also debate the wisdom of their flagship journal taking such a definitive stance regarding one particular candidate this early in the cycle. But the effort to clearly define and passionately argue for true conservative ideas is really the best hope they have. In this battle for the conservative mind, National Review’s contribution has always been and continues to be, invaluable.

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Watch: Trump Asked To Define ‘Conservative’ – His Answer Has Some Supporters Worried

Donald Trump, when asked to define a conservative, responded first by saying it is someone who is risk averse, then adding it is someone who wants to conserve.

While a guest on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, the candidate went on to liken his evolution to being more conservative politically on many issues to the journey former President Ronald Reagan took.

Face the Nation host John Dickerson asked Trump how he responds to the charge GOP rival Sen. Ted Cruz and others level that the businessman has not been a consistent conservative. “Usually, I just invoke the name Ronald Reagan,” Trump replied. 

“I mean, Ronald Reagan was a fairly liberal Democrat, and he evolved over years and he became more and more conservative. And he was not a very conservative person, but he was pretty conservative. And he ended up being a great president,” the candidate added. 

Cruz does not believe Trump’s comparison to Reagan is accurate. “I would note that Ronald Reagan spent decades as a principled conservative, spent decades traveling the country sharing his conservative, free-market views [and] defending the Constitution,” Cruz said.

“Ronald Reagan did not spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians, advocating for big government politics, supporting things like the big bank bailouts, supporting things like expanding Obamacare to turn it into socialized medicine,” the Texas senator added. 

Reagan was a Democrat who supported Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and Harry Truman in the 1940s. In the 1950s, he joined the “Democrats for Eisenhower,” backing the popular World War II general who successfully ran and won under the Republican banner.

Reagan changed his party affiliation in 1962 (when he was 51), and threw his full support behind conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign. The Hollywood actor then ran for office himself later in the decade as a Republican, being elected twice as governor of California.

Reagan would say when explaining his switch to the GOP, “I didn’t leave the Democrat Party, the party left me.”

The three legs of Reagan conservatism are: limited government/pro-growth fiscal policies, a strong national defense, and support for traditional values.

When asked to define what a conservative is during his Face the Nation interview on Sunday, Trump responded, “Well, I think it’s a person that doesn’t want to take overly risks. I think that’s a good thing,” Trump responded.

“I think it’s a person that wants to — in terms of government I’m talking about — a person that wants to conserve, a person that wants to, in a financial sense, balance budgets, a person that feels strongly about the military. And I feel very strongly about the military,” he added. 

What the candidate failed to discuss was traditional values. Trump’s bona fides in this area are already suspect with many social conservatives because the billionaire candidate described himself as very pro-choice in 1999 and has voiced support for certain homosexual rights, though he has not backed same-sex marriage.

National Review dedicated an issue last week to arguing why Trump is not a conservative, hitting on his changing views on social issues, past support for Democrat candidates, and support of certain “big government” programs and bailouts.

Trump responded:

h/t: CNS News

Watch: Stacey Dash Defends Trump Against Establishment In Powerful Rant

Actress Stacey Dash led the parade as the women of Outnumbered on Friday stomped all over a National Review article criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In the article, the National Review said Trump did not embody conservative ideology, in part due to his changing positions over time, and urged conservative voters to oppose him.

“He’s more conservative and he’s anti-establishment which is what we want,” Dash said. “He is conservative. And you’re not allowed to change your mind? I think we are allowed to change our mind.”

“He wants to make America great. Whatever he has to do that, he wants to do that. He’s the man with the power to do that. And he’s the man who knows how to make deals,” said Dash, who in July supported Trump and said she would “want a guy like that running my country.”

Andrea Tantaros agreed with Dash.

“You know, some of the bedwetters in the establishment believe they can build a coalition with millennial women, Latinos, but what you’re seeing is Trump is garnering support from Blue Collar voters. The cross over appeal could be huge,” she said.

“Building a coalition, particularly African Americans with their stance on immigration. He is more conservative than many other candidates on things like immigration,” she added.

The other two co-hosts of Outnumbered also joined in.

If I was part of the establishment I would walk as far away from this article, from this magazine, as possible if I wanted ever to gain the respect of those people who call themselves the voters. They hold the power,” said Harris Faulkner.

A lot more people will hear about the coverage of the article than will actually read it because one of the criticisms of Trump that was true is that not that many people read the National Review. I think the rebuke actually helps him in my opinion,” said Melissa Francis.

h/t: The Gateway Pundit

These 22 Conservatives Just Declared ‘War’ On Donald Trump On Front Page Of Popular Magazine

A host of conservatives are trying to derail the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump through a National Review cover story that denounces Trump. The article questioned his knowledge of key issues, criticized several major Trump policies, and said Trump is not a candidate who embodies bedrock conservative principles.

The list of conservatives opposing Trump includes Glenn Beck, David Boaz, L. Brent Bozell III, Mona Charen, Ben Domenech, Erick Erickson, Steven F. Hayward, Mark Helprin, William Kristol, Yuval Levin, Dana Loesch, Andrew C. McCarthy, David M. McIntosh, Michael Medved, Edwin Meese III, Russell Moore, Michael B. Muskasey, Katie Pavlich, John Podhoretz, R. R. Reno, Thomas Sowell and Cal Thomas.

Trump, who in September feuded with National Review Editor Rich Lowry, calling him a “crude pundit” after comments Lowry made about Trump and Carly Fiorina in a GOP debate, fired back against the piece via Twitter.

The article, for which the Republican National Committee disinvited the National Review from participation in the Feb. 26 GOP presidential debate, said Trump is “not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries.”

“Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones,” the National Review wrote in a piece bylined “The Editors.”

“Trump’s political opinions have wobbled all over the lot. The real-estate mogul and reality-TV star has supported abortion, gun control, single-payer health care à la Canada, and punitive taxes on the wealthy,” the article said.

“If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives? The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster,” the article read.

The article includes an in-depth castigation of Trump’s immigration proposals.

“Trump nevertheless offers a valuable warning for the Republican party. If responsible men irresponsibly ignore an issue as important as immigration, it will be taken up by the reckless. If they cannot explain their Beltway maneuvers — worse, if their maneuvering is indefensible — they will be rejected by their own voters,” the article read.

“Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself,” it concluded.

h/t: IJ Review

I Love The Constitution, God And America–But I Disavow Conservatism

Teenage viral sensation C.J. Pearson, who first entered the national media spotlight when his video criticizing Obama went viral in February, recently announced he would no longer identify as “conservative.”

This begs the question that I pose to you. Are you a conservative? Do you consider yourself a liberal?  

If you find yourself either of these terms when discussing your political worldview, you may have fallen into a trap.

Let me explain.

When the president, or any elected or appointed official, takes his oath of office, he invokes the wrath of God against him if he acts unfaithfully to that oath. This is a serious thing, and so a specific standard is pronounced and declared. The oath taken declares an allegiance to the Constitution of the United States — and, where I live, to the Constitution of the State of North Carolina.

The oath does not say, “I hereby solemnly promise to be conservative.” It does not say, “I hereby swear that I will follow what are presently considered to be conservative principles.”

As you know, these things called conservative principles — or “common sense” principles – vary not only from person to person, but from time to time. That’s the trap.

You see, as it turns out in real life, conservatism is not the opposite of liberalism. Conservatism is not even a political philosophy. Properly understood, conservatism is really only a reaction to a political philosophy, and a very weak one at that.

By growling a while but then giving in to the advances of their supposed enemy, conservatives only solidify the never ending gains of their big government, socialist, liberal brothers.   

How does this happen? Well… the definition of conservative changes, doesn’t it? The standard changes, doesn’t it? That’s what happens with a wishy-washy word like “conservative.”  It really has come to mean nothing. In fact, it almost goes without saying that political positions thought to be ultra-liberal 30 years ago – or maybe 30 minutes ago — are now seen as the accepted conservative position. (At least for the moment.)

So what’s the alternative?

Well, we seem to need a fixed standard, don’t we? One that isn’t slick or squishy – one we can depend on.

Happily, it does exist, and it’s called the Constitution. It was intended to be a fixed standard, and ought to be seen and taught that way.  

Pearson has told Americans, “I have long been a champion of ‘conservative’ principles. I’ve simply decided to remove a label and listen to both sides.”  

C.J., I respectfully suggest that you receive the instruction of the Constitution and the Bible alone, that you may be wise in your latter end.

As an American approaching the summer months of my life, I have seen America deviate from her biblical, constitutional principles; I, along with many Americans, am hoping and praying for a return to constitutional understanding and fidelity. I hope you join us.


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