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If Trump's Not Conservative, Why Do Democrats Fear and Loathe Him?

If Trump is not a conservative, why does he unhinge all the right people?

If—as many NeverTrump conservatives so adamantly claim—Donald Trump is not a conservative, why does he drive Democrats and the left to such lengths of fear and loathing? It all depends on what the meaning of the word “conservative” is, but, at this point, as Trump himself has stated, “Who cares?”

The reason millions of American citizens don’t care is because what passed for conservatism got us into this mess, or at least didn’t do anything to keep us out of it. That’s all water under the bridge now. Trump’s brand of populist, nationalist conservatism won. Like the phenomenon of leftist media bias, the defeat of the “establishment” is so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning anymore. Republican support for the nominee is approaching eighty-five percent.

Newish campaign manager Kellyanne Conway gets a lot of credit, all of it deserved, for pivoting Trump to the best possible presentation of himself, but it was the primary season that set the stage for victory. Most specifically on the issue of illegal immigration, Trump-talk was conservatively light years ahead of anything we’d heard from McCain, Romney, Bush III, or any of the other 2016 GOP contenders.

Trump’s recent “softening” notwithstanding, the mere fact that he had a position that addressed illegal immigration with specific proposals and the emphasis on enforcement elevated his candidacy into the “movement” category. One example of what Trump critics have pointed to as an immigration flip-flop bears closer scrutiny. Though many Trump supporters initially believed the media and real estate mogul would mass deport all illegals in an expedited manner, others on the Trump Train were savvy enough about political promises to know that undocumented immigrants would never be dragged from their homes, separated from their families, and force-bussed back to their homelands.

To be blunt, many knew it would never happen, but wholeheartedly supported Trump anyway. (Mr. Trump has stated that he never referenced such a scenario.) They understood that their candidate had succeeded in shifting the immigration conversation to the nationalist right, leaving the pathway-to-citizenship crowds in both parties with an albatross of failure around their necks. Trump’s reset of what is thinkable on immigration policy put every criminal alien, every sanctuary city, and every cheap labor-seeking Chamber of Commerce Republican on notice.

This key challenge facing the nation was so maladroitly handled by the political class that it enabled a man who was “not-conservative” in the estimation of so many influential conservatives to win the GOP banner going away. When it became clear that contemporary conservatism might include untrammeled mass immigration, millions materialized at Trump rallies and primary voting booths saying in effect, “Count me out.”