Election 2020

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

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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.”

Trump similarly ran against the conservative liturgy with his approach to trade policy, and again, just creating that image of foreign powers smirking while they eat our lunch was enough to outdistance the GOP opposition. Now Trump owns the trade argument (and agrees with strange bedfellow Bernie Sanders that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be a disaster). Hillary Clinton’s vacillating, crony-social-democrat position on trade has been rendered momentarily irrelevant by the candidate’s own deservedly sinking fortunes.

Who cares if Trump, post-Conway, presents himself as a center-right statesman? He is doing exactly what many of his early critics claimed he was not capable of. He is proving himself open to centrist positioning, and it is clear that ardent supporters are taking this centrist pivot in stride. On big-ticket issues like immigration, trade, and national security, the center of the political spectrum has shifted as a result of Trump campaign polemics.

Trump’s proposal for subsidized maternity leave and childcare seems big-government, but it’s good campaign strategy, and could work as policy. If Trump can staunch the hemorrhaging of American jobs, renegotiate the heist occurring against us in the global marketplace, and stop the invasion of millions of dependent immigrants, the entitlement reforms he’s proposing—including the salvation of Social Security—might fall into the realm of affordability.

Yes, the left always goes after the Republican nominee. They featured a Paul Ryan look-alike pushing granny over a cliff with a Medi-scare ad. They ridiculed Senator John McCain with ageist humor. They undermined and ridiculed Governor Palin at every turn. One Obama Super PAC suggested Governor Romney was to blame for a constituent’s death from cancer. Let’s not get started on George W. Bush.

Trump’s a different story. There aren’t enough crypto-Hitlerian subtexts or Strangelove A-bomb allusions in the world to capture the awfulness the prospect a President Trump presents to social justice warriors, re-conquistadores, and the blame-America-first crowd. Trump discomfits conservatives too, for different sets of reasons, and no one can deny that conservatives reasoning in opposition to Trump have had every opportunity to express themselves. But it’s the fear on the left that is instructive.

If Trump is not conservative, and no serious person thinks he’s a liberal, that means he’s become the scariest centrist that the usual progressive suspects have ever encountered. The reasoned (and at times hysterical) concern of the “RINO” establishment pales in comparison to the terror Donald Trump inspires in forces whose vision for the United States is one of open borders, multi-nationalist hegemony, and globalist social justice.