Is Trump the First “European-conservative” American Presidential Candidate?

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke1/27/16
Ever since Donald Trump’s rise to 2016-contender prominence, the rap on him, and perhaps part of his broad appeal, has been that he’s not a conservative. And he’s not — he’s a nationalistic populist. Yet there’s another way to understand The Donald’s professed politics: as that of the first prominent “European-conservative” American presidential candidate. He’s not so much America’s next Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater, but her first Marine Le Pen.

A prerequisite for grasping this is understanding the true natures of liberalism and conservatism. While many have their own definitions of the latter — and will stubbornly insist they’re correct — the truth is that both political terms are provisional, meaning different things in different times and places. The term “conservative” in the 1970s referred to a communist in the USSR and someone staunchly anti-communist in the US; and a European conservative today, such as Britain’s David Cameron, is well to the “left” of our conservatives. Many other examples could be provided, but the point is this: liberalism and conservatism are not ideologies as much processes. Liberalism is the process of inexorably trying to change the status quo; conservatism is the process of trying to preserve the status quo. Thus, the actual positions the terms are seen as representing will vary depending on the status quo in question.

And when analyzing the Trump phenomenon, it’s clear that it’s roughly the same one evident in much of the West, the one fueling the fortunes of Le Pen in France, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders (who has endorsed Trump), Britain’s Nigel Farage and Sweden’s Jimmie Åkesson. He also bears much in common with those figures.

Consider the qualities these European politicians share: they’re socially quite liberal. Their views on abortion range from indifference to tolerance to mild skepticism, on faux marriage they range from mild opposition to acceptance. In general, they say as little about these matters as they can and are willing to play to their audience. But then there’s their real passion, about which they generally seem sincere: nationalism, limiting im/migration, fighting Muslim terrorism and stopping Islamization. Sound at all familiar?

It’s also common (though not universal) among such figures to talk about preserving their nation’s “Christian heritage.” Now, it’s unimaginable that Le Pen and Wilders spend much time at an altar rail, and were Christian piety the order of the day in Western Europe, it would be easy to see them taking up the cudgels for secularism. But with already sclerotic Christian culture further threatened by a confluence of secularization and Islamization — and with Muslim chauvinists providing stark reminders of a very unappealing alternative — they’re inspired to become Crusaders protecting their nation’s Christian veneer.

Likewise, Trump cannot be mistaken for a desert mystic; he stated last summer that he never sought forgiveness from God (doing so is a Christian tenet), and hasn’t demonstrated much acquaintance with the faith. Yet he has also said he’s proud to be a Presbyterian, sometimes attends church and has bemoaned how Christianity is under attack in America. And whether you believe this is piety or posturing, for certain is this: it’s no surprise coming from an apparent nationalist. For being so means defending your nation’s culture, as it is, which in the West includes superficial Christianity. It means wanting to see church steeples and not minarets, crosses and not the star and crescent, and to hear church bells and not the Adhan — even if you talk more about the Easter Bunny than Jesus.

So what accounts for the popularity in the U.S. of a “European conservative”? The same things accounting for it in across the pond. First, like Western Europe, we’re beset by a political establishment that encourages a culture-rending invasion by unassimilable peoples. And it’s just as with a “hot” invasion: all other problems are put on the back burner when barbarians are at the gate. Have you ever seen a guy wringing his hands about his daughter’s sleazy boyfriend while home invaders are busting down his door?

This helps explain why Trump is attracting support from groups most wouldn’t expect, such as evangelicals. Some find it inexplicable, but I think these believers’ attitude was reflected well by a devout Catholic man I know — a truly faithful fellow — who said some years back that he considered immigration an even bigger issue than abortion. His point was that all else is for naught if you’re subjected to demographic genocide and lose your nation.

Then there’s the second reason a European conservative would play well today: the US is becoming more like Europe. A not widely understood phenomenon is that the positions we generally associate with traditional American “conservatism” correlate with Christian belief. This is why church attendance is one of the best predictors of voting habits. Consider: in socialistic Western Europe, more than 50 percent of the population identifies as “irreligious.” Not surprisingly, this reaches a Richard Dawkins Award high in what’s perhaps the world’s most “liberal” country, Sweden, where 76 percent of the citizenry identifies as “not religious” or “atheist” (and how many of the rest are Muslim?). And in once-Marxist, now-fascist China, 90 percent thus label themselves.

The US isn’t yet that far gone, but we’re on the same road. According to Pew Research Center, Americans identifying as Christian declined from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent of the population in just 7 years (2007 to 2014), and the religiously “unaffiliated” now account for almost a quarter of our nation. This just reflects the increasingly secular nature of succeeding generations: Among those born 1928 through 1945, 85 percent identify as Christian. But there is a steady degeneration of the generations, with only 56 percent of “Younger Millennials” (born ‘90 through ’96) labeling themselves so.

Yet even this paints too optimistic a picture. As this must-read Barna Group research company study found in 2002 already, only 22 percent of adults believed in Absolute Moral Truth while 64 percent said matters were “always relative to the person and their [sic] situation.” And they were practically the “wise elders”: 83 percent of the teenagers subscribed to relativism — which is the antithesis of Christian belief — and only 6 percent believed in Truth.

And as Barna head George Barna put it, “[T]he alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: ‘whatever.’ The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions.” Put simply and as I’ve explained many times, the notion that there is no Truth means that, in essence, there are no moral rules governing man. It is then that everything boils down to occultist Aleister Crowley’s maxim, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

Thus does lacking the yardstick of Truth lead to, as Barna also found, people making decisions based on what “feels right.” And now we see the rise of relativistic moderns to whom nationalism and their own culture feel right, which is certainly preferable to the dominance of relativistic moderns to whom internationalism and multiculturalism feel right. Absent acquaintance with and adherence to Truth, however, a civilization will always descend into some kind of lie. So the most we can perhaps hope for is that, to quote Yogi Berra, we won’t one day have to say, “I think I made the wrong mistake.”

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12 Responses to Is Trump the First “European-conservative” American Presidential Candidate?

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This article would work as a contribution to our “Fix the Boat” symposium. This is especially enlightening:

    Yet even this paints too optimistic a picture. As this must-read Barna Group research company study found in 2002 already, only 22 percent of adults believed in Absolute Moral Truth while 64 percent said matters were “always relative to the person and their [sic] situation.” And they were practically the “wise elders”: 83 percent of the teenagers subscribed to relativism — which is the antithesis of Christian belief — and only 6 percent believed in Truth.

    And as Barna head George Barna put it, “[T]he alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: ‘whatever.’ The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions.”

    “Whatever.” “It’s all good.” “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

    Read Selwyn’s piece first. But be sure to also read George Neumayr’s second installment of his red-had adventures in New York. It’s clear that Trump has broad support and, as Neumayr and others have reported, it’s thus funny to watch the “big tent” Establishment Republicans (who said we need a broad-based appeal) go apoplectic on the Trump phenomenon.

    There have been some big losers in Trump Derangement Syndrome, not least of all National Review, particularly Kevin Williamson where he has gone on and continued to insult those who support Trump.

    I take it as a fait accompli that we are living in an increasingly liberal/secular culture driven by pop vulgarity and shallowness. I don’t have to like it but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t exist. And that’s not a back-handed stab at Trump’s appeal or his supporters. It just is what it is. The “mainstream” has moved rapidly Left, therefore what is normal (conventional wisdom, if you will) has moved Leftward as well.

    One could say that Trump is indeed a nationalist and populist (not bad things in and of themselves). If so (and I think this is so), it means he is tapping into the general beliefs and feelings of people, including their hatred of political correctness (even if these voters have no idea that they, by their votes and beliefs, have been instrumental in implementing it) and their dismay over the invasion of illegals and Islamic hatred of our country.

    In this decadent culture, you’re not going to find people willing to rally around the issue of Planned Parenthood (which, oddly, the GOP Establishment clearly agrees with since they funded it without question once again). But a secular/material culture (which America has always been to some extent, where material success itself is the point) will respond to pride in one’s country, to the reality of jobs, to just the kind of man’s man leadership and decisiveness shown by Trump, and to success and winning itself. Plus, no one really likes Hillary.

    Jerry Falwell has endorsed Trump. Gert Wilder has endorsed Trump. A variety of people (Palin, and Limbaugh by osmosis) have endorsed Trump. I now think that Trump will be the next president. Again, no one really likes Hillary, even on their side.

    But why, in a nutshell, does Trump Derangement Syndrome exist amongst so many so-called conservative pundits? On the face of it, he is the big-tent liberal that National Review and Establishment Republicans have always pined for. So why don’t they like him? Why does Glenn Beck say he’d vote for Bernie Sanders rather than Trump?

    I admit I have my misgivings about Trump, and not because he’s not a career politician but because, in part, he stems from popular culture. And popular Western culture right now is one of the most vulgar, dumb, and mindless things on earth. Because of this, and because of his natural brashness, Trump has all the worst traits of pop culture ascribed to him by those who think they are above the circus, although National Review has simply shown they are clowns with a different shade of makeup.

    The ruling class of both parties look down on entertainers. And as Mr. Kung has noted, entertainers have always been considered amongst the lowest of classes by the elites. I think this is how the ruling class sees Trump. No doubt this is why they dismissed Reagan as well. And as one writer (Lifson?) pointed out the other day, while Trump was raising money for Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney was an “independent” and only a decade or so later joined the party. Why disdain for Trump and love for the man who helped usher in Obamacare?

    Well, just look how hard the ruling class and intelligentsia are trying to show us how smart they are. But it’s not working. They are lying. They will not acknowledge that one of the largest reasons for support for Trump is that the GOP has repeatedly lied to us and gone back on its promises. Without a bare acknowledgment of this, all the hand-wringing over Trump by National Review and others shows itself to be what it is — ego, down-talking, and the desire to hold onto power and the prestige of supposedly being the smartest people.

    Conservatives have always known that we need a big shake-up in America to try to set things right. We don’t need more smarmy Establishment Republicans telling us that if we’ll only hold our noses and vote for the liberal Republican that things will all work out. We can hope to heck that Trump governs well. We know he won’t dare attack many of the sacred cows of the Left, if only because “conventional wisdom” has firmly planted a positive perception of those issues into what most people consider normal.

    But there is no America if we continue to be invaded by third-worlders and unassimilated Muslims. National Review and other pundits won’t say this because they are afraid of offending people in their continued quest for the “big tent” winning coalition. But there are big tents to be found out there, and Trump has found one of them. He has thus shamed the GOP Establishment and their mouthpieces by his very presence and shown how feeble they are.

    However this all plays out, I do believe the conservative establishment has taken a hit it will not recover from. And while we’re at it (and there may be breaking news that I’ve missed on this subject), I’m fully in support of Trump giving a pass to Fox News and the journalistic tramp, Megyn Kelly, and instead holding a benefit for Wounded Warriors. That’s a brilliant move.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    The barbarians aren’t just at the gates, they’re inside — thanks to a group of politicians who evidently never heard of the Trojan Horse, and another group who don’t care.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    83 percent of the teenagers subscribed to relativism — which is the antithesis of Christian belief — and only 6 percent believed in Truth.

    And as Barna head George Barna put it, “[T]he alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: ‘whatever.’ The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions.”

    With this type of thinking at the base of a society, even nationalism will fail to hold it together. It takes common institutions, language and belief systems to do that.

    I see nothing in any of the above mentioned positions which would make one feel the need to fight for one’s group, much less one’s country. Over the long term even nationalists such as Trump will need more than secular nationalism.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The Left has been very successful in undermining any sort of positive belief in our culture. Indeed, they have inculcated hatred of that culture. And why you hate you will not defend.

      Thus the power of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message. He’s not about hating America, nor apologizing for our success as is the implicit message of such idiotic ideas as “compassionate conservatism.”

      One reason people hate Trump is because of his clarity, me included to some extent. But is his simplicity the result of simple-mindedness or of a clear, uncluttered focus? This whole equation can’t be decided without a firm understanding of the conservative elites who think that any idea that is so simple that normal people can understand it can’t be a good one.

  4. GHG says:

    Desparate times call for desparate measures. Voting for Donald Trump is a desparate measure. It’s a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. Low odds but the only play that doesn’t have no odds.

    Most of the people who voted for Obama in 2008 didn’t know much more than he was likeable and promised change. In essence “trust me”. And enough people trusted him to make him president, twice.

    Trump’s public persona is well known, but like Obama his core beliefs are unknown and he is promising change. In essence “trust me”. Again.

    This is madness. But it looks like the only play available.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Some jackass at AT is now comparing Donald Trump to Aaron Burr…in a kinda-sorta positive way.

    Remember, this Trump Derangement Syndrome is brought to you by the same people who claim that Trump is a mere vague populist, a Rorschach drawing onto which you can project what you will.

    But this is just what the so-called conservative pundits are doing. Today Trump is Aaron Burr. Tomorrow he will be someone else. But what about accepting that he is Donald Trump and finding out what that is? Instead of using their journalistic skills to impugn, these guys (including the laughable Bill O’Reilly) ought to be using their skills to ask good, fair, and relevant questions.

    Never forget that NRO published an article by that Elliott Abrams douche-bag which claimed the Newt had nothing at all in common with Reagan.

    This is the kind of baloney we are facing. By all means, whack Trump for what he is wackable for. But it gets a little creepy when you have people using all sorts of means to try to impugn him.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, we are the conservative media. The *real* conservative media. Not the pretend kind. Can any of you ever view Fox News, Megyn Kelly, NRO, or Kevin Williamson the same again?

    I’m no Trump apologist. Frankly, I haven’t quite figured out the guy. The sad thing is, it’s theoretically the media’s job to present us with the relevant information so that we can do so. Instead we must sift amongst a plethora of strutting talking-heads who can’t put the facts ahead of their ego or ideology.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There’s a video out there in which Trump — in late 2011 — praises Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator and says anyone who drops out of a debate is a loser (he had tried to set up and moderate a Republican debate). Granted, I operate mainly on the sound, but Kelly hasn’t seemed to treat Trump unfairly in her news coverage since the August debate (and he has no specific complaints). His real complaint seems to be that FNC mocked him in their comments early in the week, which he considered too insulting to be tolerated.

      Aaron Burr was one of the founders of American democracy by his use of tontines to give groups of people sufficient property to qualify to vote. He’s also a distant relative of Elizabeth.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I didn’t watch the GOP debate on Fox last night. I have since read that Reagan skipped his last debate too.

    Jeffrey Lord has a good and readable article on the subject: The Trump Dynamic. In essence, Lord is saying that Trump is doing “think different” in regards to politics. I think he is right. And this is surely another reason he has plunged so many into Trump Derangement Syndrome. He upsets the old-boy network (even if often populated by new boys).

    We are at least six months ahead of everyone else here at StubbornThings. I’ve been pointed out for some time (years now), which this article also delves into, how Fox News has lost me because it’s little more than a media circus full of RINOs and worse. And although I might be interested in seeing Megyn Kelly do a pole dance (she was recently on the cover of Vanity Fair), you’ll not find much journalism on Fox News. These are media stars, not journalists. There may be a couple people who from time to time act like journalists (Greta, for instance). But Fox News is not where any serious person goes unless they are looking for mere political entertainment.

    And Rush has not comported himself well lately. Two days ago he spent a segment of his show basically saying “no comment” about the whole Trump/Kelly thing. Rush has done what he promised he would never do, and that is to become pals with the newsmakers to the extent that he can’t criticize them. Rush went on and on about how Megyn Kelly was at his wedding, strives for a high standard in journalism, etc.

    So if Rush hasn’t jumped the shark, he’s at least preparing to. You heard it here first, as usual.

    • GHG says:

      I didn’t watch the debate either. I never do anymore. Nothing worth my time is learned in a televised debate. Talking points and gotchas, squabbles and posturing. Frustration and aggravation.

      At least The Donald is entertaining theater.

      But in terms of what I do in the voting booth – none of that matters. I choose the lesser of the two evils which is always the GOP candidate. And hope for the best.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Rush is a friend and occasional golfing partner of Donald Trump, so in this case he has connections to both sides (particularly since Roger Ailes gave him his start doing his own nationwide radio show). Trump seems to have skipped the debate because he (reasonably) felt that a Fox announcement on the subject insulted him, not because of his obsession with Megyn Kelly asking him an unpleasant question that he would inevitably face if he finally came up against Slick Hilly.

      Note that Trump has previously (in late 2011, when his effort to moderate a GOP debate went nowhere) praised Kelly as a good debate moderator and called candidates who skipped a debate (such as his) losers. It’s this sort of random behavior that makes me skeptical of Trump. It reminds me too much of Fred Saberhagen’s Berserkers, which act somewhat randomly based on the decay of a piece of radioactive material.

      Fox News has news coverage and it has commentary, about equally divided according to a 2012 study. As part of their “fair and balanced” image, they present both sides. There is often some interesting commentary and even insightful material on FNC, though rarely from the liberals. (Joe Trippi was good during the 2012 elections.) Note how they are absolutely hated by most liberals, such as the two Wisconsin professors (Amann and Breuer) who put out such books as Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly (think about that title for a bit) and Fair and Balanced, My Ass. (Back when we went to a bookstore weekly, I became very familiar with what was available in the Politics section. There were a lot of liberal books explicitly appealing to open hatred.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        It would be refreshing to see real journalists asking good questions regarding candidates for the most important elected office in the world. Instead we have journalistic tramps such as Megyn Kelly asking scripted “gotcha” questions designed either to forward an establishment agenda or to burnish the image of the news reader. And if she is the painted lady giving the lines, Roger Ailes is the pimp. And it doesn’t do Rush’s image much good to know that he pals around with these establishment types while claiming himself to be fair and balanced.

        Megyn Kelly is not alone in this regard. And I understand that much of our culture has entertainment as its basis, including politics. Still, if “journalism” is a word that is to have meaning, we really ought to call out these fakes and frauds who are at the very least guilty of malpractice. In Rush’s favor in this regard, he has noted that his show is an entertainment show.

        As for Trump, undoubtedly he had a variety of reasons for skipping the debate. But how refreshing from my point of view that he didn’t feel he had to play the same old game. And I think he comes out looker the better for it. A lot of these people need to be told where to get off. Maybe if Al Sharpton asks to have a powwow with President Trump, he’ll be told where to get off. One hopes. I don’t expect that to happen, for I don’t see any coherent political philosophy behind Trump, with the good news being that at least we know he’s not a paid-in-full member of the GOP RINO Establishment. What else he is we will just have to watch unfold…which could be said about the many horrendous things that unfolded with the Bush presidents. This is not by any means a specific criticism of Trump.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I will note that there were some good, tough questions asked last night (including Kelly running montages of Rubio and Cruz contradictions on immigration) of the sort that should be asked in all debates (but never will of the Democrats because they won’t allow the sort of questioners who would do so). It has been suggested that Trump knew what was coming and ducked out in order not to have his own immigration contradictions exposed in the debate.

          Incidentally, Rich Lowry has a nice piece on NRO on the GOP Establishment and Trump. Of course, like most of the writers there, he has no use for Trump — but he also has no use for the Beltway Bandits who (for various reasons) prefer him to Cruz because the latter has principles (e.g., phasing out the ethanol subsidies and mandates — and saying so in Iowa, nearly alone among the candidates). The link is:

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