Trump Uses New Language of Conservatism

In honor of Constitution Day tomorrow, we consider whether Donald Trump is a conservative who will honor the system of limited government, separation of powers, and checks and balances created by the Constitution.  RNLA member Michael Abramson argues that Mr. Trump has conservative principles but differs from most conservatives by using different language to describe his policy views:

Mr. Trump is a Conservative, but . . . he speaks with a “New Language of Conservatism.”  He differs from the typical Conservative in the presentation of his goals, overarching philosophy, and policies.  It is this rhetoric and change in presentation that may be one of the reasons for his popularity.

Mr. Abramson argues that the old method of determining whether someone was a conservative focused too much on what someone said, instead of on their actions:

The “Standard Language of Conservatism” is to mention Conservative principles in speeches, policy positions, and debates.  This language has been so prevalent that it has evolved a “Standard Test for Conservatism.”  In this Standard Test, if one mentioned Conservative principles in speeches, policy positions, and debates, the person was automatically a Conservative, and, if one did not mention them, he/she was not.  Determining one’s Conservatism by measuring the use of buzzwords in speeches, however, is a flawed test.  It focuses too much on one’s rhetoric rather than one’s actions.  The Standard Test’s limitations is one of the reasons why politicians who do not vote based on Conservative principles (such as voting for debt increases) are still considered Conservative. 

The better approach, the New Test for Conservatism, would be to determine if one’s policy positions and voting records lead to Conservative outcomes. . . . 

Using the Standard Test of Conservatism, it is easy to understand why some do not consider Mr. Trump to be a Conservative.  His speeches and policies do not normally use Conservative buzzwords or themes.  It is premature, however, to not consider Mr. Trump a Conservative.  Because his choice of words in his speeches and policy papers disqualify him via the Standard Test, it is more appropriate to use the New Test to determine if Mr. Trump is a Conservative. 

. . . Mr. Trump’s positions would lead to Conservative objectives.  Via the New Test of Conservatism, therefore, Mr. Trump is a Conservative.  He puts forth his Conservative objectives via a different formula than other politicians, and this formula is his “New Language of Conservatism.”  Rather than structuring his campaign around Conservative objectives, Mr. Trump structures his campaign around the goal to “Make America Great Again!” and implement policies that lead to this goal.  His speeches are very problem-oriented.  He focuses on specific problems and provides policy solutions to them.  For example, he discusses the problems of illegal immigration and America’s trade deficits with foreign countries, and, to fix these problems, he proposes, respectively, a wall on the southern border and a renegotiation of America’s trade agreements.  Trump approaches governing by focusing on problems and providing solutions consistent with Conservatism rather than applying Conservative objectives and hoping that they will fix the problems.  While Trump does not mention Conservative principles, they are clearly implied and apparent if one analyzes the results of his proposed policies.

Mr. Trump's policy proposals and staff have consistently been strongly conservative.  While he may use different language than that used by most conservative politicians, he has shown through his actions that he has conservative principles and would respect the Constitution as President.