Conservative: marked by moderation or caution; relating to traditional norms of style or manners; having the tendency to preserve in an entire or safe state; adhering to sound, moderate principles; favoring the conservation of existing institutions and forms of government.
The above summary blends multiple dictionary definitions of conservative. The majority party in our American Congress describe themselves as conservative, and claim to stand for conservative values. This same cadre of lawmakers seems in nearly complete support of the new administration, and many –not all– of them persist in speaking of him as though he were their ideological leader despite his rogue playbook. Has his first month really set a conservative tone?
“marked by moderation or caution”
No serious observer could characterize this president as either moderate or cautious. His initial foray into politics, beyond courting politicians on all sides to curry favor for his own businesses, came via a blatant lie about the birthplace of our first African-American president. He has not moderated since. People new to his ‘style’ claim it is refreshing. People who have watched it for longer find it alarming. By no stretch of the imagination is this person conservative, in the sense of being marked by moderation or caution.
“relating to traditional norms of style or manners”
There is not enough space to address here all the violations of traditional norms of style and manners by the current president. We need not link citations to recall his bragging about his own sexual assaults against women. He calls the women accusing him of sexual assault liars, while bringing women who accused the husband of his political rival to a strange press lineup at one of their debates. This president’s active misogyny is long-standing and well-documented.
Also concerning is the new level to which this president has raised his aggressive hostility toward the media. Combined with his insistence on using social media to bypass traditional communication protocols, and his refusal to be informed by intelligence briefings, this president is interacting with his own base of supporters as well as world leaders with unprecedented amateurishness. Government academics have called him a “serial norm-breaker.” Several journalists find the most apt analogy is to the Nixon administration.
Instead of appointing a Chief of Staff to coordinate his administration, the current president installed what has been called ‘dueling power structure‘ by naming both a ‘chief strategist’ and a Chief of Staff. This is a departure from the clarity of traditional chains of command within administration staff. This administration clearly does not adhere to traditional norms of style or manners.
“preserving in an entire or safe state”
This administration has removed our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence from their traditional positions on the Principals’ Committee of the National Security Council (NSC), and has elevated his own ‘chief strategist,’ a white supremacist without national security experience, onto the NSC Committee. This administration has so far rejected what conservatives have historically claimed makes our government safe and entire.
“adhering to sound, moderate principles”
The current president has held various political convictions over the decades, and his allegiance has not always been to conservative values. Some conservatives noticed this with alarm. Quite a number of his positions have changed, depending on his own expediency more than on evolution based on critical thought over the issues. He has always advanced his own financial interests. He has never championed fairness, nor any principle other than branding and enriching his own bottom line. He has no track record that would explain lifelong conservative public servants with sound, moderate principles allying with him, except the brash exploitation for self-interest that currently seems to be working.
“conserving existing institutions and forms of government”
Separation of Church and State. We traditionally maintain distance between our government and a specific religious denomination. Our Constitution celebrates the right of all to exercise their religion freely, not one more than any others. We don’t have a state religion, and we supposedly support freedom of religious expression for all. Many Christians supported our current president in the last election based on his promises to favor their religion over others – already manifested by his ban of immigrants into our nation based on a religious test, and his proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment. At least one Christian critic is concerned: “We should not mistake a bribe for a gift. We are being asked to sacrifice our principles for a special place at Trump’s table.”
Advisors and Cabinet Secretaries. This new American administration includes a white nationalist as ‘chief strategist‘ who as recently as 2016 said “I’m a Leninist.” and when asked to explain himself, he clarified: “Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” He acknowledges being “against the whole establishment” and yet is tasked with helping our federal government function. This may explain some of the paradoxical cabinet selections, such as a lifelong opponent of public education to be Secretary of Education, a former state attorney general who has several current lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be Administrator of the EPA, and a former governor who wanted to abolish the Energy Department, and did not know that it included nuclear energy in its purview, to be Secretary of Energy. Just to name a few.
This administration does not appear to fit into any known pattern of conservative politics. They seem disinterested in many government traditions. They are decidedly not bringing in the outsiders or so-called forgotten men that were promised during the campaign. Why are the Republicans in Congress so willing to go along for this not-conservative ride?
- We will be asking our own conservative Republican Senators and Representatives
- what makes them comfortable with this administration, and
- how they intend to exercise oversight duties on this administration to ensure our national security and welfare on their watch.