It is and always has been patently obvious that Donald J. Trump is not a conservative. He is no more a man of ideas than he is a man of manners, and his instincts tend towards decadence, impulsivity and egoism instead of restraint, prudence and selflessness.
Nonetheless, people who emphasise that Trump is no conservative often remind me of Christ’s warning about motes and beams. There is no one set of ideas and attitudes that could call “conservative”. It is obvious that conservatism comes in different forms, not least as different people have different institutions to conserve. But anti-Trump conservatives are often hard to place in the traditions of American or European conservatism. Indeed, it can be difficult to know what such commentators are trying to conserve.
Take Noah Rothman of Commentary magazine. Mr Rothman argues that President Trump ignores “some of the most fundamental ideas of conservatism”. Such as?
…the benefits of free-market health care, skepticism toward centrally planned infrastructure projects, the moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force, the centrality of strong family and community bonds, the necessity of failure, the importance of immigrants to the American project, and an incremental approach to political change.
We shall generously assume that Mr Rothman means American conservatism, for Edmund Burke, arguably the father of modern conservatism as a coherent phenomenon, could hardly have believed in the “moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force” when America barely existed.