What should con­ser­v­a­tives do when we wrest our movement away from national pop­ulism and Donald Trump?

Many con­ser­v­a­tives have been arguing in outlets such as The Weekly Standard and National Review and The Resurgent that there must be con­se­quences for Trump’s sup­porters. Often, the #Nev­erTrump crowd goes so far as to say that Trump sup­porters ought to be sys­tem­at­i­cally removed and black­listed from the con­ser­v­ative movement.

Some have com­pared Donald Trump and his cam­paign to the John Birch Society — a group from the 1950s and 1960s that pushed the con­ser­v­ative movement towards con­spiracy the­ories and extremism.

William F. Buckley, Jr., Russell Kirk, and Barry Gold­water worked to rid the Repub­lican Party of these extremist ele­ments. Fear-mon­gering and con­spiracy are not con­ser­v­ative, they argued, and should not be iden­tified with the movement. Because of their efforts, the political Right dis­so­ciated itself from these rabid extremists, and they made con­ser­vatism respectable.

Some of Trump’s most ardent sup­porters — the group that calls itself the alt-right — are eerily similar to the John Birch Society. On Twitter, they flirt with con­spiracy the­ories, racism, sexism, xeno­phobia, and other kinds of rad­i­calism.

These people are not con­ser­v­a­tives. They do not believe in the American political tra­dition of indi­vidual liberty and self-gov­ernment. The alt-right merely wants to smash political cor­rectness and vaguely defined threats to their sov­er­eignty — be it “the Muslims” or “the estab­lishment” or any variety of Other they so fear and hate.

Of course, these ele­ments of Trump’s support ought to be opposed. They are not con­cerned with the ideas or prin­ciples of con­ser­vatism, they merely use the mantle of con­ser­vatism to advance a quasi-fascism.

That said, Trump’s support comes from a more diverse group of sup­porters than just the alt-right.

Some serious con­ser­v­a­tives, like Tom Cotton and Mike Huckabee, have sig­naled pos­sible support for Trump over the last few weeks, should he win the nom­i­nation. For these public figures, this is little more than hedging their bets in the event of a Trump pres­i­dency. Although many of us may dis­agree with Cotton and others like him, this is largely an issue of pru­dence, not prin­ciple. They have not fully endorsed him, and should not be treated like they have.

Other con­ser­v­ative leaders, like Jeff Ses­sions or Rush Lim­baugh, have either out­right endorsed Trump or expressed sym­pathy with his campaign’s message. They believe that a Pres­ident Trump would stand up to the “Wash­ington estab­lishment” and chal­lenge its culture of political cor­rectness and cor­ruption.

They are wrong about Trump’s values, and they are wrong to trust him to follow through on any of his cam­paign promises. However, that does not mean they have aban­doned the phi­losophy of con­ser­vatism for national pop­ulism.
Some ordinary voters and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives support Trump out of frus­tration with the “estab­lishment.” And they have a right to be frus­trated — Wash­ington has largely betrayed the fun­da­mental ideas this nation was founded on, and now con­ser­v­a­tives cannot seem to push back against a growing statist culture in D.C.

Pushing these voters and their leaders out of the con­ser­v­ative coalition would only exac­erbate their frus­tra­tions, pushing them towards the alt-right and national pop­ulism. Attacking the char­acter and judgment of these Trump sup­porters, calling them names and mocking them on social media, only adds to their frus­tration. Their fears about the main­stream con­ser­v­ative movement would be con­firmed, and they would only become more ardently oppo­si­tional.

In his Second Inau­gural Address, Abraham Lincoln wrote, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

Those lines in his speech ref­er­enced the recon­struction of the Union in the aftermath of the Civil War. The GOP is waging its own civil war now, and remem­bering Lincoln’s words would do them well.

The Party and the movement ought to firmly reject the alt-right, because their prin­ciples entirely con­tradict the phi­losophy of con­ser­vatism. But, rejecting other Trump sup­porters goes too far, and will only lead to more splin­tering and a division of talent this nation cannot afford.

If a spirit of revenge and malice dom­i­nates the post-Trump con­ser­v­ative movement, we will be unable to effec­tively battle the greatest threat to liberty since secession and slavery: the tyranny of modern lib­er­alism.

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Michael Lucchese
Michael Lucchese ‘18 is majoring in American Studies, and is a member of the Dow Journalism Program. In addition to the Collegian, he has also contributed to The Federalist, Acculturated, Conservative Review, and several other publications. In 2015, he reported on national security and foreign policy for Breitbart News. He also hosts a weekly radio show, The Michael Lucchese Show on Radio Free Hillsdale WRFH 101.7 FM. e-mail: Twitter: @MichaelLucchese
  • John Birch Society

    For a dis­cussion on “respectable con­ser­vatism,” let’s examine the record of these con­ser­v­a­tives. John McManus offers a John Birch Society per­spective on this in his book: “William F. Buckley: Pied Piper for the Estab­lishment.” He dis­cusses this in his blog and on C-SPAN: – 1/book-dis­cussion-william-f-buckley-jr-pied-piper-estab­lishment

    • Yannick Erst

      Great post thank you!

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Tarring and feath­ering Bill Buckley because he was a member of the CFR is unfair. I’m 63 and read Buckley and studied Buckley all my life. His con­ser­v­ative cre­den­tials are as good as anybody’s and better than most. He fought for con­ser­vatism before we even had a word for it. I sub­scribed to ‘National Review’ for decades, until it became a rag for the NEOCONS. If Buckley is suspect in your book, you can’t believe in any of the main­stream con­ser­v­a­tives. Ask yourself this, did advo­cating con­ser­v­ative thought and policy over the decades gain Bill Buckley any­thing, or did it cost him a lot? Anyone who can truth­fully answer that can never doubt where Buckley’s heart was. Even Carl Sobran mended fences with Buckley at the end.

      • John Birch Society

        There is so much more to not like about Buckley’s brand of con­ser­vatism than his CFR mem­bership. Even though that mem­bership helped to solidify his glob­alist bona fides. He con­tributed a great deal to the estab­lishment con­ser­v­ative status quo of today that no longer stands behind limited gov­ernment prin­ciples. Ask yourself how has this brand of con­ser­vatism shrunk the aim and scope of the federal gov­ernment.

  • Yannick Erst

    Sorry but this author has it wrong about the John Birch Society for many reasons. The JBS does not support any of these things: “con­spiracy the­ories, racism, sexism, xeno­phobia, and other kinds of rad­i­calism.”

    Nor do any Trump sup­porters I know.

    This is what Barry Gold­water had to say about extremism in defense of liberty (he was referring to JBS):

    “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that mod­er­ation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

    As a proud member of JBS since I realized that Bill Buckley (CFR) was wrong and JBS was right, I hope the author will do a bit more research and recon­sider his position.

    Who knows, he might even have an “aha” moment, as I did, and find himself com­pelled to join with the won­derful men and women of the Society who for five decades and counting have been suc­cess­fully working to promote less gov­ernment, more respon­si­bility, and with God’s help, a better world.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Don’t condemn Buckley because he was a member of the CFR. Not everyone who is a member of that society is a glob­alist. Many are, but not everyone. Bill Buckley battled for genuine con­ser­vatism before it became chic to do so. He fought the lonely fight. If you can’t believe in him, you can’t believe in any of the con­ser­v­ative icons.

      • ConPatriot1234

        Sorry but Buckley was a glob­alist pied piper for the estab­lishment. He was also involved with the CIA and Skull and Bones. Why do you suppose PBS gave him a prime-time show? Why do you suppose he attacked the John Birch Society, which is the main orga­ni­zation holding back the forces of tyranny for 60 years? Read William F Buckley: Pied Piper for the Estab­lishment by Jack McManus.… Buckley was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          Buckley battled Lib­er­alism for decades, there was nothing in it for him other than his pride and sense of honor. As for the John Birch society, Buckley was not a big fan but I don’t remember reading any­thing from him that would suggest attacking them was a major thing of his. And it’s JOHN McManus, not Jack McManus-Jack is the singer. I have no interest in reading his book if it’s an attack on Bill Buckley. I have read ‘The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Rela­tions and the American Decline’ by James Perloff and I think it’s a great book, well worth reading. But not everyone who is a member of the CFR is a glob­alist, intent on American sub­version. Even James Perloff noted that. Buckley was a member of the CFR so he could keep an eye on things, most likely. We’ll just have to agree to dis­agree on Buckley.

  • Brosky

    The writer of this article should apol­ogize to the Birchers. There is a lot of mis­in­for­mation here. I know the Birchers in my com­munity some of the best patriots around and they come from all walks of life and are neither extreme nor fear mongers.

    Actually they have been proven correct. If you want proof check out what is hap­pening in Wash­ington. Here is Robert Welch explaining 50 years ago what is hap­pening now and why:

    Hope­fully the false infor­mation in this article was just a mis­un­der­standing. I can under­stand how people might get the impression of JBS dis­played here if they only rely on the liberal media though!

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    What a non­sense article. Who are these ‘many con­ser­v­a­tives’ who are arguing against inclusion of Trump sup­porters in the GOP, Mr. Luc­chese? Name them. Outside of a handful of NEOCONS-who are not con­se­v­a­tives-I can’t think of even one. Bill Kristol is a NEOCON. George Will is basi­cally a NEOCON. Jeff Flake and John McCain are NEOCONS. National Review stopped being a ‘con­ser­v­ative’ mag­azine and embraced NEO­CONism decades ago. The National Standard is about the same. Until and unless you are willing to support your statement with the names of actual, respected con­ser­v­a­tives I’m calling Bovine Feces on this article.