National Harbor, Md. — Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn ended his speech Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference by claiming President Donald Trump’s actions prove he is a conservative.
“Even if he talks about himself too much, if he’s fearless in saying that he’s going to cut back that vast hedge that has overcome so much of our country and if he does that fearlessly and is not afraid of political correctness, I think that guy’s a conservative,” Arnn said.
Arnn spoke about the first principles that define conservatism, namely that all men are created equal and that governments are instituted to secure the liberties of all individuals. Arnn argued the administrative state is the greatest threat to this equality and liberty, but he said he believes that Trump will fight against it.
“What I’m trying to conserve and also restore is those original arrangements — the best in human history,” Arnn said on the Constitution and separation of powers.
Aryssa Damron, 21, from New Haven, Connecticut, said Arnn sounded like an “old-school” conservative fighting against change for its own sake. She said his first-principles approach may be problematic outside of conservative circles.
“It will be effective for people here, but people who don’t go here won’t be receptive to his arguments from first principles,” Damron said.
Although Arnn said he sees hope in Trump for the conservative movement, he noted he doesn’t always demonstrate the principles espoused in Hillsdale’s Honor Code.
“The Trump campaign has presented special challenges, because there are obviously a lot of great things about that guy, but we don’t teach our students at Hillsdale College to act the way he does on all occasions,” Arnn said to a chuckling audience.
Hillsdale students expressed similar reservations about Trump as a man but said they were optimistic about him as president.
“I think that you have to take the good with the bad, but, in the end, he will uphold conservative values,” junior Mark Englert said.
Freshman Doyle Wang said he had some of his fears relieved about Trump, when he heard that he reads Hillsdale’s publication Imprimis.
“I was highly skeptical he would govern as a conservative,” Wang said. “But he made some great Cabinet appointments, he is the best person to repeal Obamacare, and he has the guts like no other Republican since Reagan to seriously implement conservative policies.”
Cy Sineath, an Imprimis subscriber from Georgia, said he was happy to hear Arnn defend Trump against criticisms only rooted in his personal character. Sineath said that will not affect his decisions as president.
“I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Arnn, who is a true patriot and defender of the Constitution,” Sineath said. “The fact that Trump isn’t beholden to anyone will allow him to govern like a conservative. He is a true citizen president.”