It is hard not to feel protective over Donald Trump while the political classes are seething and scornful.
They are unacquainted with such powerlessness. Control was never supposed to stray this far from their grasp. And their rage, manifested in every hapless attack on Trump and his supporters, actually seems to be improving the likelihood of that outcome they fear most of all.
How tempting, under these circumstances, to rush to his defense, as so many in the conservative movement have already done. The Donald has boldly made himself a standard bearer of unpopular (…within the political bubble), yet critical policy positions concerning national security, from the urgency of immigration enforcement to the potential implications of refugee resettlement.
He has played a pivotal role in dragging these and other issues from the shadows that the media might otherwise have not been so quick to shine a light on. He has made the case against birthright citizenship, spent countless campaign hours pledging to build a wall, and talked tough to the politically correct mafia at a time when its fascistic influence has left millions of citizens feeling voiceless.
Trump’s style and substance—brazen, unapologetic and quite popular—have upended equanimity on the left, leaving the “public intellectuals” screaming over one another to denounce his absurdity, the effrontery, the horror.
But the fact that the D.C. establishment is fighting Trump’s current rhetoric from the left obscures a more important discussion of whether Trump is truly the man they perceive him to be. Whether he really is the mortal enemy of the political correctness leviathan and the ultimate outsider who is not sucked in by the elitist groupthink. It also obscures some of Trump’s own attacks on conservatives… from the left.
Here are some of the issues that are important to clarify before Trump is anointed as the presumptive nominee:
The issue of immigration is likely the single biggest factor in propelling Trump to an enduring lead in this race. And for good reason. In many respects immigration is a compound issue that encompasses the most important challenges America faces in the coming years. Yet, Republicans and D.C. conservatives have ignored these problems for years. In comes Donald Trump who literally wrote “the Art of the Deal” and is cognizant of what his prospective consumers want to purchase. He offers them the red meat. But is this really who Trump is on immigration and is this what to expect from a President Trump or even presidential nominee Trump?
We are not talking about positions he has taken years ago before he became a Republican. In 2013, conservatives were fighting for dear life to oppose open borders, while Trump was not only supporting the Dream Act, but echoing the liberal politically correct talking points behind it. In August of 2013, he reportedly told a group of illegal aliens, “You have convinced me” of the need to pass the Dream Act.
This was not a one off. Even after announcing his presidential bid, Trump continued to promote the false talking points about our responsibility to do something for the countries and families that violated our sovereignty:
At best, it sounds like talking out of both sides of one’s mouth; at worst, it’s an embrace of the reasoning used by President Obama and his advocates for the Dream Act and executive amnesty.
Again, not a one off.
During an interview with NBC in August 2013, around the same time he was promoting the “Dreamers,” Trump was asked which portions of the Senate [Gang of Eight bill] he would support. Trump demurred, "I actually think it's too early to say."
This is nothing short of breathtaking ignorance given the Gang of Eight bill was one of the worst and most consequential pieces of legislation to come through the Senate in recent memory. It was introduced in April of that year and voted on in June. Trump’s comments were made months after conservatives, including some current writers for Conservative Review, had exposed numerous aspects of the bill. It was long after every legitimate amendment was rejected. How could there have been any ambiguity about the bill in August 2013?
On September 8, 2015, Trump said the following about the Syrian refugees: “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis of what’s happening, you have to.” Just a day later he partially reversed course:
Then he went on to promote a ban on Muslim immigration. This proposal set off an imbroglio within the political world that completely washed away the fact that Trump’s first thoughts were to follow the groupthink.
Conservatives need to know if Donald Trump is really the man who will put Americans first and demolish the “dummies” in Washington or if his lack of a coherent philosophy will lead him to reflexively parrot the very politically correct talking points he so vehemently assails and yet has so often adopted. Is Trump who we think he is on immigration or is he pragmatically trying to tap into a frustration to win the primary with a plan to revert to his original talking points after winning?
In one of the biggest ironies of this political cycle, Trump has long praised Mitch McConnell, the man who is the embodiment of why people are fed up with the party and attracted to Trump in the first place. While conservatives were fighting to get rid of McConnell in the 2014 primaries, Trump said, "It would be a shame if he didn't win, because he has such power, it's so good for his state."
It comes as no surprise, then, that late last year Trump criticized Cruz for acting like a “maniac” when he called McConnell a liar. How does Trump plan to fight political correctness and the culture of the D.C. establishment when he has championed the mastermind of the GOP establishment and is offended by the non-politically correct criticism of its leader?
The courts they are not only governed by political correctness, they enshrine political correctness into our Constitution and threaten our existence as a democratic republic based upon representative government. Yet, Trump has often been ambivalent when discussing the courts. Kim Davis being thrown in jail by a lawless federal court was a watershed event in American history for religious liberty. It was also a defining moment for the candidates. Trump said the following on September 8, while Davis was sitting in jail for being a Christian:
We had a ruling from the Supreme Court and we are a country of laws and you have to do what the Supreme Court ultimately, whether you like the decision or not, and it was a 5-4 decision, whether you like the decision or not, you have to go along with the Supreme Court. That’s the way it is.
A few months later, Trump attacked Scalia, saying he was being “very tough” on “that community” for poking legal holes in the arguments for affirmative action for black students. What happened to the man who hates political correctness and the elites?
Isn’t it fair to ask what sort of judges he would appoint? He seems to strongly vouch for his sister’s ability as a judge on the Third Circuit Court of appeals, even though she is a radical leftist. While we certainly don’t expect him to personally attack his sister, he certainly didn’t sound like he disagreed with her left-wing politics on abortion.
After flooding the country with so many security problems, the next step towards transforming America into a politically correct European socialist utopia is to strip people of their guns. Shouldn’t we expect our nominee to be able to litigate that case against Hillary Clinton?
Yet, there are still some open questions as to where Trump stands on the issue. In his book, The America We Deserve, although Trump eschewed outright bans on guns, he echoed Hillary’s talking points about the need to support common sense restrictions.
In a 1999 interview Trump was asked by Larry King whether he supported the NRA position against expanded background checks. Here is what he had to say:
Does this sound like someone who understands the Constitution and can debate Hillary on the issue with full confidence? Were these quotes just the old Donald Trump from 16 years ago or is that small voice of Manhattan cosmopolitan aversion to firearms still in the back of his head? Conservatives have a right to know.
While boundless immigration is the tool through which Democrats want to transform our society, Obamacare is the ultimate tool to transform our economy. Republicans lost an election in 2012 by nominating the one man in the world who thought of the Obamacare scheme before Obama did, thereby taking our best issue off the table during the general election. Given Trump’s support for single-payer in the past and the fact that he still has not yet disavowed it, are Republicans prepared to nominate the one man who agrees with it during an election against the woman who originally promoted socialized medicine?
These are all important questions which any conservative on any level is entitled to have answered. But with the liberal and conservative media focusing so much of their fire on Trump’s personality, or attacking him from the left on immigration, these are issues that will likely never be resolved.
Fox News, along with a cohort of ratings-seeking bedfellows, has played on the strengths of the Trump anomaly and has arguably been the main cause for his meteoric rise in the polls. Trump has made his personality a central figure in this contest and the media has indulged him, belying the self-important pundit entreaties to focus on the issues and make them answer tough questions. Perhaps in seeking to spotlight his crassness and precipitate his downfall, the opinion kings have spared him any serious inquisition whatsoever.
Conservative voters are surely left between a rock and a hard place. There is a false choice being offered by talking heads and elected officials in both parties: Either we side with an indignant, if inconsistent, tycoon outsider, or we leave the serious issues in the hands of people who could care less about them and are sure to let us down. This dichotomy taps into the exasperation so many feel with the conservatives already empowered—those who think speeches are a fine enough remedy. You’ll get no argument from Conservative Review that this exasperation is not honest and justified. But is it enough to blind us to the unknowns of a candidate’s principles at a time when principle is what matters most?
Naturally, the movement is reluctant to oppose someone already opposed by the most destructive and self-interested forces in the business. And quite admittedly, the party elites who dislike Trump dislike him for the wrong reasons; but that should not stop conservatives from mistrusting him for the right ones.