FPRI takes no positions on the presidential candidates; naturally, our individual scholars do, and we anticipate those positions will vary.
The rise of Donald Trump has thrown not only the Republican Party but also “conservatism” into disarray. Despite his claim to be a conservative, Trump’s actions make it clear that he is no such thing. He is instead a crony capitalist who has benefited from the progressives’ bureaucratic, regulatory administrative state. He therefore has no incentive to dismantle it, which is a major conservative objective. He has no desire to reverse President Obama’s unconstitutional and lawless executive overreach. Indeed, it seems clear that he would simply substitute his own lawlessness for Obama’s.
But if Trump is no conservative, most of those who have voted for him claim to be. That raises the obvious questions: What do Trump conservatives wish to conserve? What traditions do they wish to maintain? What conservative principles do they espouse?
For the most part, Trump’s supporters are not so much for something — a set of principles — as against something — an arrogant, overweening political regime that does what it wants no matter the wishes of “we, the people,” that rams unpopular programs down their throats.
But anger and resentment don’t constitute a program for republican constitutional governance. Revolting against the bi-partisan political elites who enable the unconstitutional administrative state is one thing. But what will replace it? The principled conservative answer, ignored or dismissed by most Trump supporters, is a return to constitutional republican government as envisioned by the Founders: the “American Idea.”