Abramson: Donald Trump and His New Language of Conservatism

Politicians, pundits, and media members have argued that Donald Trump is not a Conservative.  Critics have gone so far as have national meetings on the topic, and publications have devoted cover stories to the matter.  This article contends that Mr. Trump is a Conservative, but that he speaks with a “New Language of Conservatism.”  He differs from the typical Conservative in the presentation of his goals, overarching philosophy, and policies.  It is this rhetoric and change in presentation that may be one of the reasons for his popularity.

The “Standard Language of Conservatism” is to mention Conservative principles in speeches, policy positions, and debates.  This language has been so prevalent that it has evolved a “Standard Test for Conservatism.”  In this Standard Test, if one mentioned Conservative principles in speeches, policy positions, and debates, the person was automatically a Conservative, and, if one did not mention them, he/she was not.  Determining one’s Conservatism by measuring the use of buzzwords in speeches, however, is a flawed test.  It focuses too much on one’s rhetoric rather than one’s actions.  The Standard Test’s limitations is one of the reasons why politicians who do not vote based on Conservative principles (such as voting for debt increases) are still considered Conservative.

The better approach, the New Test for Conservatism, would be to determine if one’s policy positions and voting records lead to Conservative outcomes.  To use this test, one must first have a clear definition of Conservatism.  Some of its basic principles are:

Conservative Principles
Small and limited federal government
Free market capitalism, economic free enterprise, and the principle that the free market is better at regulating the economy than the government (collectively, “free market capitalism”)
The belief that jobs are superior to living on government programs (collectively, “jobs and economic opportunity”)
Strong national defense
Balanced budget
Lower taxes
Smaller national debt
Federalism and the belief that government programs are best administered by governments closer to the people, such as state and local governments (collectively, “federalism”)
A belief in the individual and a philosophy that government programs should be a safety net and path to self-improvement but not a way of life (collectively, “safety net”)
Preservation of the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms (collectively, “Second Amendment”)
A belief in the Constitution and three co-equal branches of government (collectively, “Constitution”)

Using the Standard Test of Conservatism, it is easy to understand why some do not consider Mr. Trump to be a Conservative.  His speeches and policies do not normally use Conservative buzzwords or themes.  It is premature, however, to not consider Mr. Trump a Conservative.  Because his choice of words in his speeches and policy papers disqualify him via the Standard Test, it is more appropriate to use the New Test to determine if Mr. Trump is a Conservative.  The table below lists Mr. Trump’s positions and the Conservative objectives which each would fulfill.

Trump Position Conservative Objective which the Trump Position Would Fulfill
The wall on the Mexican border ·         National defense

·         Jobs and economic opportunity

Fair trade agreements with China, Mexico, etc. ·         Jobs and economic opportunity

·         Free market capitalism

Defeating ISIS ·         National defense
Repealing and replacing Obamacare ·         Small and limited government

·         Free market capitalism

·         Smaller national debt

·         Balanced budget

Lower taxes ·         Lower taxes

·         Small and limited federal government

Elimination of Common Core ·         Small and limited federal government

·         Federalism

Elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse ·         Small and limited federal government

·         Balanced budget

·         Smaller national debt

VA Reform ·         National defense

·         Small and limited federal government

·         Safety net

Preservation of the Second Amendment ·         Second Amendment
Negotiating with Democrats and passing laws via Congress rather than using Executive Orders ·         Constitution

It is clear from the above table that Mr. Trump’s positions would lead to Conservative objectives.  Via the New Test of Conservatism, therefore, Mr. Trump is a Conservative.  He puts forth his Conservative objectives via a different formula than other politicians, and this formula is his “New Language of Conservatism.”  Rather than structuring his campaign around Conservative objectives, Mr. Trump structures his campaign around the goal to “Make America Great Again!” and implement policies that lead to this goal.  His speeches are very problem-oriented.  He focuses on specific problems and provides policy solutions to them.  For example, he discusses the problems of illegal immigration and America’s trade deficits with foreign countries, and, to fix these problems, he proposes, respectively, a wall on the southern border and a renegotiation of America’s trade agreements.  Trump approaches governing by focusing on problems and providing solutions consistent with Conservatism rather than applying Conservative objectives and hoping that they will fix the problems.  While Trump does not mention Conservative principles, they are clearly implied and apparent if one analyzes the results of his proposed policies.

Conservatives who speak via the Standard Language of Conservatism (“Standard Language Conservatives”) offer a different way of solving America’s problems.  First, they argue for the implementation of Conservative objectives.  Second, they offer policy positions which lead to Conservative objectives.  For example, they may call for the elimination of federal agencies to shrink the size of the federal government.  They rarely state their goal is to improve America, but they leave this objective implied (although it should be obvious but may not be to everyone).   The difference between Mr. Trump and the Standard Language Conservative is below:

TRUMP STANDARD LANGUAGE CONSERVATIVE
GOAL Make America Great Again Implementing Conservative objectives
METHODOLOGY Policy positions which

Make America Great Again

Policy positions which will lead to Conservative objectives
IMPLIED POINTS Conservative objectives in the policy positions Conservative objectives will lead to a better America

Mr. Trump’s New Language of Conservatism may be the cause of one of his greatest accomplishments, the influx of new voters into the Republican Party (as of the end of April, Republican voting in the primary was up 60%, over 8,000,000 votes, compared to 2012). He is likely bringing in these independents and former Democrats because they agree with his overarching goal, the problems he has identified, his solutions, and the Conservative objectives which are implied.  These individuals may not have previously supported Conservatives because they were not moved by the Standard Language.  They may not have liked the focus on Conservative objectives (such as smaller government) as a solution to the nation’s problems.  It is also possible the implied goal of improving America was not clear.  These independents and former Democrats, however, are moved by the New Language of Conservatism, share in the goal to “Make America Great Again!” and want Mr. Trump to implement his policies (and their implied Conservative objectives).

With his New Language of Conservatism, Mr. Trump became the Republican nominee, and he garnered the most primary votes in the history of the Republican primary. In the future, Conservative candidates should consider using this New Language of Conservatism in their elections because it may be the message which leads them to victory.  Voters should evaluate potential candidates and elected officials via the New Test of Conservatism to determine if they are actually Conservative.  Most importantly, those politicians, pundits, and media members who do not consider Trump to be a Conservative should reevaluate him with an understanding of the New Language of Conservatism.

Michael B. Abramson is an Advisor with the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. He is an attorney in Atlanta and managing partner of the Abramson Law Firm. He is the author of A Playbook for Taking Back America: Lessons from the 2012 Presidential Election. His articles can be found at www.michaelbabramson.com. Follow him on Twitter @mbabramson.


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