While there is no doubt that Trump has thus far championed a high military spending, tax-cutting, staunchly conservative executive branch, his true colors are starting to show, and much to the dismay of conservatives.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump successfully exploited identity politics, political correctness, and other cheap tactics that Americans could no longer stomach. His attack against leftism was not only untamed and impassioned – it was also wildly successful. Suddenly, the Republican Party found itself in unity again, only this time finding it through opposition against leftism, rather than in favor of conservatism.
While Trump’s views on NAFTA and TPP are no secret, the same cannot be said about his position on the Second Amendment, which has largely remained a mystery. The self-touted, “big Second Amendment person” has appeared to be everything but a Second Amendment supporter as of late, asserting that “in the crazy man’s case… take the guns first, go through due process second.” Trump has also vocalized support for raising the minimum firearm purchasing age to 21, banning bump stocks, and potentially arming teachers in schools.
If there is any agreement in the ever-divided national debate about the Second Amendment, it’s that the mentally ill should not have guns. This is a view held ubiquitously across the nation; however, the means to achieve that end is where the disagreement lies. To put it frankly, the idea that due process ought to be sacrificed as a means is something that virtually no conservatives are going to get behind.
President Trump has also been a harsh critic of free trade from the start of his campaign, and recently upped the ante with his support of tariffs on aluminum and steel. The decision stems from a sincere effort to protect American workers, but goes much against the self-interest/laissez-faire approach to economics that has been proudly espoused by conservatives for generations.
Perhaps if year one of the Trump Administration was indicative of the future, conservatives would be much more at ease. While it’s safe to assume that regulations will continue to be rolled back, there is still a lot for conservatives to be worried about. The border wall has seen minimal progress, the infrastructure plan is still on the agenda, tariffs are likely to be implemented, and gun control measures could potentially be taken.
If conservatism values individual liberty, smaller government, and a strong national defense, then Trump has been as conservative as it gets thus far. The problem is rooted in uncertainty; no one knows what 2018 will bring for the Trump Administration, and ultimately, the nation as a whole. If Trump is a true conservative, then he will stick to these principles and govern accordingly, but given the recent rhetoric and the current agenda, the future looks weary. It often seems as though Trump wants to be the leader America wants him to be, yet continuously fails to figure out just who that person might be.
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