Conservative intellectuals and Trump

During the primaries, most conservative outlets opposed Donald Trump.  National Review devoted an entire issue to attacking Trump.  RedState became a NeverTrump publication.  Even after Trump won the nomination, the conservative leadership remained either skeptical of Trump or openly hostile.

But one group disagreed: the voters.

People who work at places like the American Enterprise Institute, or who write for publications like National Review, inhabit a world of data and arguments.  They attempt to marshal facts and logic in support of conservatism.  Trump is many things, but a policy wonk he is not.  Strictly in terms of policy knowledge, Trump is no match for the likes of Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, but the voters chose Trump.

Trump's bull in a china shop approach to hot-button issues like immigration drove Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt nuts.  They imagined Trump's heated rhetoric on immigration poisoning the Republican brand with Latinos, but Trump did better than Romney with Latinos.

At the end of the day, Trump was able to do what conservative think-tankers and journalists couldn't: connect with the common man.  He was able to take basic conservative principles, such as the need for law and order, and make them understandable to the average voter.

For conservative policy wonks, the ideal Republican candidate is Mitt Romney, and if only policy wonks voted, Mitt Romney would be president.  Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, most people aren't policy wonks.

When Ronald Reagan emerged on the political scene, many people considered him a lightweight, unfit for the presidency.  He even faced a challenge from third-party candidate John Anderson – the 1980 version of Evan McMullin – but defeated all comers and went on to become president.  Sometimes the experts get it wrong.

Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan, but he is similar to him in some important ways.  Reagan held heterodox positions on some important issues; much like Trump, Reagan was not an orthodox free trader.  Reagan also reached out to Gorbachev, helping end the Cold War.  Trump, in his own odd way, may be attempting to do something similar with Putin.

The ordinary Americans who chose Trump see a bit of themselves in him.  They see Trump as a commonsense conservative  a man who may lack deep policy knowledge but who possesses sound judgment and instincts.  Trump now has the opportunity to prove them right.

During the primaries, most conservative outlets opposed Donald Trump.  National Review devoted an entire issue to attacking Trump.  RedState became a NeverTrump publication.  Even after Trump won the nomination, the conservative leadership remained either skeptical of Trump or openly hostile.

But one group disagreed: the voters.

People who work at places like the American Enterprise Institute, or who write for publications like National Review, inhabit a world of data and arguments.  They attempt to marshal facts and logic in support of conservatism.  Trump is many things, but a policy wonk he is not.  Strictly in terms of policy knowledge, Trump is no match for the likes of Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, but the voters chose Trump.

Trump's bull in a china shop approach to hot-button issues like immigration drove Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt nuts.  They imagined Trump's heated rhetoric on immigration poisoning the Republican brand with Latinos, but Trump did better than Romney with Latinos.

At the end of the day, Trump was able to do what conservative think-tankers and journalists couldn't: connect with the common man.  He was able to take basic conservative principles, such as the need for law and order, and make them understandable to the average voter.

For conservative policy wonks, the ideal Republican candidate is Mitt Romney, and if only policy wonks voted, Mitt Romney would be president.  Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, most people aren't policy wonks.

When Ronald Reagan emerged on the political scene, many people considered him a lightweight, unfit for the presidency.  He even faced a challenge from third-party candidate John Anderson – the 1980 version of Evan McMullin – but defeated all comers and went on to become president.  Sometimes the experts get it wrong.

Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan, but he is similar to him in some important ways.  Reagan held heterodox positions on some important issues; much like Trump, Reagan was not an orthodox free trader.  Reagan also reached out to Gorbachev, helping end the Cold War.  Trump, in his own odd way, may be attempting to do something similar with Putin.

The ordinary Americans who chose Trump see a bit of themselves in him.  They see Trump as a commonsense conservative  a man who may lack deep policy knowledge but who possesses sound judgment and instincts.  Trump now has the opportunity to prove them right.