The rise of Trump and the corresponding death of the conservative movement

So, I’ve been trying to decide how to frame this, and have had a few ideas. I’m finally sitting down to type it out.

As many of you will know, I was a lifelong Republican until the nomination of Donald Trump in 2016. As a conservative, I felt at that time that the Republican Party was the best outlet to ensure that my conservative values were represented in Washington. Up until 2016, I still believe that was true.

As events unfolded leading up to the 2016 primaries, I was horrified to see that the person leading in the polls was not a conservative by any measure. That person was, of course, Donald Trump. He had several issues that were problematic to me as a conservative. These included:

  1. Several donations to Democratic candidates and foundations such as the Clinton Foundation, Harry Reid, and John Kerry. History of Donald Trump's political donations - Ballotpedia
  2. Several conflicting positions on the abortion issue:
  3. His disparaging remarks towards some in the military, beginning with the most notable one about John McCain

And of course others.

Of course, Trump went on to get elected later that year, and he has moved further away from conservative values since he was in office. Problems that I have seen where he (and the Republican Party) have moved away from conservative values include:

  1. The concept of “taking the guns first and asking questions later” was one huge problem for me. This violates both the 2nd and 4th amendments.
  2. Running huge deficits and adding to the debt problem.
  3. Adding taxation via tariffs, effectively pushing for government interference in business and costing US citizens extra money.
  4. Subsidizing certain crops after said tariffs, further getting the government involved in private business and picking winners and losers - interfering with the free markets

These are just a few examples of how the Republican Party has now abandoned conservatism as a movement. The net result is that, as a movement, conservatism is now essentially dead in this country and Trumpism / populism has arisen to replace it.

It has been interesting watching the death of conservatism as a movement, and seeing what the Republican Party has evolved into. Now, I will say this - there are still conservatives around. We are just not represented in either of the 2 parties. Many of us have decided to split from the Republican Party as they have abandoned conservatism. I know there are still a few within the Republican Party trying to get it to swing back to conservatism. They have my respect, and I hope they can at least nudge it in that direction. I have to admit though, I am not optimistic.

The irony of all of this is that Trump has done what the democratic party couldn’t. He has pretty much crushed conservatism as a movement, and gotten it out of the mainstream Republican Party. Will conservatism ever come back as a movement? I kind of doubt it. Those of us who still hold to conservative values are definitely in the minority now. Time will tell though.


My thought is that Trump didn’t take conservatism out of the Republican Party. He tore the conservative fig-leaf that the GOP had been wearing for years, but the Republican Party left conservatism behind long before Trump was nominated.


That could be as well. There have certainly been symptoms of that for quite some time now. Maybe he just brought it all to the surface.

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Oh my goodness!

Good post. Thank you.

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Two more good ones.

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I’m inclined to agree. The enthusiasm with which many who identify as conservatives abandoned their principles and values and adopted liberal mindsets and methods in the name of #winning is testament to this. All they needed was someone to give them a little push, and Donald provided a shove.


The question becomes, can conservatism (in the Goldwater, Jon Huntsman, William F. Buckley embodiment of the term) ever make a comeback? The only way I see that happening is after the zeitgeist moves away from rabid partisanship, anti-intellectualism, and populism. For now, we’re a Trumpist country (and I mean that in terms of a mindset that crosses ideological lines).


Good thing some brave people stand up for what is right and true.

You are the vanguard of conservative principles and will be needed to rebuild the movement.

Thank you so much.

As a fellow conservative, I would have to agree with what merickson said. The decline of conservatism in the Republican Party started, years…decades before Trump. Personally, I believe it truly started in full, ironically, with its marriage to the religious right. I use this term not as a pejorative against religious individuals on the right side of the political spectrum (a group in which I would consider myself a member), but as an identifier of an overall movement seeking to infuse religiosity into the Republican Party to use as a measuring stick to determine the worthiness of individual candidates to serve in the party, as well as a cudgel with which to beat those (metaphorically speaking) who do not fit the mold.

The conflation of conservatism with Christianity took the focus away from other conservative principles such as individual liberty and fiscal responsibility. Being a good Republican became more a matter of how well one openly draped his/herself (again, metaphorically) in the robes of Jesus and less about whether one actually embraced the other ideals. Politicians then did what politicians do…they pandered to the larger group, regardless of whether or not they actually held those same convictions. Little by little, the other guiding principles of conservatism were dropped by the wayside as they grew less and less important to the politicians’ chances of re-election.

This is not the only influencing factor in the demise of conservatism as a viable political position, but it is IMO a rather large one. Also, this is not a condemnation of people with strong religious values who are also aligned with the right side of the political spectrum (again, I am one of these people).


That is pretty much my assessment at this time.

Good assessment.

The death of conservativism was partly tied to the embrace of the religious right but what has harmed it more is the entertainment wing. Talk radio dumbed the people down and primed the people to vote for Trump.


I don’t disagree with this thought, but I wonder how successful the CEC would have been without the full endorsement and participation of the religious right.

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Interesting trio.

If ‘Conservatism’ means so little to so many ‘conservatives’ - indicated by their willingness to abandon it for trump - I thin it’s fair to ask what is so great about ‘Conservatism’ in the first place?

Seems to me, most practicers of ‘Conservatism’ were doing so only for political expediency. Or ratings. Depending on their career path.

IOW - if Rush and Sean, or lindsey graham, or any other conservative trump supporter - people who DEFINED the movement - are willing to forgot, or reverse on positions previously fundamental to the movement - like the debt, like price in our veterans, like not legitimizing murderous dictators, like standing up to Russia - that either means, founders of the movement have left the movement, or it means, the movement was never about these issues after all.


Good post. Additionally, some of us have good memory. Those that were Trump’s loyal bootlickers will be reminded of this long after he is gone.

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Excellent post, although despite your protestations to the contrary, it is a pretty strong condemnation.

I don’t disagree.

I think I’d have to agree. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen some corruption in evangelical circles as a side effect of all this. I had to separate myself from my old church as I saw the pastor excusing blatant sin to throw support behind Trump. But, that’s more of a theological conversation, so I won’t get into that here.

In this regard, I’d say that it would be more accurate on my part to describe Trumpism as the final nail in the coffin.

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I concur.