Donald Trump created a fissure in the Republican Party. His campaign was originally greeted with dismissal, but as the seriousness of his candidacy became apparent, many conservatives took staunch stances against him.
Though many have fallen in line (the manner in which Republican leaders have bowed to Trump would be comedic were it not so cowardly), Trump still stands as the most divisive presidential candidate in recent years, with 35 percent favorability according to Gallup.
Conservatives have suggested that Trump’s values do not reflect their own. His commitment to anti-intellectual aggression is new, foreign to true conservative principles.
But this assessment of Trumpism as an invasive ideology is not accurate. Trump’s candidacy is not only completely in line with the principles of American conservatism, it is the natural conclusion of them.
Merriam-Webster defines “conservatism” in two ways:
“Belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society.”
“Dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area.”
To understand Trump, one must see him and his cult of xenophobia as a desperate response to a rapidly changing international landscape. We live in an unprecedented era of connectivity and dissemination of information. The internet has dissolved established cultural borders in a completely new way.
The perspectives of those across continents are immediately available. The lives of the foreigners are on display in the comfort of our own homes. We do not live in an age of utopian empathy, but we do live in an age in which we are being forced to recognize the humanity of those formerly alien to us.
The world is undergoing permanent change, in which conservatism, as we have long understood it, simply cannot survive.
The philosophy is predicated, not just on the exclusion of progress and foreign ideas, but on the ignorance of them. It is easy to rationalize the rejection of the foreigner when your understanding of them is as a theoretical “other,” having little more bearing on your life than a mythical creature. But that myth is dissolving.
The success of Donald Trump’s campaign, along with Brexit and other ill-conceived far-right movements in the western world, is indicative of mass, existential, conservative panic.
It’s easy to pick apart Trump’s claims about immigrants and his plans to keep them out of the country. They rarely, if ever, approach even common sense. But “sense” is not what the Trump constituency wants.
Globalization is an unavoidable reality with no “sensible” way to prevent. Those desperate to halt this inevitability have turned to the one thing they have left: nonsense. Wall-building, Muslim-banning, orange, crude, racist nonsense.
Trump is the culmination of the American Right realizing that its days are quite numbered.
Now, this will not spell the end of conservative thought. The human race will always find a comfortable status quo to defend. But we are fundamentally changing the nature of that status quo.
Culture is evolving, and “securing the border” can’t stop that. The age of American conservatism as defined by protected borders and homogeneity is ending. Trump is a sign of the death throes.
Andrew Allen is a senior majoring in communications. Upon Further Review runs alternate Thursdays.