Donald Trump

Trump and the Conservative Establishment Deserve Each Other

Trump shares many things with mainline conservatism.


Gage Skidmore/Flickr

No one should need National Review's advice to steer clear of Donald Trump. For one thing, the messenger is a curious one indeed. Although Trump doesn't talk like a neoconservative Wilsonian, he has not cleanly separated himself from that faction either.

Yes, he courageously recommended against invading Iraq—a year after the invasion took place. But now he says he'd bomb the "shit" out of the Islamic State (or "kick ISIS ass," as celebrity endorser Sarah Palin words it), "take the oil," and get out, though it's unclear how one would take the oil without staying on for a spell.

Trump also says the Iran nuclear deal—the very one that commits Iran to forswear a weapon it had no intention of building—is the worst thing President Obama could have done to … Israel. Now there's a pronouncement to warm the cockles of neoconservative hearts. And no one challenged Trump when he made up the "fact" that the deal commits the United States to defending Iran against an Israeli attack. Since Syria is allied with Iran, how long could we count on Trump to abstain from regime-change?

To his credit Trump seems less than enthusiastic about a war with Russia, which certainly makes him look good next to Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Hillary Clinton. (Ted Cruz apparently would confront Russia only over Ukraine.)

But I'm less confident in Trump where China is concerned. China irritates Trump—he thinks it's taking "our [sic] jobs"—and who would bet that Commander-in-Chief Trump wouldn't be willing to go to the brink with China during the trade war his proposed 45 percent tariff would ignite?

The neoconservatives overlook another point they share with Trump: the lust for national greatness. Surely they have not forgotten Trump's goal to "Make America Great Again," though if they only heard (rather than read) the slogan, they'd be forgiven for thinking he said, "Make America Grate Again." Either way, cowing other countries is his strategy.

Neocons, too, are all about national greatness. Like America's founders, they don't want Americans preoccupied with their small concerns, like making a living, to the neglect of their classical republican duty to the greater good. War is the neocon way of focusing the people on what really matters. Trump brags he will be so pro-military that "no one will mess with us." It's a short step to discovering the virtues of war. Meanwhile, he'll spend trillions rebuilding the infrastructure—more eminent domain—to make America great.

"A nation which makes greatness its polestar can never be free," Abraham Bishop said in early days of the republic. That's why I want to be in the corner furthest from both Trump and the National Review/Weekly Standard complex.

In other respects as well, Trump shares many things with mainline conservatism. Trump denigrates individual rights whenever he bashes immigrants and free trade. His excuse for why someone born in another country must have government permission—government! permission!—before relocating to the United States is that without a militarized walled border we'd have no country. But it wouldn't mean that at all. It would mean we'd have a freer country. Likewise if we leave the 11 million people without papers alone instead of creating a police state to deport them. Someone who sees government as the great permission-giver is not someone I want in charge. (Okay, I don't want anyone in charge.) 

The trade issue requires some nuance, for which Trump and his followers have no patience. It doesn't take much to see that "free-trade agreements" are not about free trade. Rather, as Trump glimpses, they establish managed trade on behalf of giant, well-connected corporate entities. (The cornerstone is U.S.-imposed IP regimes for developing economies —who controls ideas controls people and property.) 

But the fraud of "free-trade agreements" should not put us off actual free trade. You and I ought to be able to buy from and sell to anyone we please without Trump's permission. Trade benefits both parties.

The bankrupt political establishment has given us Trump as surely as Victor Frankenstein gave his community the monster. I'm all for revolting against the establishment, but we will regret making the authoritarian and boorish Trump the standard bearer of that revolt.

NEXT: U.S. Considering 'Military Options' to Stem Rise of Islamic State in Libya

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  1. All true.

    In addition to foreign policy, more subtle similarities such as his questions about Cruz’s eligibility to run, attacks on media now including their own FOX, and even the name calling (no wonder Limbaugh is OK with him).

    All that emotion comes right out of the Tea Party playbook. Have fun!

    1. You’re a tiresome idiot. Don’t you have a bottle of Drano to drink?

  2. “Trump also says the Iran nuclear deal?the very one that commits Iran to forswear a weapon it had no intention of building,,,”

    Apparently, Mr. Richman now has telepathy, and can peer into the very minds of the mullahs.

    1. That is where I stopped reading the article.

      1. Something something ISRAEL something something. That’s as far as I got too.

        1. It’s Sheldon. Of course he had to bring Israel into it.

    2. One of these days the Kochtopus will awake and do a mass-purge of all of the progressives hiding as libertarians here at Reason.

      And I can hardly wait for Kevin Williamson to take over.

      Did you hear that – Shelly? No one will miss you when you’re gone.

      1. The Koch brothers are socially liberal, as are all libertarians that value individualism.

        1. Your point?

          1. Proven.

      2. That’s what I tell progtards to frighten them…….”Kochtopus gonna git ya!”

    3. David — I agree. I didn’t even want to start on the article knowing from past experiences the crap that comes out of Richman’s keystrokes.

      I certainly hope Reason doesn’t actually pay these hacks.

  3. Does Sheldon Richman strike anyone else as decidedly “left wing”? While he may have points here and there about our use of military force in the world (this is an argument as old as the Republic), most of this just seems to me to be drivel.

    Maybe its me. But…and I’m paraphrasing …the many ways Donald and conservatives are alike? Are you kidding?

    1. He’s always been decidedly left wing. He’s a socialist. He doesn’t belong here.

      1. His writings on economics was decent when he was at the Foundation for Economic Education. I have yet to find a non-economics article by Mr. Richman to be worth the time it took to read it.

        1. That’s close to my view on the Reason staff as a whole. When they’re talking about things within the confines of the US, they’re very insightful. At the borders and beyond them, they start getting wacky.

          1. A lot of people here appear to believe that comp,tee withdrawal from foreign affairs will result in some kind of paradise. While I’m not in favor of the kind of military adventurism we’ve seen in recent years, i know that complete international withdrawal will probably result in massive instability, if not major warfare across the world.

            1. Some one needs to instruct Richman et al on Power Vacuums.

      2. He is not a socialist. He is a left-libertarian culturally and an anarcho-capitalist politically. The fact that you can’t imagine a political libertarian holding culturally leftist views says more about you than it does about Sheldon.

        1. Unless I missed something, we’re not talking about Sheldon’s cultural views. We’re talking about his foreign policy views, which might well have been cribbed from Pravda, or these days, RT.

          1. Sheldon’s foreign policy views are fully libertarian. What is libertarian about bombing other countries, which didn’t attack us, using other people’s money?

            1. First, you said culturally. We weren’t talking about his views on legalizing drugs and prostitution, or whatnot.

              Second: There’s nothing libertarian — especially if you’re an anarchocapitalist, as Mr. Richman is — about thinking in terms of countries rather than actual people. If the US bombs something in Syria and kills innocent people, that’s something to object to, but claiming that it violates Syrian sovereignty is unlibertarian.

              Third: There’s nothing about libertarianism that distinguishes “attacked you” with “attacked someone else.” If X initiates force against Y, it is moral for Z to respond by using force against X. You may consider it less important — and that’s a perfectly-valid viewpoint, I don’t dispute that — but morally, Z is just as free to use retaliatory force as Y.

            2. Fourth: If you’re an anarchocapitalist, then taxes (I presume that’s what you mean by “other people’s money”) have no justification, period, regardless of what they’re used for. Under AC, money spent on an ABM that takes down an ICBM aimed at New York is morally the same as money spent to overthrow a foreign tyrant. If, on the other hand, you’re a minarchist, then the government’s job is to protect citizen’s rights, and “Americans will be less-likely to have their rights violated in a world with fewer thugs and tyrants in it” is a strategy to that end. It might not *work*. It might cause more problems than it solves. But both of those are matters of efficacy, not principles, like deciding if we want our fighter jets armed with missiles or with guns.

              So, except for his shedding tears over the sovereignty of dictatorships, my problem with Sheldon is that he pretends that foreign policy view is *the* libertarian view, rather than *a* libertarian view.

              1. “that foreign policy view” should be “that his foreign policy view”

            3. (Mr. Gillespie, remember when I mentioned to you at the Rio about the maximum comment size being set too small? This is an example. I had to split that into two rather than make them a single one).

              1. Ok, first of, thanks goodness there is a limit on comment size. Your comments are already too long. Practice succinctness.

                If X initiates force against Y and Z responds, Z initiated force against X. Z has committed an NAP violation. Z is only justified to defend Y during an attack, or if contracted by a court to perform victim restitution for X. In any case, I don’t see how this relates to Sheldon’s article. Who are X, Y, and Z in this case?

                Your last point is completely off. You can be opposed to taxes but still have preferences about how the tax money is used. Using taxonomy for food stamps is significantly less evil than using to bomb Syrian civilians.

                1. Taxes, not taxonomy.

                  1. i dunno, i liked taxonomy. im not sure how you’d “use it for food stamps”, but ill get back to you

                    1. I disagree with your position. A person who violates the rights of others forfeits their own rights to the same degree. Yes, you should follow the best procedures to make sure that the right person is being retaliated against, and that only he suffers for it, but there is nothing in principle wrong with me, having witnessed a murder, shooting the murderer. As to the specific XYZ, I was not referring to Sheldon, but to your statement of “what’s libertarian about bombing other countries that haven’t attacked us?” But if you want an example, X: the North Korean military, Y: the North Korean populace, Z: anybody who decides to do so. Remember, I’m talking about moral permissibility, not moral obligation, or prudence, or success in being selective. Sheldon’s position as an anti-interventionist is that it would be wrong, even if no innocent bystanders were hurt.

                      On the last position, yes, I should have stated as a caveat: as long as how it’s being used is not in and of itself a rights violation. The valid comparison is between taxes spent on food stamps or taxes spent on shooting terrorists. Again, Sheldon’s position is that intervention is *in and of itself* bad, so the possibility of bystanders being hurt accidentally is a separate question.

        2. Sorta explains your take, carry on commie, explain how our socialist overlords will lead us to an egalitarian utopia…fuck off with your bullshit blathering. Quit the bullshit asshole.

  4. “That’s why I want to be in the corner furthest from both Trump and the National Review/Weekly Standard complex.” Which means you’re voting for Bernie Sanders, isn’t that true, Sheldon? Comrades of a feather stick together.

    1. Comrades of a fender stick to gender.

  5. Nick Gillespie and Sheldon Richmond need to quit pretending to be libertarians and take off their masks. We all know you’re Democrats.

    1. I am not sure Richman is near being Democrat either. Crackpot seems to be the best description.

      1. “The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
        All centuries but this, and every country but his own.”

        1. i was so sure that was rudyard kipling i was kinda embarrassed about liking it. im way more comfortable with musicals

      2. This, he’s a senile uncle you want to avoid but tolerate to keep the peace at family get togethers.

  6. Mr Richman asserts that the cornerstone of free trade “is U.S.-imposed IP regimes for developing economies ?who controls ideas controls people and property”

    That’s a really odd thing to say. IP protections in many foreign regions, including Asia, Africa and everything south of the US border afford far less IP protection than what we have here in the US, even with a trade agreement in place. The IP the US generates costs money and affords American companies a trade advantage. Foreign countries, including China, Russia, India and Brazil, engage in widespread IP legal appropriation and/or illegal theft from US companies and governments. No one denies that reality.

    We subsidize our competitors via theft of our IP. Assume we just did away with all IP, i.e., all patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Who would that benefit – the US or our competitors? Unfounded, irrational attacks on American IP like that Mr Richman’s attack, do not help clarify our situation. That doesn’t shed light on the fact (not opinion) that our capacity to out-innovate our competitors is one of the few areas of international economic competition where the US has a distinct advantage that can generate wealth at home. In terms of innovation, America trounces every other country.

    If there was no economic or military advantage to stealing American IP, then no one would do it. Almost everyone does it because there is real value in what is taken. That is just plain capitalist common sense.

  7. just before I saw the receipt that said $7527 , I accept that my mom in-law woz like actualey making money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop. . there aunt had bean doing this for less than twentey months and at present cleared the depts on there appartment and bourt a great new Citro?n 2CV . look here…….
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  8. Like America’s founders, they don’t want Americans preoccupied with their small concerns, like making a living, to the neglect of their classical republican duty to the greater good.

    Huh? Is this supposed to be sarcasm? America’s founders didn’t “want Americans preoccupied with their small concerns, like making a living, to the neglect of their classical republican duty to the greater good?” WTF?!

    The real question isn’t how much Trump has in common with neocons, but in what way is Trump the same as Adam Lanza?

    1. If anything, Obama has more in common with Adam Lanza than Trump. The President, through the drone program, has actually been directly responsible for the deaths of more innocent children than Lanza.

      1. Exactly. For any of Trump’s faults, has he ever been responsible for killing anyone?

  9. I quite reading after this bull shit line in the second paragraph
    “Trump also says the Iran nuclear deal?the very one that commits Iran to forswear a weapon it had no intention of building?” Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons and just because you want to bury your head in the sand does not mean the rest of have to.
    BTW nobody makes secret underground nuclear facilities if they are using them for peacefull purposes.

  10. Obama has diminished our freedoms we need a President who will return them.
    I had hopes that Rand could light a fire in the voters but that has not happened. If Rand were polling in the teens, this would not be a question, but he isn’t. Trump embraces NSA data mining, eminent domain, affirmative action.
    Rand has a serious Democrat challenger in the primary in Kentucky & he really needs to concentrate on that.
    If liberty is to be protected, the only one who can stop a Trump disaster like the Obama presidency is Cruz.He is the candidate with the strongest Constitutional & civil liberties record that we can get elected to the Presidency.

    I want my vote to mean something this time. I have friends who are voting for Cruz. I researched him & found he is closer to Libertarians than I thought. Neocons are against him because he doesn’t believe in nation building or democracy spread through military intervention & is against foreign intervention unless it is clearly a matter of national security. Cruz is strongly against NSA data mining, against all subsidies, supports smaller government, voted against the NDAA with its indefinite detention clause, co-authored the smarter sentencing Act,is a strong Constitutionalist, fought for states rights,wants to eliminate several government agencies.. Is he perfect? Hell no. Can he stop Trump? Hell yes. Is Cruz the best thing we got left ? I believe so. How about voting for the imperfect candidate who can beat Trump?

    1. Your vote changes ten times the laws of cast for libertarian candidates. See “The case for voting Libertarian” now in two Western languages with audio in English, free.

      1. What the hell are you talking about?

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  12. just before I saw the receipt that said $7527 , I accept that my mom in-law woz like actualey making money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop. . there aunt had bean doing this for less than twentey months and at present cleared the depts on there appartment and bourt a great new Citro?n 2CV . look here…….
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  13. a war with Russia, you say? please – THEY ARE WORKING TOGETHER!!!!

  14. I take a back seat to no one when it comes to loathing the whole Donald Trump movement. But this article is so badly written! It’s a rambling mess that says nothing new. National Review makes a better case against trump. With much better writing.

  15. Yes, foreigners need our permission to come here. There’s no human right to enter the USA. Sure that might not be the most “pro individual rights” position humanly possible, but open borders are fucking recipe for disaster and far more individual rights would be trampled trying to deal with mass immigration. We’re a great country that can choose to be a picky when it comes to who we let in. In fact, we should be.

    1. Realistically, we always have been. Ellis Island existed for a reason, and we turned away many people there.

  16. They all claim to be pro-life–willing to send men with guns to force women to reproduce before the Rapture. What other issue do conservatives have (other than dropping bombs on foreigners)?

    1. Do you feel a need to turn every comments section into some kind of abortion rights discussion? Or are you just obsessed with being a bigot against religion?

  17. “the very one that commits Iran to forswear a weapon it had no intention of building”

    Always count on Sheldon for nonsense. Pile up the idiocy until it falls over of it’s own weight.

    Kind of moronic to strike a deal with someone so that they won’t do something they has “no intention” of doing in the first place, eh?

    Why give up anything in return for them promising not to do what they wouldn’t have anyway, Sheldon?

    How can it be a great and wonderful deal to get something we supposedly already had?

    That’s the thing about arguments from Proggies. Just a mishmash of random, self contradictory sneering. Always just *rationalizations*, never *reasons*.

  18. ‘Surely they have not forgotten Trump’s goal to “Make America Great Again,”‘

    And surely no one here has forgotten Sheldon’s goal to “Hate America First”.

  19. “why someone born in another country must have government permission — government! permission! — before relocating to the United States”

    Imagine! Having to get government permission (government! permission!) to immigrate to a country! Just like everywhere else in the world! The Horror! The Outrage! The Pants Shitting Hysteria!


    Sheldon is such a ridiculous clown. I think I’ve found the secret to reading his articles – sit back and enjoy the lunacy!

    It’s The Onion does libertarianism.

  20. Hi guys. Please to help me. I only made through lawyer school and can’t understand the jibber jabber Sheldon is spewing, please to help !?!!!

    1. Use an upside down mirror. Then read it backwards. In Russian.

  21. There’s plenty of truth in this piece, even if it is biased as hell. What seems to escape the writer is that Trump and Obama are more alike than different. They are both narcissistic, autocratic, demagogues. I believe that a Trump presidency could do great harm to our country. But would it be as bad as what Obama has done? This is a trick question: If you think that Obama is a good president, just remember that there are people who hate him as much as you hate Trump, and with good reason. It is time for cooler heads to prevail.

    1. bullshit…trump is an idiot, obumbles has had 8 years to prove he’s an idiot. that’s a long track record..sad that it comes down to which idiot will prevail in the fall.Yeah America. lmfao

  22. Actually, trump is more of a dhimmicrat, like Mario Cuomo, or Richie Daley.

    1. Dude, if you can’t spell their names you should probably STFU.

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