THE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA DOSSIER
The first group to accept Trump’s business credential in full payment for its political support — becoming, in fact, the base of his populist-conservative campaign — is the Tea Party. This is particularly disappointing to those of us who welcomed the tea-partiers’ arrival on the scene six years ago, taking them at face value as principled conservatives devoted to limited and strictly constitutional government. RELATED: Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and ‘No Apologies’ Conservatism Trying to understand this new alliance, I have spent considerable time with friends and sometime allies in the Tea Party. Surprisingly, they have no illusions that Trump is a conservative. None. Don’t bother to hector them about single-payer health insurance or abortion or even growth-killing tax hikes. There’s no deal breaker there. The tea partiers concede that Trump is a demagogue and suspect that he is a caesarist. But, as they would put it, usually at machine-gun pace . . . He’s rich. He’s his own man. He can’t be bought. He’s a great negotiator. He will clean up Washington. He will restore American greatness.
(And hence the tea-party support for building the Trump Wall on our southern border, quite possibly the biggest public-works boondoggle ever conceived, at least since the Pyramids.) And for NR-reading elitists, they toss in WFB’s salty rumination that he would rather be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. (The tea partiers ignore my rejoinder that, well sure, wouldn’t we all. But, happily, those aren’t the options. Our preference is to be governed by a patriotic, principled, and well-informed citizenry. That is still our preference, isn’t it?) What’s happening, I fear, is that with push having come to shove, the Tea Party is clinging to the populism and discarding the conservatism. Lunging for the power, as it were, while ignoring the principle. It wouldn’t be the first time. The past hundred years have seen one principled ism after another give way to the frenzy of the street. What is at risk for the conservative movement, in this circumstance, is the principled fusionism of Buckley and Reagan, the fragile coalition of disparate interests in search of a broad-based and ordered liberty. As it is with any other coalition, ours is held together only by common goals and a predisposition to conciliation.