President Trump is the leader of America’s conservative party.
Yet not even his allies would describe him as a conservative in the tradition of Robert Taft, Russell Kirk or William F. Buckley.
In the primaries of 2016, all his rivals claimed the mantle of Mr. Conservative, Ronald Reagan. Yet Trump captured the party’s heart.
Who, then, and what is Donald Trump?
In a Federalist essay, “Trump Isn’t a Conservative — And That’s a Good Thing,” Frank Cannon comes close to the mark.
Trump, he writes, “would more accurately be described as a ‘radical anti-progressive’” who is “at war with the progressives who have co-opted American civil society.” Moreover, Trump “is willing to go further than any other previous conservative to defeat them.”
Many “elite conservatives,” writes Cannon, believe the “bedrock institutions” they treasure are “not subject to the same infectious politicization to which the rest of society has succumbed.”
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This belief is naive, says Cannon, “ridiculous on its face.”
“Radical anti-progressives” recognize that many institutions — the academy, media, entertainment and the courts — have been co-opted and corrupted by the left. And as these institutions are not what they once were, they no longer deserve the respect they once had.
Yet most conservatives will only go so far in criticizing these institutions. We see this in how cradle Catholics find it difficult to criticize the Church in which they were birthed and raised, despite scandals and alterations in the liturgy and doctrine.
Trump sees many institutions as fortresses lately captured by radical progressives that…