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Is Trump Conservative, and does it really matter?

Updated on September 3, 2015
RJ Schwartz profile image

I'm on the right side of politics and enjoy a good debate on government, the economy, and the rights of the people.

Trump Characterized as Not Conservative

With the beginning of the Presidential race each cycle, the subject comes up on which candidates are conservative, or which are more conservative than the others. It’s an attempt to show differentiation in the field and hopefully woo voters for their support. The last few months have been very different on the Republican side of the ledger, simply because there are several non-establishment candidates in the race, and despite the attempts of the establishment to sabotage them, they are all doing quite well in the early polls. With Donald Trump holding a commanding lead right now, the establishment is uncomfortable, mainly because they cannot control him, but also because their chosen group of potential candidates keeps losing ground. So, the narrative of Trump not being a conservative is making its way around the band on AM radio talk shows, in the press, and on-line. Interested in a greater understanding of their logic behind these statements, I found myself reading and digesting the opinions of many and decided that maybe a good old fashioned fact-check might be in order.


One popular radio host had nothing positive to say about Donald Trump, citing that Trump deviates from traditional conservative principles. By failing to talk about the Constitution, publically express his wish for a smaller government, and the fact that he is arrogant seemed enough for that host to say Trump wasn’t as conservative. Another newscaster gave Trump thumbs down because he was too outspoken and not part of the political bubble we know as Washington. We’ve seem commentators look back into things Donald Trump did in the early 1980’s to gather ammunition for their anti-Trump cause, calling him a chameleon, flip-flopper, and a host of other buzz words that denigrate him. They cite abortion issues, healthcare, gun control, and the fact that he is a successful Capitalist as reasons why he cannot be conservative. And lest we forget, there is the shot across the bow about the four businesses he had to file bankruptcies for – that means everything, but the hundreds of successful ones mean nothing.


Some of the other candidates have doubled down on the sentiments held by the media, calling him out as not being “true conservative,” as if that is somehow different than just regular conservative. It’s almost scandalous that he actually had a member of the Democratic Party at his wedding, and that too makes him not conservative in the eyes of many. And then there is the religious angle and its one we often see rear its ugly head into the political arena, when in this author’s opinion should be left on the sideline. The other candidates on the lower end of the polling numbers are making speculative statements about what they thing Mr. Trump will do, and that somehow makes him not conservative. This should cause a chuckle with most realists, since there are very few of us who can predict the next move of the Donald.


They call him xenophobic because he is taking a hard line on immigration law. He’s been hammered because he likes to share the facts that he is successful and wealthy. He has been on both sides of the abortion issue. He is everything that opposes political correctness and he speaks his mind, unscripted and without apology. He is firm in his beliefs that America comes first, period. And the list goes on and on and on about the reasons why he isn’t capable of being called a conservative…..or are they all wrong?


Defining Conservatism

Facts are facts and definitions are definitions, so keeping on task, I consulted some texts. Merriam-Webster defines conservatism as, “believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society: relating to or supporting political conservatism.” The Free Dictionary has a broader definition, “Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.” Google defines conservatism as, “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.” Dictionary.com defines conservatism as, “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.” There are more definitions out there, but the obvious thing that surfaces when we look at this group of credible sources is that none of the things the media or the other candidates are using to brand Donald Trump as not conservative show up in these definitions.


The numerous political blogs and so-called conservative leaning websites have a more expanded ideological definition about what conservatism is, but all seem to agree on several topics. Conservatism in firmly anchored in preserving the existing traditional ways, maintaining a stable capitalistic economy with little governmental interference, adhering to the existing laws and the Constitution, and embracing change but usually slowly with plenty of debate and planning. From the surface, this lengthy definition conjures up a picture of America, its founding fathers, and its growth from a group of colonies to the world leader we are today.

Barry Goldwater Speaks

I’m not a big fan of Barry Goldwater, but he made a quote that needs to be brought into this discussion, even if it’s discounted.

Today's so-called 'conservatives' don't even know what the word means. They think I've turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That's a decision that's up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It's not a conservative issue at all." -- Barry Goldwater

Analysis of Candidate Trump

So using the tools at hand, let’s review the candidate, who just today passed another milestone in his quest for the nomination with 30% National support in the latest Monmouth University survey. Donald Trump is a capitalist and he has openly campaigned using the slogan “Make America Great Again,” and has spoken at length of creating jobs and better lives for Americans. Call me crazy, but sounds like someone who espouses a maintaining a stable capitalistic economy. His hard line stance on illegal immigration, which most American citizens embrace, is both relevant and necessary in supporting a healthy economy and more importantly what he speaks about is adhering to the law. Illegal immigration is a criminal act first and foremost, yet our system rewards those who break our laws and it inflames the citizen population and legal immigrant population. It diverts American resources away from Americans and puts a strain on our economy. It’s the law of the land, yet he is somehow deemed not conservative for wanting to follow the rules.


Now would be a good time to introduce the 14th Amendment, since it’s become the main source of debate in the immigration discussion. The complete and unadulterated text identifies that citizenship is bestowed on a person born or naturalized on American soil that are Subject to the jurisdiction thereof the United States – illegal immigrants hold citizenship from their native countries which have jurisdiction over them, which is the official power to make legal decisions and judgements over those people. We can use the example of one of the many treaties which establish rules between countries as a tool to prove the above statement. Since 1861, there has been an Extradition Treaty with Mexico in place which establishes the rules for criminals from either country to be delivered back to their home country for justice. This is tied to the native citizenship of the person, which de facto puts the illegal immigrants who come from Mexico as not being subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore ineligible for American citizenship.

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution

SECTION. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

SECTION. 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

SECTION. 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

SECTION. 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

SECTION. 5. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

One Man's Opinion

Donald Trump has been called out because he once supported abortion, yet most would have to agree that abortion is legal and has been since 1973. Over 40 years this has been law, yet somehow the people who call themselves conservative and Donald Trump as not conservative seem like they are on the wrong side of the ruling. Perhaps because those so-called conservatives believe that their superior morals and religious affiliations give them higher standing than the established law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.


As far as preserving existing ways, this is so broad of a definition that is allows many people to insert their opinion into the narrative. Religion has been a part of America since it was founded and so many think it’s a cornerstone of conservatism. A two party political system has been in place for many years and that also somehow gets intertwined with the narrative. A third party or independent candidate is looked upon scornfully in any race for public office. Small government, which was once the norm is a thing of the past, yet the so-called conservative candidates we’ve seen over time have done nothing to reduce the size of government and have been just as adept at adding new regulations as the Democrats. Spending on pork laden projects and duplicity in the departments has been obvious for decades with no one candidate actually turning the faucet off and scaling back on un-needed staff. From the early comments made by Trump would lead us to believe that he intends to run America like a business should he get elected, which would reduce the waste, eliminate underperforming people and departments, and bring costs down to equalize and starting eliminating the deficit.


What I can see is that Trump has a fairly Conservative approach to his candidacy, yet he continues to be hammered because he brings a different style to the table. He can’t be bought, coerced, or silenced and more Americans each day are joining his swelling ranks. When both parties and the media are relentless about trying to find any chink in his armor, then it becomes obvious that we should be paying attention to Donald Trump, who in this author’s viewpoint is more conservative than he’s given credit for.

Final Thought

Now, we’ll be spending the next year hearing all types of discussions around this topic, but I’d like to leave you with one last statement. Donald Trump and the other candidates are vying for the nomination of the REPUBLICAN PARTY, not the CONSERVATIVE PARTY, so why should anyone’s level of conservatism matter?

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  • Denys Picard profile image

    Denys Picard 10 months ago from Near Montreal, QC

    I would contribute concerning abortion: the debate in itself has to do with the interpretation of when the fetus is considered being Life as cited both in the Constitution (due process of law) and the declaration of Independence (inalienable). As soon as Life is acknowledge, the fetus becomes protected by the unalienable right to life, and cannot be deprived of it without due process. The fetus has not committed any offense, he cannot be deprived of Life. When does Life begins has never been determined by the Supreme Court yet. But when the fetus is Life the carrying mother has a mandate and the fetus is independent of the mother body in terms of unalienable rights, even if he still lies in her. The debate is over this; feminists will argue, as did Hillary Clinton during debate 3, I believe, that Life does not start prior to birth, while Trump expressed otherwise. Considering that Life does not start prior to birth is annulling any and all rights of the sperm donor but responsibilities persist for 9 months or so, rights deferred until birth. The reason the debate goes on, is specifically because Roe Vs Wade is not Law of the Land, because it is still divisive and a challenged issue both for the Court and a Greater part of the Country. Laws can be challenged, as long as they are with consistency, they are not Canon, and if so are not yet Law of the Land.

    As for the debate on illegal immigration, the point at hand is in the definition of naturalized and US persons. The tenant of pro illegal immigration hold that the scope of naturalized extends the status to any person on American Soil. I believe this has never been tested at the Supreme Court. A US person (is usually understood as someone legally on US territory, tourists for example) gives citizenship by birth on US soil.

  • letstalkabouteduc profile image

    McKenna Meyers 2 years ago from Bend, OR

    Yes, it seems conservatives can't agree on what conservatives believe so how are the rest of us supposed to know! I find it interesting that Trump, thrice-married, has huge support among evangelicals. Politics definitely does make strange bedfellows! Terrific hub!

  • bradmasterOCcal profile image

    bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

    The trouble with politics is that everyone wants to be labeled/ It is these labels that have caused the decline of the US, and its constitution.

    Neither party has the solutions, and both parties oppose each other, leaving them to take the country to the left and right and back, but never forward.

    The states are Red and Blue but to get the country into the black it needs to turn purple.

  • lions44 profile image

    CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

    Great article. In the traditional sense, Trump is not a conservative. He's not my candidate as I'm very uneasy on his immigration stance. My party is doomed in 2016 regardless.

    But your paragraph on the abortion debate was great and echoes something George Will said this morning on the radio. Conservatism is about the rule of law, so how can someone's religious beliefs trump (sorry, can't find a synonym) our laws. On the one hand religious conservatives are rallying around the Kentucky clerk who is breaking the law but at the same time they are damning those that cross into the U.S. illegally. You can't be a conservative and support one lawbreaker, while damning another. Consistency is our hallmark. We are a nation of laws. Shared.