This piece is part of a symposium appearing in a special issue of National Review. Click here to read EPPC Hertog Fellow Yuval Levin’s contribution to the symposium.
In December, Public Policy Polling found that 36 percent of Republican voters for whom choosing the candidate “most conservative on the issues” was the top priority said they supported Donald Trump. We can talk about whether he is a boor (“My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body”), a creep (“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her”), or a louse (he tried to bully an elderly woman, Vera Coking, out of her house in Atlantic City because it stood on a spot he wanted to use as a garage). But one thing about which there can be no debate is that Trump is no conservative—he’s simply playing one in the primaries. Call it unreality TV.
Put aside for a moment Trump’s countless past departures from conservative principle on defense, racial quotas, abortion, taxes, single-payer health care, and immigration. (That’s right: In 2012, he derided Mitt Romney for being too aggressive on the question, and he’s made extensive use of illegal-immigrant labor in his serially bankrupt businesses.) The man has demonstrated an emotional immaturity bordering on personality disorder, and it ought to disqualify him from being a mayor, to say nothing of a commander-in-chief.
Trump has made a career out of egotism, while conservatism implies a certain modesty about government. The two cannot mix.
Who, except a pitifully insecure person, needs constantly to insult and belittle others including, or perhaps especially, women? Where is the center of gravity in a man who in May denounces those who “needlessly provoke” Muslims and in December proposes that we (“temporarily”) close our borders to all non-resident Muslims? If you don’t like a Trump position, you need only wait a few months, or sometimes days. In September, he advised that we “let Russia fight ISIS.” In November, after the Paris massacre, he discovered that “we’re going to have to knock them out and knock them out hard.” A pinball is more predictable.
Is Trump a liberal? Who knows? He played one for decades — donating to liberal causes and politicians (including Al Sharpton) and inviting Hillary Clinton to his (third) wedding. Maybe it was all a game, but voters who care about conservative ideas and principles must ask whether his recent impersonation of a conservative is just another role he’s playing. When a con man swindles you, you can sue—as many embittered former Trump associates who thought themselves ill used have done. When you elect a con man, there’s no recourse.
— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.