Trump thinks conservatism means 'conserving your wealth'

In the latest debate, Donald Trump made it clear, once again, that not only he is not conservative, but he has absolutely no idea what conservatism is.

When asked to define conservative, Trump, who usually gives expansive answers, managed to speak for  less than 30 seconds before running out of ammo.  His answer was that "Conservatism means ... to conserve ... your wealth".

That's not what conservatism is.  A two-year transfer student into Wharton College (with an uncle in MIT) should be able to give a better answer than that.  Marco Rubio, perspiring like a fire hydrant, nonetheless came closer to the mark with his canned answer to the same question: "Conservatism means limited government, free enterprise, and a strong national defense."  And he (or whoever prepared him with that answer) is right.  Conservatism is about advocating the liberty of the individual and preventing the government from encroaching on it.  Conservatism is about protecting private property rights and giving businesses the opportunity to grow without the stranglehold of regulation.  It's also about protecting our country with a strong national defense.  And, although it didn't occur to Marco or his debate prep team, it's also about adhering to what's in the Constitution.

But Donald Trump didn't raise any of these points.

But this will not hurt him, because Trump's supporters, by and large, are not conservatives.  It seems as if a reason that he underperformed in Iowa was that he was competing with Marco Rubio for presumably more moderate voters, and when Marco Rubio surged, it was at Trump's expense.

If Trump supporters are not conservative, what are they?  Well, polls have shown they are likely to be less educated than supporters of other candidates, but that doesn't really get to ideology.

Talk show host Mark Levin calls them "agrarian national populists" because of Trump's support for government regulation and subsidies for ethanol.  While Trump compares himself to Ronald Reagan, Mark Levin compares him to Richard Nixon – not for Nixon's criminality, but for Nixon's ideological flexibility.

This is this populism thing. ... It's not populism. It's pandering. And let me tell you something else – if you believe in our constitutional system and people say they do, the Constitution is not about populism. It's not about pluralism. It's about liberty. You cannot have a majority of people voting whether or not you have unalienable rights. You have unalienable rights no matter what anybody says. They belong to you. Are we supposed to shred it? Are we supposed to give it up? Is that ideological purity, a phrase that everybody is throwing around now? No we want 1980, not 1968 – 1980, not 1968. We're not ideological purists. We're conservatives.

In the past I've compared Trump supporters to "whateverists," the cult of personality around Chairman Mao who approved of whatever Chairman Mao said because they were so enthralled with him.  To a lesser extent, this kind of cult of personality is what draws in Trump supporters and makes issues such as "conservatism" and "constitutionalism" irrelevant.

Exit question: If you support Donald Trump, as long as he secures the border, are you content to let him to whatever he thinks is right, even if that isn't defined before he gets elected?

This article was written by Ed Straker, senior writer of, the conservative news site.

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