In the era of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, there seems to be no such thing as principled conservatism. Long-hallowed conservative tenets such as budget balance, states’ rights, and free markets, to name just three, have given way to enlarged deficits driven by tax cuts, opportunistic federal pre-emption of liberal state and city policies, and Russian-style klepto-capitalism.
There was also a time when at least some conservatives were skeptical of costly foreign adventures and massive military buildups. That’s gone, too.
Any shred of principle has been sacrificed to defending Trump, whatever he does—a feat that is hard to reconcile with any sort of principle, since you don’t know what he will do from one day to the next. The absence of principled conservatism becomes more ominous as Trump’s behavior becomes ever more flagrantly impeachable.
One exception worth looking at is the magazine The American Conservative. Yes, they take some positions that would make a good liberal cringe. But they are willing to challenge the abuses of klepto-capitalism and to express some skepticism about Trump’s behavior and his bizarre military adventures.
There is a debate worth having with conservatives about what markets can and cannot be trusted to do. But defending the efficiency of markets is not the same as excusing markets rigged by corruption. If we are ever to regain common ground in this country, a good place to begin would be by reclaiming first principles from sheer opportunism.