Ironically, not all conservatives are happy with the prospect of a President Donald Trump.
Alarmed by the realization that Trump has a credible shot at winning the GOP presidential nomination, the editors of National Review have authored an editorial inveighing “Against Trump,”1 and they’ve compiled denunciations of the wildly popular candidate by conservative luminaries from Glenn Beck to Thomas Sowell.2 Although these commentators speak at length about why conservatives and Republicans should dump Trump, they neglect to acknowledge that the conservative movement’s contempt for ideas and ideology over the past half century is what made Trump’s ascension possible.
The “Against Trump” editorial rejects the candidate as “a philosophically unmoored opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.”3 Jonah Goldberg’s National Review article “No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative” argues that Trump’s past public statements contradict conservative views on issues such as abortion and immigration.4 “Conservatives,” Goldberg claims, “have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter,” whereas none of that matters to Trump or his supporters.5 National Review editor Rich Lowry says Trump cannot be conservative because “If you truly are conservative, you believe in ideas and principles; it’s not just attitudes.”6
But do conservatives genuinely embrace ideas and principles? History shows they do not. From the middle of the 20th century onward, the modern conservative movement has explicitly rejected any affiliation with a system of ideas or an ideology. Russell Kirk—widely regarded as the godfather of modern conservatism—insisted that “conservatism is the negation of ideology.”7 Contra Lowry’s claim that conservatism is about ideas and principles, not just attitudes, Kirk explained that conservatism is precisely about a particular attitude and not about any system of ideas—the latter of which Kirk equated with dogma: “The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata.”8
Following in that vein, Daniel J. Flynn, a longtime contributor to National Review, penned an entire book, titled Intellectual Morons, denigrating the very idea of adhering to a principled system of thought. “Ideology deludes, inspires dishonesty, and breeds fanaticism,” says Flynn.9 . . .