Trumpist populism is defiantly challenging the fundamental tenets and perspectives of every component of the post-1945 conservative coalition . . . In its perspective on free trade, Trumpism deviates sharply from the limited-government, pro-free market philosophy of the libertarians and classical liberals. Despite some ritualistic support for the right to life and religious freedom, Trumpism has shown relatively little interest in the religious, moral, and cultural concerns of the traditionalist and social conservatives. In foreign policy it has harshly criticized the conservative internationalism grounded in the Cold War, as well as the post–Cold War “hard Wilsonianism” and distrust of Putinist Russia espoused by many national security hawks and neoconservatives. What Trumpismhas addressed, loudly and insistently, is the insecurity and disorientation that large numbers of conservatives now feel about conditions at home and abroad. . . .
In these stormy circumstances, it would be foolish to prophesy the outcome. Suffice it to say that in all my years as a historian of conservatism I have never observed as much dissension on the Right as there is at present. It is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Now some may see in this cacophony a sign of vitality, and perhaps it will turn out to be. But conservatives, more than ever, need minds as well as voices, arguments as well as sound bites, and civility as well as indignation. In this season of discontent, it might be useful for conservatives of all persuasions to step back from the fray for a moment and ask themselves a simple question: What do conservatives want? . . .
To put it in elementary terms, I believe they want what nearly all conservatives since 1945 have wanted: they want to be free; they want to live virtuous and meaningful lives; and they want to be secure from threats both beyond and within our borders. They want to live in a society whose government respects and encourages these aspirations while otherwise leaving people alone. Freedom, virtue, and safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement as it has developed over the past seventy years. In other words, there is at least a little fusionism in nearly all of us. It is something to build on. But it will take time.