President Donald Trump was not born in the conservative movement, but he is doing conservative things, says Lee Edwards, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government.
Edwards, a longtime conservative and historian of the conservative movement, told LifeZette on Tuesday that Trump is one of the good conservative guys, even though he was never a “movement conservative.”
“Trump tapped into the populist strain, which has been part of the conservative movement,” said Edwards in an interview with LifeZette.
Edwards said former President Ronald Reagan tapped into populism in 1980 when he aligned with Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. The Tea Party is another example of populism, Edwards noted.
In the 2016 presidential race, Trump was able to appeal to both religious believers and Tea Party conservatives.
Edwards’ remarks on Trump’s conservatism are notable, as some of Trump’s biggest critics have used Trump’s relatively new conservatism against him.
Recently, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tried to make a conservative case against Trump in his book, “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.” The book’s title recalled Barry Goldwater’s 1960 tome, “The Conscience of a Conservative.”
But Flake found little traction and announced his retirement on October 24, even though he was only in his first term. Flake’s seat is up for grabs in the 2018 midterm elections.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also said Trump was not a “real” conservative in the 2016 presidential primaries. While no one came closer to catching Trump than Cruz, Cruz lost the GOP presidential nomination to Trump.
Trump went on to pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his Republican running mate. Pence is a movement conservative, and helped Trump consolidate his Republican base.
Still, a large number of conservative Republicans joined the Never-Trump movement, and did not vote for Trump a year ago. The Never-Trumpers included journalists William Kristol and George Will. (Edwards noted he voted for Trump.)
But even outside the intransigent Never-Trump faction, many speculate that at heart, Trump is not a true conservative. Former House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told Politico this week that Trump is not a conservative or a Republican, but a populist at heart. (Boehner voted for Trump.)
Trump’s actions show otherwise. To the pleasant surprise of conservatives like Edwards, Trump took to the conservative agenda after Inauguration Day. Edwards said the two big accomplishments he has noticed so far are the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and deregulation.
One of the first things Trump did was to approve two oil pipelines that former President Barack Obama stalled or rejected: Keystone XL and Dakota Access. Trump also said he would cut two regulations for every one he added.
The Gorsuch appointment was also a big success with conservatives, Edwards said. Trump had stuck to his promise to pick from a list of conservative jurists that The Federalist Society had compiled.
Edwards also said that so far he is not impressed with the Trump critics who suggest he was aided by Russian interference in the 2016 general election. On Monday, the Justice Department indicted three former Trump campaign aides, but the charges did not mention any wrongdoing by Trump. Most were financial in nature related to Manafort's work for Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected president of Ukraine in 2010 and was forced out in 2014, more than two years before Manafort started working on the Trump campaign.
"So far what we have seen has not added up to a smoking gun," said Edwards. "It's not a pea shooter."
Edwards, 85, is currently promoting his latest book, "Just Right: A Life in Pursuit of Liberty." The book chronicles his work for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, and his friendship with former President Ronald Reagan.
It's published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Last Modified: November 1, 2017, 7:41 am