Trump and Social Authoritarian Conservatives

by Ryan

In response to Michael A. LaFerrara’s Principled Perspectives

I don’t find much to cheer about in Donald Trump. But one positive aspect of Trump is that he is not a social/religious conservative. He’ll pay lip service to the GOP’s social conservatism when need be. But he has no burning desire to push the conservative social agenda. I didn’t listen to Trump’s acceptance speech. But my understanding is that he didn’t once mention God or abortion. That’s very telling for a Republican nominee—and for me, a positive sign.

Michael A. LaFerrara, September 21, 2016

And a comment by Mike Kevitt

If Ms. H. Clinton is elected, we won’t ever get the benefits of a Republican Party that is consistently for liberty. Within 4 yrs., all rights, including the right of speech, will be gone, we’ll have a centralized economy, and Federal jackboots will be out on the streets of every city. The people, Americans, will submit and bend like willows, hordes of them eagerly, not just in resignation. If Trump is elected, THEN people will rise up and assert themselves, violently. People can’t be forced to be free, but they can certainly be LEFT free, without ‘guidance’ (orders) from ‘governmental authorities’. They’ll rebel against that, hankering for orders. That there will be enough people appreciative of a major party that is consistently for liberty to prevail is questionable.

Mike Kevitt, September 21, 2016

Just read that comment from Mike Kevitt. It looks like a Democrat is going to take away all of our rights again! I’m not sure what it means to lose them several times over, but it sounds pretty bad. Maybe we should write a few more constitutions just in case.

Mr. LaFerrara is making a few dubious assumptions:

  1. That the GOP’s essential Christian base will continue to support it, fueled perhaps entirely by opposition to Democrats, if it continues to put up people like Trump or people who don’t care about Christian issues. Perhaps he expects independent voters and some Democrats to start voting for the GOP if it drops Christianity from its platform, but it’s not clear that that group’s numbers would make up for the loss of the first group.
  2. Either that Trump supporters are not all that motivated by Christian issues (obviously false) or that Trump, by being elected or merely by being the GOP’s nominee, will somehow make those people care less about Christian issues.
  3. That becoming less socially authoritarian means that the GOP will accept abortion. The trouble with seeing abortion as a “social authoritarian” issue is that, for many (most?) people who oppose it, it is a matter of protecting human life rather than a matter of imposing arbitrary religious rules. None of us would say that laws against murder are socially authoritarian (at least not in a bad way), so it doesn’t make much sense to expect people who regard abortion as murder to see it that way either.

Furthermore, the libertarian notion of social authoritarianism is so broad as to encompass virtually any policy that aims to protect individuals or our society in the long run through forced or incentivized changes to behavior, even if that policy is based on shared, non-religious beliefs. That’s just not a very popular position.

Finally, even if Trump somehow improves the GOP in the way Mr. LaFerrara imagines, he will have also done harm by encouraging the “deplorables.” It is unclear if Mr. LaFerrara finds them to be good company, but I certainly wouldn’t want them.

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