As Donald Trump’s presidency lurches from one controversy to another, more and more traditional conservatives have been alarmed by the president’s conduct.
Although Trump was appealing in 2016 as a right-wing populist, promising to repeal the ‘socialist’ policies of the Obama administration, two years under his rule has left a bad taste in the mouth.
Firstly, the president has repeatedly adopted an authoritarian tone, especially in his continued attacks on the free press. Even Fox News, a staunch defender of Trump and his government, has chastised the administration for its treatment of CNN after one of its reporters was banned from a press conference for merely shouting questions at the president.
His calls for heads of media organisations to be fired and officials blocking the cameras of reporters doing their jobs should worry everyone, not just conservatives, who hold dear their rights under the First Amendment. America was founded on the principles of limited government and individual liberty and Trump’s rhetoric demonstrates a creeping authoritarianism that poses a threat to American freedom and democracy.
Secondly, Trump has shown a total disregard for the national security of the country. On several occasions, Trump has insulted valuable allies and damaged international relations by disclosing confidential information to third parties. All this while cosying up to other like-minded authoritarians and dictators, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Trump’s apparent willingness to believe the president of a rival foreign power over his own intelligence agencies should raise serious concerns not just about his ability to lead but where his allegiances lie and if he has been somehow compromised.
Combine this with comments that have threatened to weaken the NATO alliance and it becomes clear that this president is leaving America exposed to foreign interference and reducing the country’s political capital abroad.
In addition to this, Trump’s disrespect for the rule of law, in particular in relation to the ongoing Russia investigation, shows complete contempt for due process and judicial review. The president’s wish to force the FBI and Department of Justice to do his bidding and turn a blind eye elsewhere is another sign of his tyrannical approach to governance, which poses a real threat to the foundations of American democracy.
All of this combined poses a significant problem for conservative voters. They are currently stuck with a president who is damaging the reputation of the Republican Party and actively damaging American national security and democracy, which risks provoking a blue wave, not only at the mid-term elections but also at the next presidential election.
If conservatives want to save their party from electoral defeat in 2020, they need to wake up the Republican Party by giving them a taste of what could result. If conservative voters chose not to vote in November, it would send a strong signal to the GOP that they cannot rely on the support of a significant portion of their base come the next election with Trump as the nominee.
A rival nominee that better reflects conservative values is the only way to steer the Republican Party from electoral defeat in two years time and to take back control of the party from white supremacists, authoritarians and the far-right, none of which seek to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.