One of the common complaints about President Trump from the right is that he is not a “true conservative”. By this they mean to say that Trump, through his emphasis on an “America First” foreign policy and appeal to the working class, breaks with 30 years of American neoconservative values that have defined the Republican party and the conservative movement since Reagan. And they’re completely right– Donald Trump isn’t an “American Conservative” because “American Conservatives” are not conservatives, because conservative doesn’t actually mean a damn thing.
One thing that has happened to the political left is the massive split between classical liberals and progressives. Each of these distinct ideologies have core values which underpin their views and actions. For Progressives, this underlying value is equality while for liberals it’s individual liberty. And of course if you ask most American self-identified conservatives they’ll also say individual liberty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to click with most conservatives that they are actually liberal and that any sort of American conservatism that links itself to the Constitution is going to be liberal.
America was founded primarily on classical liberal principles and the founding fathers were children of that classical liberalism and the Enlightenment. And as much as we can argue that America was also founded on Christian principles, it is clear that Individual liberty was the highest value the founders held. And while this may make me a traitor, I don’t agree with them. And I don’t think you can be a true “conservative” and agree with them entirely either. If we are supposed to be distinct from liberals, who increasingly do cite the founders as their inspiration and as a basis for their secular/liberal America, we seem to have two options: accept a basis on individual liberty and join the classical liberals to create a large centrist political ideology or discover solid principles of our own.
For me, an ideological label that I think fits perfectly is not conservatism, but Traditionalism. Before I go into what I define traditionalism as I think I need to first explain why I think conservatism just doesn’t work as a label anymore. As we see throughout history conservatism has no set values or principles, it just seems to act as the opposition party to liberals and progressives and thus keeps changing its own principles and values in increasingly desperate attempts to stay relevant. I mean, to be perfectly frank here, conservatives are losers. I can’t rightly name a single social issue that conservatives have won on, or a case where they prevented lasting growth in the size of government. Again, ultimately my problem is that conservative doesn’t actually refer to an ideology but only a set of ever changing values and principles.
So how does Traditionalism differ and why should we use it? Well, much like Liberalism and Progressivism, Traditionalism actually has solid principles underpinning it. For Traditionalism the highest value for society is not liberty or equality, but morality. It’s an ideology based first and foremost on the belief that morality is objective, that good and evil are real concepts and society should be ordered not on what makes men free or equal, but on what makes them good and ultimately this will lead to a healthy degree of liberty and equality because as Edmund Burke said, “Liberty doesn’t exist in the absence of morality.”
So while we can place a lot of value in the Constitution and the founders, traditionalists recognize that they aren’t sufficient to have a functioning society; there needs to be traditions, values, and morals before something like the Constitution will have any meaning. And for us in the west this morality of course comes ultimately from Christianity. Essentially this means I put the Cross before the Constitution and Jesus before Jefferson.
Now I know a lot of readers, even if they agree with this, considering themselves Christian first and American second are afraid that the progressives and liberals will call us religious extremists and fascists for wanting to have Christian principles uphold society, but to that I say, I don’t care and neither should you. They will call us that no matter what we do so there is no use in trying to placate them. And besides I would rather be criticized by others for what I stood for than by myself for what I didn’t.
I think what still distinguishes self-described conservatives from liberals consistently is social issues. And I believe that social conservatism is essentially traditionalism. And I think adopting Traditionalism it gives us a fighting chance of actually seeing success when arguing for say the traditional family or the importance of Christianity. They need to be seen as solid ideas with a consistent and universal ideological basis. We need to be a countercultural movement. And that can’t happen when we are still thought of as a fat radio-host yelling that it’s not the 1950s anymore.
John Bartlett is a Traditionalist, Evangelical, and a Monarchist. He mainly does response videos and videos discussing various topics. However, unlike the vast majority of channels like his, he is not an atheist, he is not a left-leaning liberal and he is not an anti-sjw, He prefers to stand FOR something other than against it. You can listen to him on YouTube. Also, follow him on Twitter.