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The Vanishing TraditionPerspectives on American Conservatism$
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Paul Gottfried

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749858

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749858.001.0001

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Trump, Neoconservatives, and the Misrepresentation of the American Founding

Trump, Neoconservatives, and the Misrepresentation of the American Founding

(p.99) 7 Trump, Neoconservatives, and the Misrepresentation of the American Founding
The Vanishing Tradition

Nicholas W. Drummond

Cornell University Press

This chapter evaluates the neoconservative anti-Trumpers who view the Trump presidency as a betrayal of America's founding principles. These detractors have been especially critical of nationalist populism and its rejection of “globalist” policies like free trade, foreign interventionism, and immigration. The chapter argues that neoconservatives misunderstand America's principles as a nation because they have relied heavily on certain sources, starting with the view of the American founding taught by the followers of Leo Strauss. This view overemphasizes Lockean natural rights and the merits of commercial acquisitiveness. Absent from this neoconservative analysis is an appreciation of three tenets of James Madison's political thinking, each of which accords with nationalist populism: civic republicanism, intergenerational duty to ancestors and posterity, and a warning that too much diversity will lead to a plutocratic oppression of society through a politics of divide and conquer. Although neoconservatives may have personal reasons to criticize the presidency of Donald Trump, their argument from the American founding is not particularly convincing.

Keywords:   neoconservative anti-Trumpers, Trump presidency, nationalist populism, neoconservatives, American founding, Leo Strauss, James Madison, diversity, plutocracy, Donald Trump

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