CONSERVATIVE TRADITION AND TRUMP’S NEW AMERICA DISCOURSE

  The enlightenment movement brought new developments along with different understandings and perspectives. While the Enlightenment movement progressed in parallel with the developments in bourgeois society, its effect on individuals was related to the perception of consciousness and reality. Different ideas were produced against the designs of the universe and humans, which are the products of enlightenment. At this point, the foundations of the conservative tradition were laid against the change-based thoughts offered by enlightenment. The idea of ​​conservatism, which was shaped for the first time with the criticisms developed by Edmund Burke against the French Revolution and brought to the political literature, defends its own protectionist values ​​that are against the idea of ​​enlightenment. This conservative approach of conservatism is shaped around the structure of organic society, traditions, and continuing values. Conservatism, which has taken an attitude towards the discourses of equality, freedom, and fraternity brought by the French Revolution, has also opposed to the order that the revolution has brought and promised, and has built its philosophical base on this posture. However, this rigid, unchangeable, and normative values ​​of conservative understanding have become flexible and reinterpreted with the unstoppable feature of global change and globalization. The conservative tradition, expressed in a bilateral distinction, such as Anglo-Saxon conservatism and Continental European conservatism, has emerged as conservatism in the history of the USA and has survived with its changes. These changes took on a new dimension with the President of the USA, Donald Trump, in the 58th term, and were felt again.

  Along with globalization and changing balances between countries, the phenomenon of power in international relations has started to emerge. The emergence and changes of power phenomena became unipolar, especially with the collapse of the Soviets during and after the cold war. This unipolar order is taking shape around the USA. As a result of these powerful waves with the USA in its center, it uses this power shaped around the USA to reach even the remotest parts of the world. The foreign policy of the USA, which changed after the September 11 attacks, became open to re-evaluation with the signatures and different applications of Donald Trump, who won the 58th term presidential elections. Trump’s practices and discourses that foresee a change in all areas seem to be the harbinger of new practices. Trump’s conservative tradition is the source of the reactions to Trump, unilateral implementation efforts independent from the outside world, and the fact that these practices serve only US identity in a single center.

  To evaluate Trump’s discourses in a conservative framework, a more detailed examination of the roots and origin of conservatism is required. As a result of this examination, the difference between the conservatism concepts in continental Europe and the USA and its results dating back to the day can be more clearly noticed. Prepared with the French Revolution and its bright ideas, the Declaration of Human and Citizens’ Rights creates a new individual-centered movement in the fields such as free people, equal living conditions, national sovereignty, freedom of belief and worship, and John Locke’s liberalist is the foundation of this movement. It aims to put its approach as a basis. However, this expectation turned into chaos by being inconclusive with the interventions of the internal and external forces. This transformation progressed in a way that confirms the thesis that “Political revolutions take place as a result of the excessive demands and methods of the administrators and they are usually dragged to an unforeseen more extreme point” (Sander, 2007: 166). Although the facts deviated from normative values ​​over time, the Enlightenment tradition has had an impact on the whole of Europe. This change, which started with the liberalist mindset, was responded with a different political view. This view is a conservative understanding that resists the change and expresses its commitment to tradition, organic society, and authority. According to Heywood, in conservative understanding, man is a limited, dependent, and security-seeking entity, acting with a limited mind while maintaining selfishness and moral corruption at their own values ​​(2012: 100). Accordingly, this should be an authority that limits the mind.  In the United States, the conservative perspective has determined the attitude towards the individual and humanity as a community that has to be controlled and obliged to be controlled based on this authoritarian approach, and the United States has addressed its authoritarian and guiding attitude towards humanity that is outside its borders. Within its borders, it has always used its protective values ​​for its citizens. Outside its borders, the rest of the world has been expressed as a mass that must always be directed to the United States. Authority should be the US itself, while humanity forms a whole that must be governed in the light of conservative values. The conservatism of the USA deviated from the traditional conservative line especially in the cold war period and took a different position towards the new conservative understanding. This new approach of conservative politics has started to become evident since the 1970s. The Republican Party and different groups played a pioneering role in the emergence of the new conservative understanding. The new conservative thought that questions American domestic and foreign policy suggests that the political practices of the USA and the struggle in this context should change. The new conservative groups became more evident, especially in the Reagan and Bush administrations.  It has become a culture to be a hegemon in the US foreign policy all over the world and to be in a position to have a voice in all kinds of developments worldwide.

  The new conservative tradition used democracy and freedom as tools for hegemony to sustain this. The slogan of making America great again used by Trump in election studies is to stop and regain the loss of reputation that started with the Bush-era and continued with the Obama government. Following the presidential elections, Trump gave the signals of the big change in both domestic and foreign policy before he sat in the chair. Trump’s discourses and practices that started shortly after, which are mostly related to foreign policy, attracted more attention and attention than domestic policy. While foreign policy is a phenomenon that is carefully followed by the elite segment and is not felt as much as domestic policy practices, Trump’s moves in foreign policy have made more noise than domestic policy. One of Trump’s approaches to the signals of change in his view of the European Union. Anti-European rhetoric is an indication of anti-Western political existence to the surface of the day and conservative loyalty to the USA. This approach overlaps with the statement that the new conservative thought of the USA is completely different from the European tradition. New conservatives in the US state that religious conservatism is very weak in Europe, and that new conservatism will be weak in terms of religious weakness and its development cannot be realized. In this context, an important link can also be established between religion and new conservatism. Trump showed this link between religion and conservatism by participating in the traditional event called the National Prayer Breakfast, held every year in February in the USA, and the ‘Johnson Law’, which has been valid for nearly 60 years in the country, preventing religious institutions and churches from making political propaganda has announced that it will cancel.  One of the elements that highlight the conservative values ​​of Trump, this example, which reflects the phenomenon of religion, as well as the expressions supporting the religious discourses and religious separations used in the election propaganda. After an armed attack in California on 3 December 2016, 14 people lost their lives and then Trump asked for the temporary blocking of Muslims who wanted to enter the US as immigrants or tourists. According to Trump, the American people are at risk with the presence of immigrants. The border gates should be closed until the threat is fully understood. As one of the similar applications, the project of wall knitting on the Mexican border has been brought up. The walling project to the Mexican border is an actual protectionist policy with the same purpose as other applications. The aim of the wall to be built on the border of Mexico is expressed as the prevention of illegal crossings and smuggling. Trump used racist discourses against immigrants and Islam, signed new decrees to implement the walling project on the Mexican border, and spoke economic sanctions to reduce unemployment rates and increase new jobs in domestic politics.

President Donald Trump hugs the US flag as he arrives to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 2, 2019.
President Donald Trump hugs the US flag as he arrives to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 2, 2019.
 Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

  Factors such as an attitude that ignores individuals and a desire to become hegemon shed light on the recent foreign policy of the USA. At the same time, this point of view where individuals are ignored is the point where enlightenment and the new conservative tradition meet. Conservatism’s perspective on religion, as well as being affected by enlightenment, brings conservatism and nationalism closer together. Cultural nationalism, ethnic nationalism, liberal nationalism, and conservative nationalism melting in the new conservative pot. Therefore, the conservative tradition has evolved from extreme nationalist discourses and approaches to some times, and in some periods it has been overshadowed by religious elements. With the election of Trump, US practices have been expressed publicly and clearly in the eyes of the president, and this attitude contrasted with the usual practices of the United States. Excessiveness and unpredictability in terms of Trump have also been at the center of Trump politics. These practices of Trump point to a profile of leaders trying to protect their country from external threats. This situation can be expressed as protecting country values ​​in the face of the phenomenon of globalization. The USA’s attempt to protect its nationals in a conservative manner is proof that the universal view that has been advocated since enlightenment will be handled within the framework of the new conservative approach. Aiming to protect the US people from all kinds of external threats through protectionist policies, Trump’s practices in a short time caused more confusion and conflicts in domestic politics. The state of separation and conflict among the people of the USA emerged during the Trump era.

REFERENCES:

Goodheart, E. (2019). Conservatism in Trump Time. Society, 56(3), 200-202. doi:10.1007/s12115-019-00355-8

Shenk, T. (2019). Right Privilege: Conservatism in the Age of Trump. Dissent, 66(1), 104-117. doi:10.1353/dss.2019.0017

[Photo] Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/8/18250087/the-reactionary-mind-trump-conservatism-corey-robin

Ekin DURMAZ

Middle East Technical University

Political Science and Public Administration

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