Someone once defined a liberal as someone who does not know how to take up his own side in an argument. By that definition, Trump is certainly no liberal. He only knows how to take up his own side in an argument and, depending on the day, it could be various sides of the same argument.
But if conservatism is characterized by a thought-through set of bedrock principles that emphasize personal responsibility and limited government, Trump isn’t really that either. His views on tariffs, making conservatives unhappy, and his views on deregulation, making them very happy, cannot be easily placed in the same box.
So what is he? My friend Peter Hitchens recently called him an oaf, but that doesn’t really capture the full gaudiness of what we have here. I do understand the oaf line-of-argument, and I get why someone would say that, but over the last year Trump has been getting far too much of what he wanted for that to be the result of some Forrest Gump-like luck.
Some people have noticed that Trump is not stupid, and that after the dust settles from his latest outrage, he is usually sitting in the chair he asked for, and the people who think he’s an idiot are not sitting in the chairs they asked for, and so how come is that? The diehard fans who notice this have taken to attributing multi-level layers of genius to him, saying that he is way ahead of everybody, playing 4-D chess. But I don’t think that’s it either.
The world is currently run by fools who aren’t oafs. The ruling elites, all of them, have been playing 4-D chess for fifty years, or, failing that, pretending to play 4-D chess. The pretensions to intellectual sophistication are so thick that you could cut that ego-fog up and use it all for cinder blocks. So here they are, playing 4-D chess, and along comes Donald Trump, the populist, playing checkers.