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Donald Trump, George Will, and the Crisis of American Conservatism


If every cloud has a silver lining, we can say that the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump has—whatever his detractors may say—served some useful purposes. Those most critical of Trump speak of his followers as delirious, as if they were in the grip of some dreadful political fever. Nevertheless, a fever can be useful to the extent that it warns us of the underlying disease.

What political diseases has Trump fever brought to light?

First, it has revealed the political errors of those who rule the Republican Party. Here, we may usefully turn to the great political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, famed author of The Prince. Machiavelli was, of course, a frank amoralist (in politics, at least) and therefore an imperfect guide for American conservatives. Still, he was also a very astute observer of human nature. If conservatives cannot embrace Machiavelli’s principles, they still must attend to his all-too accurate account of the facts of political life.

According to Machiavelli, a prince who faces a popular rebellion has proven himself to be an incompetent prince. If he had known his business, he would have been able to keep his people contented.

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