The news media continue to refer to Republicans under Trump as "conservative." This is not only wrong, it is Orwellian. It is like saying love is hate, peace is war, freedom is slavery.
Every time some commentator uses "conservative" this way, it grants a false label of normalcy to a reckless, fanatic movement opposed to just about everything that conservatism stands for.
All quotes below, unless otherwise attributed, are from The Conservative Mind by Russel Kirk (1).
First of all, the GOP under Trump is a swamp of fawning toadies. To epitomize this point, the RNC did not have a platform this year at its convention. Instead, it spent a week worshipping their king-with-fake-gold-hair. The programmatic propaganda was worthy of North Korea.
A key premise of everything I say below is that Trump is a narcissistic cult leader.
Now, consider four pillars of conservatism: (1) freedom of the individual; (2) the importance of custom, convention and prescription; (3) the importance of prudence when effecting large scale social change; (4) belief in a natural law, accessible through religion and which "rules society as well as conscience." (p.8)
These are absolutely fundamental. Without them, you cannot be a conservative. End of story.
Let's check Trump and his fellow quislings along these scales...
American conservatives want to minimize government to maximize individual liberty (2).
However, Matthew C. MacWilliams makes a strong case that Trump's followers are authoritarian:
Roughly 40 percent of Americans tend to favor authority, obedience and uniformity over freedom, independence and diversity. (3)
In the current social climate, further exacerbated by the demagog-in-chief, this means about 40% of Americans are ready to accept him as a dictator, as long as he advances their prejudiced nostalgia (White, patriarchal, heteronormative ...)
So much for freedom. Moving on... (sorry, I have little time)
(2) The importance of custom, convention and prescription
For conservatives, "Custom, convention and old prescription [a body of established law] are checks upon both man's anarchic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power." (p.9)
Trump is shredding the USA's democratic traditions and trouncing our Constitution. He says Article II gives him the power to do whatever he wants. He violates the Emoluments Clause with wanton impunity. Etc.
So much for custom. Off to the next stop on our philosophical journey ...
(3) The importance of prudence or caution
Conservatives believe that "hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration." Kirk furthermore writes that, "a statesman's chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence." (p.9)
However, Trump is transforming our country, and the world, at a fulgurant pace. In little over three years, he has crippled our international alliances, pulled out of key Treaties, imposed a chaotic cascade of tariffs, disparaged and contradicted our Constitution, and much more. Norms and traditions are being murdered by the dozens, maybe even hundreds.
All of this has created strife and upheaval, magnified by his incompetence at dealing with the pandemic, racial tensions, global warming, immigration, trade, etc.
Furthermore, one of his central strategies is to stoke hate and division. So much for social change through careful deliberation. His modus operandi is violence.
If prudence is a chief virtue, then recklessness, its diametric counterpart, is a chief anti-virtue and Trump's calling card.
Indeed, Trump shows "Contempt for tradition," which is one of the qualities that conservatives assign to their enemies, the "radicals." (p.10)
(4) The importance of both religion (natural law) and conscience
Kirk writes that, for conservatives, "Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems." (p.8)
However, Trump's behavior is neither religious nor moral. He lies openly and continuously. He exudes greed, selfishness and braggadocio. He shows no loyalty and yet demands loyalty. He arrogates to himself all authority, and does so in querulous, petty, cruel, vindictive ways. He praises his own incompetence, calls it "perfect" even though, concerning the pandemic, it has resulted in the unnecessary death of over a hundred thousand citizens.
He claims constantly to admire dictators. Their raw military and police strength--the strength to seize and control the government by force. He shows no concern for human rights.
As a side note, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump argues strongly that Trump is a "malignant narcissist," a combination of narcissist and sociopath, who does not possess a conscience.
His own niece has written a book saying that he is the most dangerous man in the world (Too Much and Never Enough)
It is absolutely obvious that Trump is not a conservative. The large majority of Republican leaders are his bootlickers and apparatchiks, with no platform of their own, except Trump--and so they are not conservatives either.
Not only is it a misnomer to refer to Republicans as conservatives, it is illogical. The flat out opposite of the truth. At present, no Republican should be accorded the title of conservative unless they specifically and vehemently denounce our wannabe dictator.
If the media continues to use "conservative" as a label for Trump and his toadies, it cloaks them in a pretty lie and gives them a big PR boost.
After all, if Trump is surrounded by "conservatives," then he must be prudent, moral, freedom-loving, and respectful of tradition. Right? How else would he earn their adulation?
No. Please stop. Trump is an authoritarian. His followers are authoritarian. Refer to them as such.
And make clear to viewers and readers what "authoritarian" means. An authoritarian is someone who tends to "favor authority, obedience and uniformity over freedom, independence and diversity."
DO. NOT. CALL. REPUBLICANS. CONSERVATIVE.
(1) Kirk uses the sexist term "man" to refer to humanity. Rather than correct all quotes, I do so here.