Small government conservatives now have a reason to celebrate.  President Trump has drafted a plan to “drain the swamp” by making major reductions to the size of our federal government.

According to The HillPresident Trump’s plan includes cutting, reducing, or privatizing the following government departments and programs:

  • Departments of Commerce and Energy — reduced funding and other programs eliminated
  • Departments of Transportation, Justice, and State — cuts and eliminations
  • The Corporations for Public Broadcasting — including PBS and NPR —  would be privatized
  • National Endowment for Arts and National Endowment for Humanities — eliminated entirely

Overall, this plan is estimated to save 10.5 trillion across 10 years.

This is important because, historically, “conservatives” have struggled with limiting government.  Even former President Ronald Reagan, who was widely known for promoting limited government, at best had mixed success making cuts.  Reagan did reduce taxes and a cut few government programs.  But at the same time, the federal government did grow under  his watch.  

We can’t conclude conservatives always support limiting government.  If conservatives consistently did, they might be more effective in doing so.

However, this brings us to the following question–what, then, is American conservatism?  Is it an outlook prioritizing a “kind words” approach to politics?  If so President Trump would be disqualified from receiving the conservative label.  After all, there’s more to conservatism than nanny manners and being politically correct, right?

Perhaps American conservatism goes back to European-Burkean roots.  Burke’s brand of conservatism, widely construed, focuses on the following elements:

  • Rejecting abstract principles as forming the basis of morality and politics
  • Government based on and mirroring divine and papal order
  • Acknowledging religion as the kind of experience best suited to providing human happiness

These elements don’t fit our modern use of the word “conservative.”  In fact, few people aside from college professors think of conservatism in these Burkean terms.  However, if conservatism revolves around limiting the power of government, then President Trump is in position to be as conservative of a president as there ever has been.  

The shame is that other Republicans haven’t come to a similar realization.  Instead, many choose to overemphasize President Trump’s alleged status as a non-conservative, and are unresponsive to President Trump’s push toward limiting government.  But then again, maybe limiting government isn’t conservative after all.