Regarding The Maintenance Of American Norms, Was Clinton The More Conservative Option?

Though there were other far right wing politicians who over the past few decades laid the groundwork for the Trump’s popularity and success, he stands a large distance apart from every American leader in his brash extremism. In contrast to loud assertions concerning President Obama’s ideology, that he was a dangerous socialist or simply a far left Democrat, many analysts across much of the political spectrum have detailed the ways his ideas and administration has been akin to moderate Republicanism, especially like that of George Bush Sr., Nixon and Eisenhower. This includes an analysis by Bruce Bartlett, historian, and economic policy adviser to Reagan and Treasury official for George Bush Sr. In 1981, Bartlett famously published a book called, Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action, which provided a framework for supply-side, or “trickle-down” economics. A group called “Republicans for Obama” has argued that their party has gone a long distance from the kinds of GOP policies that have succeed in the past. By many accounts, Clinton is a centrist or moderate, even more so than Obama in several categories. One researcher commented, “President Hillary Clinton will be a conservative Barack Obama and a somewhat liberal George Bush.”

Texas Monthly noted in their article, “The Conservative Case for Hillary Clinton”:

“Clinton is more conservative than Trump on a number of key issues….Clinton, as noted above, is to all accounts less leftist than many national Democrats. Many progressives who voted for Obama in 2008, or Sanders in 2016, would be happy to tell you that, at length. Beyond that, she’s arguably more conservative than Trump, whose political views are to all appearances derived from his personal interests and unruly feelings, and therefore don’t really map onto any kind of philosophical framework. I’ll just give one example, because it’s a dispositively clear example. As a fiscally conservative Texan, I obviously care about a candidate’s views on trade. It is something I’m generally in favor of, and know to be a crucial pillar of the economy of the state in which I live. It used to be the case that most Republicans pretended to hold a similar view of the subject, and so it’s astounding to me that the Republican Party would nominate a candidate who is anti-trade. Trump has, in fact, specifically vowed to ‘beat Mexico at trade,’ which would not only devastate Texas’s economy, it would create the kind of insecurity along our southern border that Dan Patrick has nightmares about. Clinton, by contrast, is generally pro-trade. And conservatives are well within their rights to vote for the candidate whose beliefs are more closely aligned with their own. The Republican Party has abandoned conservative principles. That doesn’t mean conservative voters have to do the same.”

The Atlantic said it simply in their piece, “How Democrats Become the Conservative Party”:

“By any reasonable definition, Democrats are now the more conservative of America’s two parties. They are more interested than Republicans in conserving America’s international relationships, cultural norms, and political and economic institutions as they are.”

They continued:

“For his part, Trump is more apocalyptic than previous GOP insurgents. In 2000, George W. Bush titled his campaign book ‘A Charge to Keep’. In 2012, Mitt Romney titled his ‘No Apology’. Trump’s is titled ‘Crippled America’. In his convention speech, altogether, Trump used the words ‘crisis,’ ‘chaos,’ ‘death,’ ‘destruction,’ and ‘violence’ 19 times. In his 2012 convention speech, Romney didn’t use any of those words even once….There’s something deeper going on. Democrats have become the more conservative party because their voters are more optimistic about America’s long-term trajectory. They are more likely to believe that America is headed in the right direction and thus doesn’t require radical upheaval. A new Pew Research Center poll finds that 81 percent of Trump supporters say life in America is worse ‘for people like you’ than it was 50 years ago. Only 19 percent of Clinton supporters agree. More than two-thirds of Trump supporters say the next generation will be worse off. Among Clinton supporters, it’s less than one-third.”

Even’s editorial board, representing the Alabama Media Group that through multiple major city papers reaches the largest audience in one of America’s most conservative and Republican states, published an article titled, “Endorsement: We’re with Hillary Clinton. Frankly, Donald Trump’s dangerous.” They said:

“2016 isn’t a normal election cycle, and Donald Trump isn’t a normal presidential candidate. Nor is he a normal Republican. He is a man who is frighteningly unfit to be president. And she is his only roadblock….Any endorsement of Clinton will be a bitter pill to swallow for many in our state. For some, her lifelong record of public service is the mark of a career politician, rather than a public servant. We’ve all watched her struggle to defend her emails, her charitable foundation and her record on foreign policy. Still, Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to be president, and in winning her party’s nomination has reinforced the promise that our democratic process is equally open to all….We could do worse than four years of a stable hand that understands how government works and is willing to compromise with the Republican opposition. Donald Trump, in contrast, is an unstable force that would do lasting damage to America, at home and abroad….The list of Trump’s disqualifications is lengthy. And he adds new ones daily….Clinton has been caught in lies, but Donald Trump trashes truth far beyond the standards that even our broken political system accepts….He is both privately and publicly at odds with much that Alabamians value….[Trump] would be a disaster for America and the world.”


Research shows that the younger a Republican is, the more liberal they are and less likely to support Trump:



This is not just because of the basic insight that older people tend to be more conservative, an idea which has been both undergirded and disputed by various studies. As I’ve discussed earlier in this article series, much of the cultural mood since the mid-20th century has increasingly shifted towards social liberalism and secularity. This has occurred so pervasively than it’s subtly altered the habits and viewpoints of many conservatives. Another quote from The Atlantic illustrates the situation:

“The older Americans who are today more conservative than Millennials were more conservative in their youth, too. In 1984 and 1988, young voters backed Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush by large margins. Millennials are not liberal primarily because they are young. They are liberal because their formative political experiences were the Iraq War and the Great Recession, and because they make up the most secular, most racially diverse, least nationalistic generation in American history. And none of that is likely to change.”


Differing views on race also distinguish the generations. A political news story from cable station Fusion remarked:

“In 2011, Trump fueled rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya and is Muslim. Older voters are much more likely to believe this rumor: A stunning half (54%) of white survey respondents 70 and older said that Obama is a Muslim, compared with only 19% of young whites—still far too many, but significantly fewer….One explanation for this divide is age. (Another is views on discrimination). The youngest Americans are more likely to agree with the idea that language should be more inclusive, while older Americans largely reject that idea, saying society is too ‘easily offended.’ Among young whites, 46% believe language should change, compared with a quarter of whites over 50…It may be politically beneficial to play on fears of an overly ‘politically correct’ society, but these trends suggest that this strategy is less likely to work with young people….Young white people are less likely to believe in ‘reverse discrimination’….It seems that the youngest white people of voting age are noticeably more sympathetic to the need for racial justice and more likely to accept structural narratives about race. Trump may win the GOP nomination, but his style of politics has probably lost the future.”



The Pew Research Group has explained that today’s younger voters place “greater importance than older adults on two issues: The treatment of racial and ethnic minorities and the treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender people. About three-quarters of those under 30 (74%) say the treatment of minorities is a very important issue to their vote, compared with 56% of those 65 and older.”


The fastest growing belief category in our culture is what sociologists call the “nones”, meaning non-affiliated with a church, synagogue, mosque or religious body in general. National Geographic commented that they are now “the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe”. An unprecedented number of people in our country, 23% according to the Pew Research Group, now describe their views to be agnostic, atheist or “nothing in particular”. With these monumental changes away from traditional religion, the political and social viewpoints for many (especially younger) citizens have moved as well. The baby boomers, born between 1946-1964, are the last generation that grew up in a mostly uniform and unchallenged structure of socially conservative, hierarchical, male-dominant, overwhelmingly caucasian and authoritarian cultural environment. They’re at retirement age now. Unless the GOP can make a course correction back toward the center, especially on social issues, a forecast of future strength in American society during the next few decades becomes substantially less plausible.





In 2017, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker gave a talk called, “Why Do Progressives Hate Progress?”. He illustrated how much the world has improved in recent centuries and decades in so many major categories and yet a large number of liberals (often conservatives too) refuse to accept this reality. These dramatic changes in positive directions include poverty rates, life expectancy, geographic and commercial expansion of environmental protection, and all forms of physical violence, as he thoroughly examined in his 2011 book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined”. See in this chart from the video that global support for populism (such as Trumpism) in Western democracies is grounded in older generations of people:

Support for populism in Western democracies by birth year, 1930-2000

Further, the pace in growth and number of democracies during the past quarter century far outstrips their autocratic counterparts:

Democracy and Autocracy, 1946-2013


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