He’s a solid, movement conservative. He was the smartest person in the race. He is a true believer, and now he’s out. Ted Cruz made it to the semis, but now his candidacy is effectively over. The most conservative conservative is out of the race, but is conservatism? Mr. Trump is not a movement conservative. Some of his positions are conservative, a few aren’t. Back when there was such a thing, Trump could have run as a moderate, maybe slightly conservative Democrat. So what if any conservative principles will survive to become part of the Republican platform in the summer?
First, obviously illegal immigration will be dealt with. Sanctuary cities will be no more. A wall (or really imposing fence) will get done, either with or without Mexico paying for it. Trump would be wise to embrace Rubio’s plan to track and control visas. There will be a pause on letting in refugees from Muslim countries. That is the better way to put it by the way—rather than make religion the operative criteria, banning refugees from specific points of origin is more doable, and doesn’t sound as bad.
The military will be rebuilt back to its former strength. How and when it will be used will be a point of difference with many conservatives. ISIS will be destroyed and the Russians will be made to think twice before getting up to more mischief. That’s where the commonality ends. Trump’s foreign policy would look more like Rand Paul’s than Ted Cruz’s or Marco Rubio’s. He’ll seek a larger, more assured return on investment for any military intervention. World events though have a way of disrupting a new president’s foreign policy plans, just ask George W. Bush. Sometimes they only thing worse than avoiding war is putting one off. “Pay me now, or pay me later,” will be the likely advice from a number of his military experts. Our need for strength in the end is merely a recognition of the fact of how little control over what our adversaries will do.
Perhaps most importantly, he will have an opportunity to appoint three, maybe four Supreme Court justices. He has stated that he will create a short list of candidates he would consider. Perhaps he might even consider Cruz for one of those positions. It would be a good move to smooth over some past differences. It would if nothing else, prevent a 2020 run from his former rival. He hopefully realizes that the promise of conservative Supreme Court picks is the single best way to win over skeptical Cruz supporters. Most other things being negotiable for them, Constitutional principles are not.
If in July in Cleveland the Republicans focus on the commonalities rather than the differences between Trump and conservative wing of the party some degree of unity can be achieved. If they do, they’ll be the stronger for it. If they don’t it could be a long, hot summer. Whatever differences remain can be worked out in the course of time. The differences, if not overcome early on, will make it difficult to convince movement conservatives to come out in sufficient numbers for Republicans to win in November.