Political conservatism can be defined. While there are slants on it's meaning, the term conservative really isn't a slippery ideal. The political landscape typically identifies left and right with liberal and conservative ideologies, respectively. Of course, everything from the middle right leans conservative and everything from the middle left leans liberal. Middle is such a slippery label that most wonks prefer the term "moderate" when describing people whose politics hover toward the center. So, there are categories of conservatives---Reagan conservatives, fiscal, social, cultural, neo-, paleo-, and a few that can't be mentioned in polite company. Donald Trump says he's a conservative. He's the newest kind: the convenient conservative.
Back to the definitions. There are many. I found a couple of broad-brush descriptives that seemed most appropriate for these purposes, paragraphs about the two polarities, liberal and conservative. They were posted at the Student News Daily and are somewhat dated, originally compiled in 2005 and updated in 2010 (click here to read the article). They defined liberal politics in this way---
Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity
and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social
ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.
Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no
one is in need. Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the
government to solve problems.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have a different view of things, like this---
Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government,
free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a
strong national defense. Believe the role of government should be to
provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.
Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the
individual to solve problems.
The editors of Student News Daily provided brief paragraphs about where the two extremes stood on many of the major issues: abortion, affirmative action, death penalty, economy, education, embryonic stem cell research, energy, euthanasia, global warming/climate change, gun control, health care, homeland security, immigration, private property, religion and government, same-sex marriage, social security, taxes, United Nations, war on terror, and welfare. It's a pretty accurate depiction liberal and conservatives positions on these issues.
Now, back to Donald Trump. He's all over the place. Over the years his personal views on most of these voter-sensitive topics have run the gamut of political possibility, way to the left at some points, far to the right at others. Because he doesn't have a voting record to reference his positions have usually been keyed to the (1) audience that he is addressing at the time, (2) the venue of his comments, (3) his personal business goals and situation at the time he was questioned, (4) the way the winds were blowing in his personal and political life, or (5) the direction and tone of his media following when he voiced his opinions. It's been this new convenient conservatism that he strategically aims at those whose votes he is courting at the time.
It's almost as fickle as his party affiliation. He has supported Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and others on the edges depending on his leanings at the moment. His best strategic political positioning lately has aimed him at blue-collar Democrats who may be willing to cross party lines to vote his more conservative appearing views. So, there's been waffling on gun control, hard core and then more moderate quotes about illegals and the immigration mess, around the world and back on abortion and Planned Parenthood, and double-talk about human sexuality and marriage. The media has been in a frenzy tracking his news conferences and trying to make sense of his clashing statements about a wide range of issues.
Which makes me wonder how he will govern. Being an evangelical I usually turn to Scripture to give me guidance when making important decisions or evaluating responsibilities. Jesus said,
Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from
Matthew 5:37, ESV
No, that doesn't endorse a political philosophy or give a preference to either liberal or conservative ideology. But, it does give value to the character of concise answers, being clear when we communicate, and avoiding obscurity when speaking. American citizens deserve straight talk from their elected officials. Convenient anything really doesn't cut it today.
There's an interesting parallel in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. The context of
1 Corinthians 14 is the glossolalia controversy that was confusing their worship services. Even with such a varying theme what Paul wrote to them is incisive. He wrote,
And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?
1 Corinthians 14:8, ESV
It's true, we can't know how every person will react when the battle is called. But, the truth in this verse is that the bugle that rallies the troops must give a clear, distinct sound if they are to respond with urgency and definition. Confusion, convenient conservatism, or liberalism for that matter, just won't do.
It's time to get real about this election. And, knowing the candidates true colors is a necessity if we are to make wise decisions.