Many Beltway pundits are already asking themselves “what happens after the election for the Republican Party and the conservative movement?” Regardless of the outcome, it’s certainly not out of line to start the speculation process considering how tumultuous 2016 has been for the American center-right movement.

In this week’s TWS podcast, Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol ponders the lessons to be learned by the rise of Trump and, more importantly, the rise of Trump voters.

Kristol (speaking with host Michael Graham) started from the premise that, in Washington DC, it’s “a pretty wide assumption that Hillary Clinton wins” on November 8th, but the party establishment and conservative thought leaders will also have to learn whatever lessons are to be learned if Trump wins the election.

According to Kristol, the “obvious” lesson many in DC are gleaning from the Trump phenomenon is that the “populist sentiments (expressed by Trump voters in the primaries) were real, important (but) Trump distorted them.”

“Part of me also thinks though that that’s sort of the obvious answer but maybe not the right answer. Maybe what’s needed is a bolder answer that cuts against, in a way, the Trump message and really tries to go back to constitutional, limited government.”

Listen to the whole podcast here:

Kristol goes on to speculate that although Trump is the opposite of President George W. Bush, his “conservatism is a funny bastard child of Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism.'”

“Once you have the notion that the government can just do things for you – with Bush it was to do nice things for poor people, with Trump it’s to reflect the anxieties and unhappiness of working class, middle class people – but either way, maybe it’s time for a more radical, libertarian/constitutionalist agenda.  Those two cut in different directions, right?

One is, sort of, ‘how can Republicans be more the party of putting government on the side of the middle class?’ – that’s sort of a saner version of Trumpism.  The other is much more of a ‘let’s get out of the business of trying to buy votes in the first place.’  I don’t know which way conservatives will go, or should go.”

It’s an interesting way to look at it and one could also argue that with the right leader (our 40th president to name one) the conservative movement and Republican Party should and could communicate both messages and accommodate both groups of voters.


Donald Trump rally