Republicans have overestimated the conservatism of their base

So, what do my Trump-supporting neighbors prioritize? It’s a reasonable approximation of the “three-legged stool” of Reagan Republicanism, but with important philosophical distinctions from true movement conservatives.

First, there’s patriotism, but it’s not a patriotism that implies or mandates a particular foreign policy or national-security philosophy. It’s embodied in a deep love for this country and a desire to defeat its enemies, but no particular commitment either to intervention or isolationism. They’re repulsed by the Left’s mindless multiculturalism and elite’s disdain for America, but they’re foreign-policy pragmatists. Fight when it’s smart, and don’t let political correctness get in the way of national defense.

Next, there’s cultural conservatism, but it’s not the cultural conservatism of the evangelical Right. In other words, they don’t really care what anyone else does with their lives, but they’re unwilling to join the sexual revolution either personally or politically. They’re not crusaders in either direction, but they perceive the Left as attempting to draft them into a movement they find personally distasteful. When Bill Clinton said abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” he was tapping into this mindset — speaking to those who dislike abortion but aren’t willing to place it at the centerpiece of their politics.

Finally, there’s a commitment to economic opportunity, but it’s not embodied by intellectual devotion either to free markets or to small government. You won’t hear former Democrats crying out for social-security reform or changes to Medicare — unless those changes make the system more stable and reliable. And southern voters have proven that they’re more than willing to hand out generous, targeted tax breaks and subsidies to pull manufacturing out of the North or to welcome Japanese automakers to their new, union-free homes in Dixie. Call it “corporate welfare” all you want, but these new Republicans simply don’t care.