How conservatives learned to love big government

Republican conservatives have developed an effective ideological two-step. When Democrats control the government, right-wingers highlight their libertarianism and issue dire warnings about state tyranny. Then, after the political pendulum swings back their direction, they brandish and expand state power when it suits their interests or benefits their coalition. The reality is that, for conservatives, anti-statism is often political strategy masquerading as a commitment to ideological purity.

The growing power of the U.S. government, abetted by both Democratic and Republican politicians, set the stage for a president with well-documented authoritarian tendencies. Trump openly admires autocratic regimes in Russia and North Korea and disdains the democratic traditions of European allies. Though Trump maintains some facets of conventional conservatism (see: tax cuts and deregulation), he has sought to rule by fiat. His threat to declare a spurious national emergency while holding the government hostage epitomizes the radicalization of the modern Republican Party.

Even more alarming is how quickly many of Trump’s fellow Republicans abandoned their anti-statist moorings.

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