The overlooked conservative tradition that embraces an executive like Donald Trump

While not all of these contemporaries call expressly for an unchecked presidency, their unyielding support for Trump in the face of a line of egregious constitutional transgressions and repudiations of clear and fundamental constitutional provisions and processes plainly indicates that is precisely the sort of presidency they support, provided it is aimed at the proper moral ends. At long last, the country has the president who will pull no punches—and brook no opposition—in restoring the republic’s natural-law and natural-rights foundations. While Lincoln—who himself seized broad executive power and skirted positive laws in a time of moral emergency—did so by ending slavery, Lincoln’s current legatees, the Jaffaite Straussians in the academy, and the Christian-rightists in the populace and in the Trump administration, will fulfill their latter-day Lincolnian mission by fighting by whatever means necessary abortion rights, gay rights, and the abandonment of “natural” gender roles, in battles they see as essential for protecting “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” In the way these movement voices have framed the stakes, the right and the Republicans stand in the shoes of the 19th-century abolitionists and Lincoln. By contrast, in these arguments and stories, progressives and liberals are cast as the legatees of Douglas who, heedless of divinely ordained right and wrong, accede to the claims of merely human will in blatant defiance of natural law.

The fact that Trump’s most fervent intellectual support within the conservative movement is issuing from the West Coast’s Claremont Institute and the Christian right, often from scholars, clerics, and pundits who—far from ignoring America’s history of slavery, as oblivious liberals often charge—talk and write, it sometimes seems, about nothing else, is not happenstance. And it is more than crass transactionalism. While they certainly grumble about Trump’s personal morals, they have arrived at an unshakable conviction about his divinely ordained role as a vindicating statesman and great president who is willing to do whatever it takes to restore the country to its moral and constitutional foundations.