And so conservatism under Trump has reached the point that it is weirdly closer to Trotsky’s concept of an endless, all-encompassing, worldwide struggle against established authority than to any political movement, including conservative movements over the past century. The tea party-Trump tribe loosely corresponds to Trotsky’s proletarian class, pursuing its own interests against those of every other class in society, without alliance or compromise. And Trotsky’s idea of worldwide revolution finds a distant echo in the affinities between Trumpian populism and the illiberal nationalism of leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who share an interest in weakening America’s international commitments and the postwar, U.S.-led global order.
Trump’s permanent revolution has no fixed principles other than smashing a nebulous “deep state,” forcing all institutions of society to bend to its will, and waging never-ending war against Democrats, independents and non-Trump Republicans. It has become a perpetual grievance machine unwilling (and unable) to address those grievances through governance or the legislative process. And in refusing to accept Trump’s defeat, the conservative movement increasingly insists that the rule of law, truth and democracy are what the revolution says they are.