The Changing Conservative Disposition

The Changing Conservative Disposition

Donald Trump has reshaped the conservative brand in endless ways, and much has been written about how his idiosyncrasies present an existential challenge for traditional conservative policy and moral credibility. Yet the more important story may be how Trump and his loudest supporters are redefining the conservative disposition — the mood or motive that makes people self-identify as conservative in the first place — into an attitude of alienation, suspicion, and defiance. This isn't an exclusively Trump-centric phenomenon, but the president's rise, along with the subsequent development of a Trumpist political-media complex justifying him, has helped expedite an evolution of rightist temperament that was already under way.

The Atlantic recently ran a long profile of Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old Trump aide who serves as one of the leading avatars of this temperamental shift. The profile frames Miller as a man of inherently “trollish” disposition, inclined to his ideas largely because they're disruptive and rebellious. Miller doesn't deny it. “I've always been a nonconformist,” he says in the article. “In today's culture, the nonconformists are conservatives.”

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