Recent events have revealed that the conservative divide over Trump is far from over. As the promise of transition has shifted into the reality of governing, conservative thinkers now appear to have split into three groups.
Some Never Trumpers have reverted to their original camp. Arguing that Trump’s worldview is just too far from traditional conservatism for them to accept, and that Trump’s tumultuous first month vindicates their opposition during the campaign, many Never Trumpers see the need to continue highlighting Trump’s deficiencies, both to criticize him but also to maintain their own credibility. At the same time, the pro-Trumpers appear to have grown in number, as some conservatives who opposed Trump during the primaries and did not explicitly back him during the campaign appear to be gaining comfort with the largely but not wholly conservative agenda Trump seems to be pursuing. Many others fall into a new third group: they applaud conservative moves such as Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, while also bemoaning Trump’s deviation from traditional conservative tenets in areas like free trade and immigration.
As conservatives try to sort out these conflicting tendencies, it’s quite possible that we are seeing the emergence of a new divide in American political philosophy take shape in real time. This new split, potentially the first tectonic one since the so-called liberal anticommunist consensus collapsed in the tumult of the 1960s, could shape American politics for decades to come.