The word "disrupt" became fashionable a few years ago in Silicon Valley entrepreneur circles, with new startups emerging in hopes of blowing up an existing industry. Uber would disrupt taxi cartels, Twitter would disrupt how we share information and so on. There's a startup that exists in hopes of disrupting just about every industry, from sit-down restaurants to custom framing to laundry, and it is younger consumers in particular who are often drawn to these new ways of doing things.
As hot buzzwords go, "disrupt" has certainly reached saturation in the tech world. But it has also — as these things slowly but eventually do — reached Washington. President-elect Trump, praised as a "disruptor" by his admirers, will be sworn in as president in just two short weeks. After an election in which voters sent a wrecking ball crashing into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Donald Trump and his administration feel they have received a mandate to disrupt anything and everything along the way toward achieving Trump's stated goal of "making America great again."
Disruption is, in many ways, the very opposite of conservatism. Think of conservatism not as a set of policy positions ("cut taxes!" "slash government!") but as a temperament. Think of conservatism as a way of viewing the world that suggests moving slowly and carefully, humbly acknowledging that the old way of doing things might not be so terrible. Prudence is the name of the game, quite the opposite of taking a sledgehammer to everything in sight. Thought of in this way, the standing of conservatism is at a low point in American society, despite large electoral victories for the political Right and the Republican Party.
And so it is that I have found some of my friends on the political Left espousing fairly small-c conservative attitudes these days about The Way Washington Works. In the last few weeks, I've had more than one conversation where someone with government experience has shrugged and said, "well, once these Trump appointees from the business world get to the Department of Wherever, they'll be surprised to learn that things don't move as quickly as they'll want." The abrupt transition from the speedy world of the private sector to the unwieldy machine of government will be shocking. Suddenly, the slow machinations of government, the resistance of the beast to any form of change, is a feature, not a bug.
It's easy to see why someone might root for the sledgehammer.
There are, of course, many important norms and traditions worth preserving, and it should be conservatives championing their preservation. For instance, it is laudable that the former presidents who are able will attend the peaceful transition of power from President Obama to President-elect Trump. True small-c conservatives should fight at every turn to preserve basic standards of conduct and institutions that have served our nation well.
But in a moment where the political Right has the reins of power, yet voters seem open to disruption in how our government works, the Trump team and the Republican Congress feel they have found a target-rich environment.
Take some of Trump's Cabinet appointees, such as his pick to lead the Department of Education — long a policy area where voters are increasingly unsatisfied with the status quo. K-12 education has certainly been subject to fad-of-the-moment policymaking, but in general, bringing true change to a public school system that doesn't work well for every child is an arduous task. Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee, proudly describes herself as a "disruptor" and her nomination will likely be fought by those most interested in shoring up the current ways of doing business in American schools. Other major "disruptive" agenda items for Trump and congressional Republicans include the "repeal and replace" of Obamacare and a re-working of American trade deals.
Not all change and disruption succeeds, to be sure. (Ask Theranos.) And in government, disruption may seem great until a "disruptive" tweet sends crashing the stock shares of a company in which you've invested some retirement savings, or a change to your health insurance means a surprisingly big co-pay when you go to pick up birth control at the pharmacy. As the new powers-that-be make big promises and bring the wrecking ball swinging down, there's no guarantee that disruption will work or work out well.
Results matter. Voters are hungry for something different, but different needs to be better.
If Republicans can deliver on that: bring to government the best elements of how the private sector works, eliminate inefficiencies and outdated ways of doing things and bring about better healthcare and schools, voters — including and especially the younger voters who most strongly opposed Trump's election — will reward them.
Kristen Soltis Anderson is a columnist for The Washington Examiner and author of "The Selfie Vote."