Every few generations, American politics undergoes an intense realignment. Today, America is experiencing a consequential change in its politics. Scholar and writer, F.H. Buckley, refers to the new political coalition forming around Donald Trump as the “Republican workers’ party,” dubbing it a “revolution in American politics on a par with President Richard Nixon’s visit to China.”
Recently, Henry Olsen argued that rather than being a repudiation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s legacy, the Reagan presidency was a validation of the core themes of FDR’s coalition—namely, that every American deserves comfort, dignity, and respect (so long as they work for it). Reagan achieved electoral success by appealing to the blue-collar vote that has never lost sight of the demand for dignity or the expectation of work. In the 30 years since Reagan’s successful presidency, the Republican Party has only won when it appealed to the working-class Americans who historically have voted for the Democratic Party.
Olsen and Buckley, in different ways, are getting at the same thing: a large cohort of Americans—across both parties—increasingly have felt isolated and abandoned by Democrats and Republicans alike. In fact, polling data conducted over the last 30 years have proven that countless Americans who otherwise could have voted in presidential elections largely sat them out.
They sat out, that is, until Donald Trump descended from Trump Tower in 2015, and announced his bid for the presidency. Trump fused nationalism, populism, and conservatism into a cohesive campaign. He disrupted and destabilized a political system that had been in dire need of a proper shake-up for decades. Trump took dead aim at a pampered elite that had grown listless in its wealth and power—and led America astray.
But, the elite have not been vanquished.
Take, for example, Kevin D. Williamson of National Review. Williamson writes pieces calling Trump voters racists; insists Trump voters are too dumb to understand how free trade helps them; and asserts that Mitt Romney may have “been the champion Republicans needed, but he was not the champion Republicans wanted.” What qualifies Romney for such apropos from Williamson—a middle manager of Conservatism, Inc.™? According to Williamson, Romney was “cool, calm, cerebral, restrained” and had “much more in common socially and stylistically with Barack Obama than he does with, say, Steve Bannon or Sean Hannity.”
Well . . . yes! And this was precisely the problem with Romney (and with all Republican presidential candidates since Reagan). One can see the appeal of characters like Romney from the entrenched point of view of our nation’s elite. Despite being a Mormon, Mitt Romney represented a return to a blue-blood Republican Party that evinced concern for the issues that secured their own power and status—and accomplished little else.
Williamson’s lust for a better, more buttoned-up political establishment is mirrored by a highly offensive Newsweek article titled, “Why Are All the Conservative Loudmouths Irish-American?” The author, Van Gosse, similarly laments the passing of the days when “the biggest names, faces, and voices on television were Huntley and Brinkley, Cronkite, Murrow, even John Chancellor and Dan Rather, all sober, serious Americans—and all Protestants, too.”
Most Americans have little care or need for a political class specializing, mainly, in perpetuating their own careers and ensuring that no “undesirable” elements rise to prominence with the potential to challenge them. The Republican Party is caught up in a fight between centrifugal forces. The Republican Establishment is fighting desperately for a better yesterday while the grassroots base that is responsible for most of the party’s electoral victories, strives to make a hopeful tomorrow. As both George Will and Rich Lowry noted last week, Donald Trump now represents the mainstream of the Republican Party (and by definition, this makes them the fringe).
Not only has the revolution been televised, it is also being live-tweeted. Since assuming office, President Trump has governed more conservatively than any president since Reagan—something that he does not get enough credit for doing. And he has done it using 21st century technology, meaning he can circumvent the historical vice-grip on information that the establishment media has held over the political process for far too long.
Trump not only has governed more conservatively than any previous president since Reagan, he has also faced the prospect of a rolling, silent coup by elements of the political establishment. If the folks of Conservatism, Inc.™ were being fair, they’d recognize this, take the bitter with the better, and embrace the Trump movement rather than resisting it.
Kevin D. Williamson and his cadre of NeverTrumpers have done their best to turn the GOP into a reincarnation of the old Whig Party: a useless, ineffectual, squabbling entity drifting from election-to-election, and losing most of the time. With Trump and his working-class coalition, the Republican Party need not die. Instead, a much-needed national political realignment of the existing two parties can be achieved—one which sees the David Brookses, Kevin D. Williamsons, and George Wills of the world switch over to the Democratic Party (the actual party of entrenched wealth and power), and leaves the real work of good governance to the Republican workers’ party.
Do yourself a favor and stop listening to the NeverTrump Republicans. They’re basically liberals in expensive wine skins.
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