This essay is adapted from "We’ll Be Back: The Fall and Rise of America" by Kurt Schlichter (Regnery, 256 pages, $29.99).

We’ll Be Back, But Will Trump?

Sometimes there are happy endings. 

What if we decided to reaffirm and recommit to the values of America’s founders? What if we somehow decided to return to normality—not pre-Biden normality or pre-Trump normality but the normality in which many of us grew up or lived our early adult years? Something like that interregnum between when Ronald Reagan hosed the muck of the ’70s out of our economy and the ’90s, when we were the unchallenged superpower? 

You know, prosperity and peace. Pax Americana II: The Revenge

Sounds great. Let’s do that!

Except things are not so simple. We cannot just wish away the last couple of misbegotten decades. The international correlation of forces is what it is. Domestically, we would have one hell of a hangover following the drunken spending spree and the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector since we were at our pinnacle. Nor can we wish away the fact that our friends on the Left—many of whom would love to ship us off to gulags, but worry about the environmental impact of dotting the Arctic tundra with work camps for dissidents—require a divided, angry, and poor populace from which to draw power. 

So, the odds against this result are formidable, but it does not mean we should not aim for it. It seems the result that is least likely to change America fundamentally for the worst. And it might actually be durable, though history does seem to be a series of people forgetting what happened the last time and making the same damn mistakes over and over again. 

America coming to its senses means a struggle, a peaceful one within the political battlespace. It means discarding some old norms and bending others, but this is a natural and necessary response to the discarding and bending of norms we face. The key is not to succumb to real authoritarianism, the willful rejection of the checks and balances that the Constitution envisions. Hardball, yes. Dictatorship, no.

But we cannot let the authoritarians win. 

Plummeting Pinkos

Let’s look at what is going on. As of early 2022, the Democrats control the White House in the sense that Joe Biden lives there when he is not in Delaware wrapped in a shawl in a rocker slurping mush. Nancy Pelosi has a literal handful of votes to spare in the House, though she has intermittent help from Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) (Dick’s worst legacy, which is saying something) and her personal Mr. Smithers, Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). 

In the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is tormented by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and has to rely on Kamala Harris to break ties, assuming he gets every one of his Democratic members to sign onto the Squad-approved legislative electoral suicide notes he keeps trying to pass. How precarious is your position when it relies on Kamala Harris’ coming through for you? How sad are you when everything depends on the judgment of someone who dated Montel Williams? 

If historical trends continue, the Democrats will get wiped out in 2022 on that basis alone. But when you add the absolutely terrible job they’ve done since the alleged 2020 election, then you have the makings of a ballot-box Cannae. They will almost certainly lose the House and, if trends hold—the polling provides a bleaker forecast than Michael Moore’s A1C—there will be a Republican Senate majority. 

And then from January 2023 to January 2025, the weight of the Democrats’ already shattered agenda will be on the slumped, frail shoulders of Joe Biden. So, basically, stay out from under the high windows at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, lest you be squashed by plummeting pinkos. 

There are a few things you can rely upon. The sun will come up in the east. You will be expected to pay taxes. The third season of a given Netflix or HBO series that began promisingly will suck, mostly because the plot will get woke. And Joe Biden will make Jimmy Carter look like Ronald Reagan. 

Biden has to fail. Besides being stupid, which probably gave him a solid head start on his senility, he adheres to an ideology that not only never succeeds in bringing prosperity or freedom but cannot do so if it wishes to continue. Things will get worse and worse, and all the legacy media tap-dancing in the world is never going to convince Americans that 20 percent inflation is a good thing and proof of a booming economy. He is going to screw it up, and there is going to be a huge opening for a Republican in 2024. And, hopefully, it will not be a terrible Republican. 

This is true whether Biden bows out of the election or, because the last 20 years have been a flock of black swans, chooses to run again. If Kamala Harris picks up the banner, perhaps she will inspire and excite not merely the woke Democrat base but tens of other millions of Americans. Or, as is more likely, she will appall and repel tens of millions of Americans and lead the Democrats to electoral oblivion. 

Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The Opening of the Overton Window

So, there is a huge possibility that the Republicans will take power again after 2024, but will the next few years be such an unmitigated clusterfark that it will permanently scar a generation of Americans and make them utterly unwilling to risk electing another liberal Democrat? FDR famously won the loyalty of millions of Americans, despite the fact that he extended the Depression. Ronald Reagan was one of them. He only became a Republican later. The fact is that this terrible, terrible era could so poison the well for Democrats that perhaps we could see a few decades where a liberal just cannot win. Is it likely? No, because there are a lot of stupid people in this country. But it could happen. 

We will discuss the attributes of a conservative leader who might rebuild and reinvigorate our country later, but the key point here is that this all requires a change of heart in a critical mass of Americans. Is that possible? Yes. 

The last couple of decades have been characterized by the opening of the Overton window and the throwing of so much of what is good about America out of it. We have agreed to government interference in our lives to a degree never even considered before. The pandemic panic is an obvious example. Who would have thought that so many Americans would willingly agree to extend “two weeks to stop the spread” to two years to . . . do something? It is unclear what, since by then COVID appeared endemic, but a lot of people—mostly liberal—eagerly went along with it. Well, at least for other people—photos on social media of various high-profile, mask-wearing dudgeon people not wearing masks in public became an aggravating cliché. And often there would be servants in the photos, all of them clad in mouth thongs. 

Other kinds of submission to an overweening government include injecting the venomous ideology of critical race theory into schools and other institutions. Yes, there was pushback, glorious pushback like that of the people of Virginia who rejected another four years of Democrat Terry McAuliffe and his pro-indoctrination agenda, but it was terrifying to see just how many people eagerly accepted this kind of propaganda. 

Then there was the trans craze, where Americans were expected not only to accept that men could transform into women (or vice versa) but to pretend that it was real. Merely not protesting the nonsense was not enough—it had to be celebrated and the gender imposters had to be welcomed into every nook and cranny of society. The most obvious manifestation was second-tier boy athletes suddenly discovering they were girls and then proceeding to utterly destroy the actual women they competed against as girls. It happened again and again, as real women were beaten by bigger and stronger males who took some estrogen and a new name and proceeded to use their male bodies to set records. The women, their hard work made moot in the name of validating the delusions of a few boys, were expected to celebrate their losses and exclaim, “You go, girl!” 

It’s crazy, but there are millions of Americans who think this is all A-OK. 

But will America’s patience for this ridiculous nonsense wane? If we are too far gone to achieve a critical mass to slam the Overton window shut again, then we might well be headed for one of those terrible scenarios we have discussed. Let’s hope we can do it without going full authoritarian. 

The elite does not notice the unrest because all of the people losing patience dwell far outside of their bubble. In the liberal bubbles, conformity is rigorously enforced. You cannot be a member of the clique unless you sign on. You lose your privileges if you dissent—you lose your chance for the right school (careful what you post on Instagram—they’re watching!), you lose your job, you lose your friends. But outside the bubble? There are changes that they never saw coming. 

The Personal Psychodramas
of the Damaged People

We have seen bizarre and shocking changes in the two-party coalitions in the last 20 years that would have previously been utterly unthinkable. The Democrats abandoned the white working class for the woke white-collar and various minorities, confident that the emerging Democratic majority would include all those black people and Latinx people whom they had counted on for so long. 

Except a lot of those black and Latinx people were also working class, and the same miseries inflicted on the white working class were also being inflicted on the other shades in the rainbow of people who work with their hands. Black people driving to a construction site pay the same for gas as white people do, and they have no interest in a three-dollar-a-gallon surcharge because a bunch of Marin County swells think we need to keep it from getting a degree hotter in a century. 

And as for the Latinx people, what the hell is “Latinx” anyway? This clunky moniker perfectly encapsulates the liberal delusions about a people the Left condescends to when it considers them at all. First off, how do you pronounce “Latinx”? Is it “Latin-ex”? “La-tin-ex”? It’s not a Spanish word; it’s a college ethnic studies seminar word, designed to differentiate credulous suburban girls who are getting their woke on as Wellesley sophomores. This jargon, of which “Latinx” is but one example (“gender-fluid” and “non-binary” are a couple of other examples), is specifically designed to set the user apart from the unenlightened. These magic words identify fellow members of the secular clerisy of wokeness to one another, like a secret handshake for people who think shaking hands is a manifestation of structural ableism. 

Only the woke use these words—Hispanics famously reject “Latinx” so thoroughly that consultants are begging fellow Democrats not to use it because it risks further alienating Hispanic potential voters. But this is on purpose. Using exclusive jargon fulfills a primary goal of wokeness, which is to make the practitioners feel special and virtuous. Remember that a huge part of all this nonsense is acting out the personal psychodramas of the damaged people who subscribe to the tenets of wokeness. It’s all about the feels, not of the oppressed, but of the purported ally. 

Hispanics do not play this game. In late 2021, a cold terror began to spread through the Democratic consultant class as polls began to show that Hispanic—again, most definitely not “Latinx”—voters were about tied in their support between Democrats and Republicans. This was an earthquake within the consultant class. Since the aughts, the Democrats had been counting on importing millions of Hispanic voters, legally and illegally, with the assumption that these voters would become loyal Democrats. But that has not happened the way they had hoped—it was far from that simple, but the Democrats would have known that if they had thought of “Hispanics” as human beings instead of a convenient ethnic pigeonhole. 

Hispanics were supposed to support open borders. But poll some Hispanics whose families immigrated legally and their sympathy level for illegals pegs in the red. Many Hispanics are working class, and they suffer the same class antipathy from the Trader Joe’s set as the white working class. But then most Hispanics consider themselves “white” in the sense that, yes, their grandfather came from Columbia or Jalisco, but now they are just another bunch of Americans. This is heresy to the Left, which considers racial identity and clear racial categories as sacrosanct. How can people not want to stay in their lanes? 

But why would anyone? The Left needs Hispanics to be “others” because that allows the Left to leverage that artificial difference for power. Yet, millions of Hispanics have no interest in being “others” or anything else except Americans. As the Left would say, they have embraced “whiteness,” but that is only because what they call “whiteness” has zero to do with skin tone. It has everything to do with accepting traditional American values. 

This is why you see diversity consultants list concepts such as “hard work” and “colorblindness” as characteristics of “whiteness.” They are not, in any objective sense. But by sticking a color label on basic American values and norms, they seek to drive people in other ethnic groups away from racial harmony. The problem is that not all folks are saps or suckers, and they refuse to play along. They want to work hard, take care of their families, and live in a colorblind society, and they will vote for the candidates who agree. That is why they are moving toward the Republicans. 

When the Democrats put all their chips down on racial strife, that was a big risk. And it looks like it is not paying off. Americans disappointed them by choosing not to hate each other because of race or ethnicity. 

Throw in the cultural affectations about gender, and that’s going to drive away every American without a ruling-caste secret decoder ring. People simply are not going to take it, even in areas formerly thought of as liberal. These cultural issues are devastating to the Left. That’s why Republicans are constantly reminded and warned by the trained parrots of the legacy media that the GOP must not address them. The Republican Party, with its too-high percentage of fools, often concurs. And it is never the officially deplored working-class types, the Lauren Boeberts or Marjorie Taylor Greenes, who heed these boundaries. It is always, always the rich guys, the guys who care about what goes down at their country club, who go along with the hustle. 

Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages

The Working-Class Party

The GOP is becoming a working-class party, and that may be a key to turning this all around. After all, the failures America has suffered since the fall from the heights that our working class—in building, supplying, and defending America—brought us to did not bubble up from the grassroots. This was a top-down failure, the best and the brightest botching it all. 

An America that focuses on the frivolous and foolish fetishes of the ruling caste is a failed America. Our elite is concerned with the weather, with gender, and with racism that stopped existing in substantial quantities a half-century ago. And that performative concern is inextricably tied to its own desire to obtain and keep power. 

But an America that is based on the concerns of the working class is an America that is necessarily addressing real issues and building a stronger country. Normal Americans want strong families. As we have seen, the family is under attack, and our birth rate is shrinking. Normal Americans love their country. They do not want to hear about how it sucks, particularly when many of their families came from places that really sucked. And especially when many of them fought for this country in stupid wars the ruling class started. 

Normal Americans want an economy where you can work and support your family. Bizarre tangents like the panic over climate change—a hoax in which perilous predictions prove false and deadline after deadline passes without Armageddon, yet the doomsayers stay on—serve only to increase the cost of energy and limit the freedom of normal citizens. They are the ones responsible for the fact that the new washing machine you bought last year works significantly worse than the washer your parents bought from Sears 40 years ago. No one in Manhattan or San Francisco needs a big V8 truck, and most of these nannies don’t know anyone who does, so they insist that you do not, either. But lots of people in America do need a big V8 truck. The quasi-religious campaign to shrink America’s carbon footprint (which has shrunk, even as China’s has grown) is yet another attack on the working class. 

Every time a working man’s paper straw melts into an unsuckable tube of goo, it’s another reminder that the elite despises him. 

So, with a working-class party united to demand a focus on normal issues—and forgoing the weird obsessions of a bored and idle ruling class—combined with a Republican Party that is resistant to such obsessions, we may well have a shot at returning to normality. 

Imagine—patriotism, prosperity, and peace, just like we used to have. That does make a compelling vision. Especially in comparison to the liberal elite vision, which is eternal racial/ethnic/gender conflict over an ever-shrinking pie in a country that can never grovel and apologize enough. 

Great Awakenings

The challenge is that so many people have become emotionally invested in their own wokeness. It fills their souls, taking up space where some actual faith should have been instilled when they were kids. America’s troubles are spiritual as well as political and cultural. While vibrant communities of faith exist, the war on religion in the name of COVID—the First Baptist must lock down, but not Barney’s Booze-o-rama and Uncle Busty’s Gentlemen’s Club!—caused grave damage. Many churches will collapse as Americans have fallen out of the habit of regular worship. To succeed, we are going to have to work to revitalize religious faith. If we don’t, we will have a bunch of people with empty souls vulnerable to having them filled up with all manner of pinko nonsense. 

America has had Great Awakenings in the past. Whether another revival arises or not is out of our politicians’ hands in the sense that it cannot be astroturfed. It must come from the people. But our politicians can block political and cultural efforts to suppress it. Politically, the Left will launch even more attacks on churches if it senses a revival. Such attacks were unforgivably aided and abetted by establishment hacks such as John Roberts during the COVID era. With most of the religious folks in the working class, the religious will make up a key element of any coalition that returns America to its former greatness. The ironclad protections the Constitution provides for the free exercise of religion must be honored, and when our politicians pick judges, anyone who thinks that religious considerations are just another factor to consider, despite what the First Amendment says, must be excluded.

Culturally, the Left will respond to any traditional religious revival with the same venom it always has. It’s always those uptight Jesus people who won’t let Kevin Bacon and the kids dance. Perhaps we need to engage that stereotype more aggressively from our bully pulpits. Of course, it would also be nice if some Christian celebrities were not such transparent charlatans bringing disrepute on the faith. Regardless, faith is a powerful weapon against the godless, communist future our enemies seek—you can tell because of how much the godless commies hate faith and the faithful. 

A Good Enough Man

We’re down, but we are not out. Americans still retain their innate common sense, unless it was sucked out of them via matriculation at some Ivy League conformity factory. We can still win. The Constitution has not failed. We just need to bring enough of America around to our way of thinking.

The Great Man theory of history is long out of fashion, since the Marxists who currently dominate the academic study of the past prefer to focus on alleged trends and currents that—surprise!—always flow right toward validating their wish list. The study of great men refutes the notion that the individual is meaningless, that we are just flotsam and jetsam floating along through history without agency. But commie nonsense aside, great men do exist, and they do change the course of mankind. Normal people know this instinctively. The popular history books that tend to be most successful are biographies of great men. 

A United States of America without Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Reagan would be a very different America. It might not even be a United States of America at all. Now, this is not to say that regular folks play no part, that they are mere footnotes. That is to misunderstand the whole premise. Great Men are great because of their interaction with the regular folk. Their greatness starts with their vision, but it truly manifests in how they lead, influence, and inspire regular people. 

America has always been blessed with Great Men at the key crossroads in its history. It’s got quite a remarkable streak—every time it looks like we are about to careen over the cliff, someone great appears to grab the wheel and yank us back onto the road again. It is tempting to see this phenomenon as due to the favor of a higher power, that God blesses our nation with the right man at the right time. But if this is so, we must consider whether, as a nation, we have proven ourselves still worthy of His blessing today, when we need a Great Man once again. 

One certainly hopes so. 

And we do need a Great Man now, one of vision and one of resolution. As we have seen, the stakes are high, and avoiding a catastrophic fall will take clear sight and a steady hand. Joe Biden is not even a caretaker president—he can barely take care of himself. But the inept James Buchanan preceded Abe Lincoln. Will we be granted another Lincoln? The odds are against it. Civilizations are not granted more than a handful of Great Men, and we have had more than our share in just under 250 years. 

Maybe we can make do with a Good Enough Man. 

But what is beyond doubt is that the next president needs to be a Republican and he must be a conservative. And not either of those labels in name only, either—that is part of what has got us here. Rather, we need a new kind of conservative Republican, one unafraid to exercise power, one not restrained by arbitrary conceptions of what a conservative Republican can do, but still aware that to rebuild America for the long term we cannot succumb to the expedient of true authoritarianism in the short term. 

What he needs to do is win, indisputably, the fight we have found ourselves in. The next phase of that fight begins in 2024. The alternatives we have reviewed are simply too grim for us to contemplate anything less than victory. 

But while we have examined many hypotheticals so far in our journey through the past and the future, 2024 is close enough that it is not a mere hypothetical. We know the key players today. And while someone new might emerge in the meantime that we never saw coming—can you say, “Glenn Youngkin”?—the man or woman who will win the GOP nomination in 2024 is almost certainly someone we already know about, and whom the chattering class has already chattered about. 

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Battlefield 2024

It has to be someone who can do the big things we have discussed. To fail to do them simply puts off the confrontation over the future of America to a later date when we might not necessarily have the advantage. Based on Biden’s sorry showing as our alleged president, 2024 is the perfect battlefield for us. Like Hannibal walking the ground at Cannae before mauling the Romans and nodding to his lieutenants, this is where we want to fight. 

The question, then, is who is the individual who can do these things, and therefore change America’s trajectory from ruin to power and prosperity again? 

Let’s start with the obvious, the 800-pound Orange Man, Donald Trump. His choice to run or not will so thoroughly dominate the campaign that some would simply not bother considering alternatives should he choose to run. This is probably true in 2022. But he may not choose to run, and in 2024 the facts on the ground might not make his victory in the primaries so certain. Moreover, he would be 78 on Inauguration Day 2025. Does he want to spend most of the rest of his active life running again, maybe losing and being utterly humiliated, or winning and spending four years as a lame duck? Perhaps, but perhaps not. 

Regardless, the fact is that Trump could win the general election. The utter failure by every measure of Joe Biden’s inept administration—he wanted to be FDR but he ended up being a gropey-er James Buchanan—has made it possible to imagine that Trump can pull off Grover Cleveland’s stunt. By the time this book is released, he will not have announced anything, unless he is seized by madness or decides he is definitely not going to run for some reason. Look for a decision in the spring of 2023. A master showman, Trump will certainly attempt to keep up the speculation—and his freedom of action—for as long as he can. He knows his fans are not going anywhere. 

But are his fans going to vote for him? There are plenty of people who voted for Trump as the right guy back in 2016 but are not so certain he is the right guy right now. By the time November 2024 comes along, it will be eight and a half years since he descended from the elevator in June 2015 and announced what everyone—including, perhaps, him—thought was a quixotic campaign for the presidency. That’s a long time, and it may well be that the Trump act is wearing thin even on those who appreciate what he did in the face of an entire establishment’s trying to destroy him. 

Alinsky Rule Number 7 is “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag,” and even his biggest fans must concede that the Trump circus, including his inexplicably self-defeating tangents, can be exhausting. The dumbest thing the establishment ever did was to get its Silicon Valley allies to lock him out of social media; after all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, particularly when this implies the absence of bizarre tweets that step on the day’s themes or focus on some private beef when they could be rallying the troops. 

Trump did a remarkable job, and toward the end of his term he seemed to fix many of his personnel issues. This time, he has a whole cadre of experienced administration operators to call on to fill out the Trump 2.0 administration, as opposed to having to rely on Republican establishment hacks. That’s good. His performance after the election was bad, though, including his emotion-driven dalliance with the Kraken-releasers who never released anything except their credibility. If his reelection is about payback for what was indisputably an unfair and disgraceful election, he will lose the nomination. 

We conservatives, who have nowhere to go but the GOP and so will stay and make up its grassroots base, are looking toward the future. Is Trump the guy to navigate the challenges we have discussed here and set up a realignment that will truly make America great again? No one thought he would do as well as he did. If he had not, and we were instead following the nightmare of a Hillary Clinton regime starting in 2016, we might be well into the worst-case scenarios we discussed here by now. After all, someone like Clinton—but not her savvier husband—has the unearned arrogance, the bitter contempt for her opponents, and the messianic narcissism that might create the conditions for one of those fraught scenarios. 

Could Trump save us again? Lots of people who supported him as president in round one think it’s time for a change. They fear he can’t, or won’t, learn from his mistakes. But he does understand important parts of the puzzle. His vision for this country is simple and correct, all about making America great again and putting America first. These are proper objectives, but do they reflect that he understands the true nature of the threat? Trump is an establishment guy in the sense that he would rather win it over than burn it down. No matter how often the snarling, slobbering beast bites him, he still can’t get it through his head that it’s Old Yeller. In 2021, he gave interviews to guys like Bob Woodward and Jonathan Karl, who promptly vivisected him in their books. He still accepts establishment credentials as validation, though the results were guys like Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and that gnomish narcissist Tony Fauci. 

What will it take for him to see what time it is? 

Leaving aside whether he can win in 2024—he has a definite ceiling as well as a definite floor to his support—is he the man who sees the peril ahead and has the energy, the focus, and the will to steer our ship of state off the collision course with the iceberg that lies right ahead? 

Or do we need a flat-out visionary, preferably one steeped in the kind of understanding of the Constitution you get from the Claremont Institute or Hillsdale College? Yet, he must also have the conservative woke warrior spirit, an understanding that the Democrats today are not merely opponents but are in thrall to an ideology that will not be satisfied as long as we retain our liberty, livelihoods, and—in the case of some of their folks who say out loud what is not meant to be spoken—our lives.

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About Kurt Schlichter

Kurt Schlichter (Twitter: @KurtSchlichter) was personally recruited to write conservative commentary by Andrew Breitbart. He is a successful Los Angeles trial lawyer, a veteran with a masters in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College, and a former stand-up comic.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images