The Left’s stranglehold on America’s economy, media, culture, education, political institutions, government bureaucracy, and legal and criminal justice systems is almost complete. The middle- and working classes are being crushed; out-of-control crime has made Democrat-led cities unlivable; family structure and values have been uprooted; and racist, transgender, anti-American ideologies are now government policy. America is rapidly approaching the moment of truth—politically, economically, and culturally.
The 2024 election will decide if our country will survive as a democratic republic or become a socialist dystopia. But alarmingly, the Republican Party has failed to develop a coherent conservative assessment and winning strategy to stave off destruction and turn this impending disaster around. Tom Donelson in America at the Abyss: Will America Survive? conducts this assessment, articulates a conservative vision, and proposes a plan for victory.
Donelson’s main thesis is that in order to grow and sustain the new type of conservative movement and coalition needed to win, we must combine the populism of Donald Trump with the conservatism of Reagan. Donelson’s secondary and interrelated thesis is that the Democratic Party is now the party of American socialism. We are in an existential struggle.
Trump’s election in 2016 was transformational. Had Hillary Clinton been elected, a socialist-style authoritarian regime, underpinned by a leftist Supreme Court, would have been deeply entrenched by 2020. The game would have been over. The elites of both parties recognized the threat Trump presented to the political establishment and spent four years undermining his presidency. Their open objective was to either overthrow him while in office or prevent his reelection.
The level of subversion aimed at destabilizing President Trump was unprecedented. But despite the monumental bad breaks, sabotage, and treachery, the 2020 election was still very winnable!
Donelson observes that impressively, Trump increased his support among minority voters, particularly among Latinos and black males—an unprecedented feat compared to all recent Republican presidential candidates. Unfortunately, these historic gains were offset by a decisive loss of support in the suburbs—votes he had once secured when winning the presidency. In 2016, Trump won the suburbs by four percentage points. In 2020, Trump lost them by two points. Donelson puts numbers to the decisive six-point swing and asks why it happened. He observes, “Democrats increased their support among suburban voters by 6 to 9 million, wiping out the advantages Trump had from 1.5 to 2 million votes gained from minority voters. White voters in the suburbs carried Joe Biden over the top. But was this switch due to Trump’s personality or a more lasting change?”
Due perhaps to the intense drama before and after the events of January 6, 2021, including the second phony impeachment of Trump and the ongoing January 6 commission show trial, there has been little introspection by Republicans regarding this alarming loss of support. But for conservative Republicans, getting to the bottom of this question is crucial. The 2020 election was lost because up to 9 million middle- and working-class voters—whose interests align with Republican policies and values—switched to the Democrats. How much of this switch was a rejection of the Republican platform? And how much was merely a rejection of Trump?
A post-election McLaughlin poll found 61 percent of American voters believed that they were better off in 2020 than they were in 2016—but 20 percent of them voted against Trump. And that decided the election. No doubt, the Democratic Party, NeverTrump Republicans, a double-crossing Justice Department, and corrupt media were underhanded, powerful, and reprehensible. But in the tightest of races with no margin for error, this defeat was ultimately self-inflicted.
So, after the bitter disappointment of 2020 where do we go from here?
This is the principal question Donelson insightfully explores and answers. Donelson does not conduct an in-depth postmortem of the Trump Administration but makes several important observations in support of his theme that many traditional conservative principles were absent from Trump’s policies. For example, even though Trump’s populism increasingly embraced elements of conservatism, government spending and debt increased, and no effort was made to decrease the size and power of the federal government. These issues are more than conservative principles of governance; they are essential to our nation’s fiscal survival.
America at the Abyss presents a thorough political, cultural, historical, and economic assessment of where we are as a country and how we got here. Writing more than a year ago, Donelson insightfully chronicled events at the time and accurately predicted the multiple crises that the Biden and Democratic policies have caused right now, particularly inflation, sky-high energy prices, and the unmitigated disaster on the southern border. Joe Biden has ruined everything he has touched.
Donelson provides a foundation with an overview of the failure and collapse of America’s “leadership class” (both on the Left and Right) and extensive insight into the leftist-driven fiasco of the Wuhan Virus pandemic lockdown. He provides an intelligent critique of the tenets and tactics of modern socialism and the socialist-Democrats’ reliance upon tactics of intimidation and physical violence. The role of the media and big tech as purveyors of leftist propaganda, control of information, and censoring of free speech is thoroughly discussed.
So, to win big in the November midterms it might be enough for a Republican candidate to show up and remind voters, “Hey, I’m not a Democrat.” But that won’t win the election in 2024, build an electoral majority, or sustain a conservative movement. Remember, in two election cycles, Donald Trump was unable to crack 47 percent of the popular vote.
“Republicans and the conservatives within the Party must do more than just oppose the Democrats,” Donelson argues. “They need to present an agenda that will give Americans a fair opportunity to succeed and preserve the American Dream.” If we don’t, Americans will be demanding, à la Walter Mondale, “Where’s the beef?”
“The challenge to the conservative leadership is to complement conservative ideals with the populist aspect of the movement to form a more permanent coalition,” Donelson contends. To overcome this deficiency and achieve traditional conservative objectives, he advances several solutions.
Here are two conservative principles missing from Trump populism that are among the most important takeaways from the book: First, that the Republican Party has become the party of the working class and must incorporate millions of abandoned and marginalized blue-collar workers of all races and ethnicities within our ranks. “The Republicans will have the opportunity to rebuild a new conservative majority, based on conservative ideals beginning with this: the average American wants and needs a Fair Opportunity to Succeed.”
Donelson understands that a healthy economy is key and dedicates several chapters to analyzing the current economic paradigm and proposing a fresh economic policy shift. His proposal is based upon the principles of: lowering the Social Security payroll tax, lowering corporate and marginal tax rates, massive regulation reform to reduce costs on both individuals and business, and reviewing and reducing the size of all federal departments and controlling federal spending.
Second, the growth of a true conservative Republican movement must go hand-in-hand with support of the family—the basic building block of society. It is within the family that children learn the principles of morality, respect of authority, work ethic, personal responsibility, and patriotism. Whether or not a child grows up in a family with a married father in the home is the biggest single predictor for future poverty, welfare dependence, involvement in crime and prison, success in school, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, obesity, and many other vital factors of individual and social development.
As a movement and party, conservative Republicans must advocate morally and politically for policies supporting marriage, two-parent families, and eliminating government welfare policies that encourage fathers to evade their responsibilities of both marriage and remaining in the home to help raise their children. This social dysfunction is devastating to our entire society but is particularly destructive in the black community where out-of-wedlock births currently stand at 70 percent—compared to 52 percent of Latinos and 28 percent of whites.
Donelson correctly frames the battle in which we find ourselves. The Democratic Party has transformed into a socialist party—a party of the rich leftist elites on the top and a mass of poor, government dependent people on the bottom. With the exception of public-sector union members, there is very little left in the middle. And of course, they live in hope that millions of illegal aliens will join their ranks as voters in the future—if Democrats and corporate Republicans gain enough power in Congress.
The ultimate goal of socialist Democrats is the redistribution of wealth. In the process of accomplishing this end, they will continue to crush the middle class. Their anti-American agenda is dark and twisted—but they will not defeat themselves. Our movement must not only expose the truth of what they stand for but also offer working Americans viable alternatives.
Tom Donelson has written a serious book offering a penetrating analysis of our current situation and puts forth important conservative principles necessary for the growth and success of the populist-conservative coalition as we move forward. America at the Abyss is recommended reading for patriots who share this vision.