Republicans are in danger of losing many of the voters they gained during the 2016 election and subsequent Trump presidency. Busy alienating their new blue-collar and especially union voters, “conservatives” (read: fusionists) seem to think that Trump’s strategy of appealing to voters by dealing with issues that actually concern them, was either too difficult a road to tread, or maybe just too sensible a strategy. Better, apparently, to sell them on voting against their interests.
As a right-leaning independent who, by traditional standards, leans “left” on class issues (I don’t really believe Right and Left are particularly useful at this point, but that’s a topic for another time), I thought I’d give some friendly advice to my conservative friends who might still be on the fence.
Let me start by saying that I’m not trying to pick a fight with Daily Wire conservatives. Well . . . actually, I am. The group around the Daily Wire has built a good business selling Reaganism to unsuspecting young people alienated by wokeists and the sentimental totalitarianism they represent. The viewpoint of the latter conglomerate is so nauseating that nearly anything packaged in opposition to it is going to sell. And Ben Shapiro & Co. are nothing if not adept at moving merchandise. Hats off to them for that!
But what they’re selling is the worst kind of regurgitated corporate apologetics imaginable, all of it existing in some kind of invisible time capsule, as if his orange nibs had never said word one about bad trade deals, the blunder of foreign policy adventurism or the disaster of NAFTA. Over at the Daily Wire it’s still morning in America. But in the country itself, it feels more like an uneasy, dusk—with storms on the horizon.
To make my point, I could point to hundreds of DW podcasts and articles, but this particular tweet sums up the rest almost too well:
I'm on the manager's side. Trying to run a business and dealing with a bunch of lazy whiners who refuse to put in even the most minimal effort. People are fed up with it. They should be. https://t.co/B8Lb773YWb
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) December 9, 2022
Seemingly with no knowledge of the particulars, Walsh felt it necessary to publicly side with an unhinged manager who demanded of employees calling out of work: “if your dog died, you need to bring him in and prove it to us.” However tongue-in-cheek this might have been (it’s not at all clear that it was), it seems a strange thing to take a stand on.
And likewise it would be easy to dismiss the tweet as merely a flip response to an unclear story. I was even tempted to do so, as I actually admire Walsh’s work on the trans issue and a few other things. But the more I thought about it, the more annoying it got, which led me to ask myself why it bothered me. And the answer I came up with is that the tweet starkly reveals the instinct of our conservatives.
Why is the standard reaction of the American Right to side with a corporate chain restaurant rather than low-paid service sector workers? Or worse still: why is the instinct to side with the petty tyrant manager of a corporate almost-food dispensary, undoubtedly in some grotesque plastic strip mall on one of our many plastic strip mall highways? Why, in other words, side with the representative of the very thing killing small business, destroying community, and fattening up Americans with something that, while vaguely similar to food, is actually a kind of travestied Italian cooking that resembles the original about as much as Ben Shapiro resembles a construction worker?
Speaking of Shapiro, it’s instructive to consider what the Daily Wire’s editor had to say about the (then-looming) rail workers’ strike:
Biden has made it a high priority in the United States to boost unions. Why is he boosting unions? He’s boosting unions because unions support him . . . The biggest problem in American public life is not people who are pressing for the interests of their particular group in politics. That is the norm. The biggest issue in American public life is unions that sign actual contracts with the government of the United States, paying for the people who they are negotiating with to get elected.
It’s true enough that unions—or at least the leadership of the unions—back Democrats. So it wouldn’t be unrealistic to imagine that part of Biden’s impetus to get a good deal for the unions was just politics. And yet, Biden didn’t ensure the unions got a good deal. In fact, as of now, the deal the unions were forced to take remains free of a single sick day. So Shapiro’s entire conceit is incorrect. In fact, Biden intervened almost entirely on behalf of the Association of American Railroads, and not on behalf of the unions, who were thereby deprived of their ability to strike—which would have been a powerful enough threat to provide leverage on their behalf.
It’s helpful to remember why Biden got involved in the first place. Here’s a good summary:
Rail workers are subject to different collective bargaining rules than most other private-sector workers, and it is much harder for them to go on strike. If the two sides can’t reach a deal, Congress has the ability to step in and mandate a resolution because a strike or lockout could have devastating consequences for the national economy.
This is because of something called the Railway Labor Act of 1926, which was written to prevent the kind of economically catastrophic shutdown that a rail strike would have entailed. But instead of using the law as intended—that is, to mediate fairly between the two sides—the Biden Administration put its finger on the scale almost entirely for the railroads.
So all the usual rhetoric about “government intervention in the economy” and “it’s not the federal government’s role . . .” are entirely moot here. This was a time for pragmatism: regardless of how things are supposed to work in the ideal free market society of conservatives’ fever dreams, the imposition of a contract on rail workers was already an established fact.
And better yet—it was the Democrats’ doing. A pragmatist would look at the actually existing situation and try to do the best with it for citizens of the republic. Instead, Republicans hid behind their totally inapplicable “principles” and felt gratified that their high-mindedness allowed them to side with bloated corporate entities instead of working-class Americans.
And while we might applaud Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and a few others for siding with the rail workers, it’s worth noting that only six Senate Republicans did so. The rest voted inexplicably against the sick days.
All of this is especially infuriating because there is a clear opening to pull more union rank-and-file rightward. In both 2016 and 2020, Trump won a substantial number of rank-and-file union votes. He lost by fairly close margins in some states, but won easily in others (he won union households in Ohio by 12 percentage points, for example). Cruz and Rubio clearly understand where the party needs to go. Unfortunately, most of their colleagues, as well as most “conservative” (read: fusionist) pundits do not.
Before Trump forced the GOP ever so slightly in a populist direction, the overwhelming majority of union households favored the Democratic Party. This changed because of some well-chosen rhetoric on Trump’s part. But it is just as likely to change back if Republicans keep up their corporate bootlicking. Siding with the rail companies after they recorded record profits and used billions on buybacks for their shareholders while, in the meantime, refusing to give their employees even a single sick day per year is not a good look for Republicans.
Working-class American voters are now the GOP’s to lose—and they seem hell-bent on losing them.