A lot of people have been talking about a recent, shocking Wall Street Journal-NORC poll. Since 1998, the percentage of Americans saying patriotism is very important to them has dropped from 70 percent to 38 percent. Religion, too, has fallen from 62 percent to 39 percent. Having children is down from about 60 percent to 30 percent. All of these taken together suggest a less confident, less future-oriented, lower-trust, and more atomized America.
This rapid onset of disunity has many causes: the education system, the enormous numbers of newcomers, economic precarity, and bad outcomes that have discredited authorities. Traditional unifying values are still held by older people, but every day comparatively conservative Baby Boomers pass away and new Zoomers turn 18 and are able to vote.
Predictably, politics have become more divisive. Whatever post-war consensus once existed has long since evaporated. Rather, both sides are animated by mutual contempt and suspicion, which the authorities’ recent declaration of war against “MAGA Americans” has only exacerbated. These trends have been further accelerated by people self-sorting to friendlier locales based on their values.
Fewer states are in play politically, and this appears to be favoring the Left. This advantage will likely increase due to the demographic engineering inherent in our immigration policies. While these measures have a delayed effect, as it takes time for immigrants to acquire citizenship or for their children to turn 18, every immigrant group leans left.
This is what all the “emerging majority” talk was about during the Obama years. Trump’s unlikely victory slightly delayed it, but nothing he did reversed the trend lines.
Are National Elections Important?
The massive changes documented by the WSJ-NORC study say something about the limits of elective politics. Since 2000, Republicans have held the presidency at least half of the time. Yet these markers of cultural decline ticked upwards, all the same.
This reminds us that there are other aspects of life—education, movies, music, social media, mating customs, and commerce—that have their own trajectories and logic, as well as political consequences. None of these trends are pointing towards either cultural renewal or increased social trust.
In 2024, we will be told once again that it’s the most consequential election of our lifetimes, a true turning point, but I doubt it will be. We have heard the same thing about every election I can remember. It’s never just an average election with average stakes. And the reason I think it’s not that consequential is that the Left has either imported or brainwashed enough people to create a permanent, persistent national majority.
Advising Republicans to “vote harder” does not square well with the 2020 debacle and its implicit message about the futility of voting, at least on a national level. Republicans and conservatives need to understand that the description of 2016 as the “Flight 93 Election” was real. That was the time to impose an immigration moratorium and build a wall. Even at that time, it may have been too late. But Republicans failed in addressing this trend. It was later made worse by efforts to render mail-in voting easier. This dereliction of duty ensures the conversion of white Americans into a minority ruled over by a self-consciously anti-white, leftist cabal.
This is not a question of DeSantis versus Trump. Does anyone think Pennsylvania, Arizona, or Democrat-dominated Michigan will be in play this time around? A lot would have to go right. Perhaps Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin will break the right way, maybe.
The reason it is easy to delude oneself that the pendulum swings back and forth or that this election will be like its predecessors is because the two Americas don’t really interact much. I doubt many conservative voters are talking to trans activists in Philadelphia or refugee welfare cases in San Francisco. In other words, there is a whole new America out there that red-state America does not like and actively avoids, but, having taken strenuous efforts to shield themselves from these people, they are a bit blind to the scale of the change.
If by some miracle Trump or DeSantis squeaks by, this may be the last hurrah. When demographics slide far enough, states and cities become a one-party system. No one worries about Republicans winning in California or Chicago or New York anymore. That is what is going to happen nationally, soon enough.
More importantly, presidential victories are of limited value when there is a highly ideological and self-confident bureaucracy to thwart any policy initiatives that some protest candidate may try to impose. Trump and his supporters learned this in spades.
Effective Minority Politics
Does this mean we should give up? No. But it does indicate that we should adjust our focus. Instead of sweating about the results of hopeless national elections, the coalition that now makes up the Right—two-parent families, small business owners, and cultural conservatives—needs to start thinking about how to exercise political power as a minority.
This is not something new. There are semi-permanent minorities in every country on Earth, often very successful ones, such as the overseas Chinese of East Asia. There have also been successful minority movements here at home, not least the black civil rights movement. And while minorities may not have formal political power as such, they are able to carve out some peace and protection from the majority by being self-conscious of their status and doing the right kinds of identity politics. Public choice theory goes both ways.
Similarly, in states not fully converted to the leftist trend, there is some hope for local politics. Finding ways for right-leaning states to resist the federal government with things like lawfare, noncooperation, augmented state guards, or the right-wing equivalent of “sanctuary cities,” all needs to be on the table.
Further, much of this advice relates to one’s personal economics and lifestyle. As I wrote in an earlier piece, “The source of strength for the dissident Right comes from those areas of life that exist outside of the economic-political-technocratic surveillance regime. The greatest potential exists among ‘in real life’ friendships and family relationships. Your Twitter followers aren’t going to come to the rescue when Antifa is threatening your home or your business needs a loan. And it’s a lot harder for ‘cancel culture’ to break the bonds of blood and shared experience.”
Things are about to get harder. We should not be like Charlie Brown with the football. If a particular pathway is closed off, simply trying harder is a waste of time, energy, and effort when other activities exist that can actually bear fruit.
We need to study the successes and failures of other minority communities to chart a path forward.