It’s the understatement of the new century to say that the GOP is going through an identity crisis. The conservative movement is too.
If Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination, which looks probable — though I’m still hopeful that Ted Cruz can catch him — he will have reshuffled the deck of the Republican Party in a way that no one has since Ronald Reagan transformed the GOP into a conservative party.
Trump is remaking the GOP into a populist /reform party of working class, evangelical, and entrepreneurial class voters. He is completing what Ross Perot tried to build in 1992 with his Reform Party.
For the Republican establishment this is a complete disaster, much worse than the election of Barack Obama. And they know it. Trump and his supporters don’t hire the cadre of Republican consultants, pollsters, funders and party organizers and they don’t spend money on super PACs. The party apparatchiks are the people the Trump brigades are rebelling against.
There is one simple statistic that explains nearly everything about the Trump voters’ revulsion of the political class. Four of the wealthiest counties in America live within the fortress of Washington, D.C. — and we don’t produce anything. We live off of them. It’s reminiscent of the inequities between the poverty-stricken districts and the opulence of the Capital portrayed in The Hunger Games.
What is strange about the Stop Trump movement is that it is an alliance between of country club Republicans and conservative Republicans — that is, conservative leaders. Normally, these two groups are at each others’ throats, but they finally found something they agree on: Stop Trump.
The GOP elites’ last hope was run over by the Trump freight train last week with the ouster of Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio was the candidate of choice of the intellectual class and the new “reformacons” who kept claiming they had the hot new policy agenda. The voters didn’t like it, so many blamed the Trump voters for being too stupid to like it.
Now many in the party are making the absurd argument that even Hillary Clinton in the White House would be better than Trump.
Huh? This is the Hillary Clinton that wants to raise tax rates to 50 percent or more, is in favor of abortion on demand with no exceptions, wants trillions of dollars of new spending and debt, would shut down America’s oil and gas and coal production, will double down on Obamacare, and was the architect of the disastrous Obama foreign policy of leading from behind. Other than that, apparently, she’s conservative enough.
A person’s vote is a matter of his own moral conscience, and if people feel they can’t vote for Trump because of his policy positions or his rude and obnoxious behavior, I respect that totally. I voted against Bush in 1992 because he lied about raising taxes — and I have no regrets. But the idea of rooting for a de facto Obama third term seems to be like writing the death warrant of the conservative movement.
Why are conservatives against someone who brings conservative Democrats back into the fold? After two decades of chasing after Reagan blue-collar Democrats, the GOP finally has a candidate who lures them into the party. Yet these voters are then treated as trespassers, low information voters, and even called racist. The Trump haters seem to be saying to these new Republican voters: go back to Hillary and the Democratic Party where you belong.
Here’s the problem for the conservative movement. The people who attend Trump rallies and vote for him generally are conservative — fiscally and culturally. They hate big government, they are highly patriotic and wave flags, they hate taxes, affirmative action, gun control, government debt, climate change deals that destroy American jobs, government waste, welfare, political correctness, trade deals they think give away the store, and illegal immigration. They are people who work for a living, are economically stressed out, and see what Obama has done to America economically and culturally and they don’t like it at all. You’d be surprised how many blacks, veterans, soccer moms, and legal immigrants you see at a Trump rally.
The fact that they watch The Bachelor and World Wrestling Federation at night, not CSPAN or CNN, doesn’t make them low information voters, it makes them normal.
Trump said things about trade, immigration, the other Republican candidates that were outside what was once the GOP mainstream opinion. Then it turned out that a large plurality of Republican primary voters agreed with what he said. It was like the scene in the famous cereal commercial: “Hey Mikey, he likes it.”
I personally disagree strongly with Trump’s fortress America position on immigration and trade — both legal immigrants and trade are demonstrably beneficial to America. But, sorry, the voters don’t agree with me. And it’s their movement and party; not mine. They want the wall; they want to get tough with China; they do think foreign goods are taking American jobs; they do want to keep out Muslims; they do want a balanced budget and an end to foreign aid; and they won’t be intimidated by the thug tactics of the left. I ask my conservative friends: Is that really so terrible?
If Trump wins the nomination and then the election, this will no longer be your daddy’s GOP. He will win by forging a new coalition of voters. High-brow Republican voters will stay home or vote for Hillary, but he will gain millions of independents and blue collar Democrats — the kind of common sense workers who have been flattened by Obama’s anti-business policies. This is the new conservative coalition. It is a coalition of voters who want to put America first.
And maybe it’s about time.