It’s Not “Trump’s Party” & It Never Was
This weekend has brought forth another wave of editorials, essays and TV commentaries lamenting that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. In the wake of his primary loss, Mark Sanford wrote a piece lamenting the fact that he “wasn’t Trump enough” and that voters wanted someone who is obsequious to the current Commander-in-Chief. George Will, in his usual excessive verbiage, urged Republicans to *gasp* vote for Democrats in this years mid-terms. Why the apostasy? In his eyes, Congressional Republicans have abandoned their principles to get a tax cut.
What these gentlemen, and the other old-guard types seem incapable of fathoming, is that it isn’t allegiance to Trump is not the defining ethos of the modern GOP. What they haven’t come to terms with is for the vast majority of Republicans, their views on issues, and which issues should take precedence, do not match the Bush (read: neocon) value structure at all. Elected Republicans who fail to recognize this and represent their constituents values are being removed from office at the ballot box. The intelligentsia that refuses to accept this change is being asked, often impolitely, to leave.
President Trump is the embodiment of those values, same as Barack Obama or George Bush were the embodiments of their party’s values during their terms of office. Yes, there are aspects of his personality that are grating – but it is those same aspects that are particularly appealing to the Republicans who gave their allegiance for last quarter century to the Bush wing of the party and got very little in return for it. Those erstwhile pundits place the locus of their attention on the President’s personality while ignoring, misunderstanding or worse, belittling the values President Trump epitomizes.
During the nearly 30 years that the Bush family and their values were ascendant within the GOP, they emphasized the “neoconservative” value structure: multinational cooperation in military and economic affairs, acquiescence to multinational corporate interests, loose immigration controls, compromise on societal issues. They thought the Tea Party movement was either a validation of that value structure, a personal repudiation of Barack Obama, or perhaps both. In reality, it was a repudiation of both Barack Obama (and the post-modern liberalism he represented) and the existing GOP power structure. The 2016 election, in which the last champions of neocon ideology were electorally trounced, should have told them their days were over.
There are aspects of this new, much more conservative ideology I am uncomfortable with. I do not support trade tariffs, nor am in agreement with increasing the power of the federal government. The spending increases and failure to address – indeed, ignore – the fiscal crisis is particularly galling to me. But I’m adult enough to admit that certain aspects of Republicanism that I supported in the past – in particular, multinational trade agreements – have turned out to be abject failures for most Americans. It would behoove the most ardent neocons to look around and recognize where they failed, and to start working out the reasons.
Much of the current GOP platform is things to which the Bush wing paid lip service. They never quite understood that for the rank-and-file, the parts of the platform the elites held in disdain are the important parts. The rank-and-file was willing to back the elites play on the idealistic parts of their agenda in return for their work on those things the elites found, to borrow a phrase, “deplorable.”
The professional politicians forgot that politics is less about ideals than results. Something I constantly hear is that politics has become “too transactional.” What they forgot is that our Founding Father’s devised a system of transactional politics. Politicians who fail to deliver the results their constituents want are not reelected. For 30 years, Republicans were waiting for the GOP candidates to deliver. They didn’t. They got fired. As for the rest, they can get with the program. Failing that, they can find a new political home. They stole the GOP in the late 1980’s. Trump’s voters reasserted their control in 2016, and are continuing that purge today.