The Working Class Party Myth

George Hawley and Richard Hanania are back in National Review to tell us what really mattered in determining how we vote. It was culture war issues, not economic populism.

National Review:

“If there is one lesson conservatives claim to have learned from the last few election cycles, it is that the Democrats are the party of elites. In both 2016 and 2020, President Trump performed well among voters, especially non-Hispanic white voters, without a college degree. This has led to some speculation that a class-based realignment is underway. As Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) recently put it, “The future of the [Republican] party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial, working-class coalition.” Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) went further, suggesting that a working-class realignment wasn’t just a goal but had already occurred, claiming that the Democrats had become “the party of the rich.”

If such a realignment occurs, it will vindicate the work of national populist thinkers who have spent the last four years arguing that the American center–right needs to reconsider its priorities, replacing traditional economic conservatism with Trumpian populism. This perspective contends that Trump won in 2016 precisely because he broke with traditional Republican talking points on the economy, promoting protectionism and infrastructure investments rather than tax cuts and deregulation. …

In our recent report for the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, we considered the explanations for President Trump’s success in 2016. We found the claim that economic populism explains that election to be implausible. Cultural concerns, not economic interests or policy preferences, were the real dividing line in 2016, and remain so today. …”

Hawley and Hanania reach this conclusion by setting up a false dichotomy. Either moderate Trump voters were motivated by culture war issues like immigration or economics.

As the archives of this website show, I supported Donald Trump in 2016 because his message resonated with me on both immigration and economics. Hillary Clinton was the candidate of Wall Street. Donald Trump self-financed his own campaign and ran against globalization and open borders. A big part of his appeal to me was that he had an economic populist message on issues like trade, entitlements and infrastructure. When Politico called me in 2016 to ask why I was supporting Donald Trump in order to portray me as a “white supremacist,” I said that I was concerned about his position on taxes.

“Brad Griffin, publisher of the white nationalist blog Occidental Dissent, is among Trump’s skeptics. “Do we honestly believe that he’s going to block all the Muslims and deport all the illegals?” he said. “I think he’s doing a lot of this just to signal to people that he’s on their side.”

Griffin said that he was most enthusiastic about Trump’s candidacy this summer, but that his fervor has cooled since seeing details of the businessman’s tax and trade policies, which hew more closely to mainstream Republican positions than he had hoped.

Griffin said his white nationalist circles remain divided.

“There are people who are really excited about Trump and are true believers and there are people who believe Trump is just a politician. He’s brought attention to a lot of our issues, but those were our issues 20 years ago.”

I said this to multiple reporters who interviewed me about Trump in 2015 and 2016. This was the only time that I can remember when my views were actually reported.

It took me less than a month after Trump won the 2016 election to start souring on him. I had soured on him before he was even inaugurated because he had hired Gary Cohn, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, to head the National Economic Council. He also nominated Andrew Puzder, the CEO of Hardee’s, to be his Secretary of Labor. It was this combined with the fact that Trump had announced that Paul Ryan’s agenda on health care and tax cuts were his top priorities that caused me to break with him in 2017. I was increasingly critical of Trump until I broke with him completely after the Syria strike in April 2017. In hindsight, I broke with Trump over economics and foreign policy very early on and never supported him again.

In the 2016 election, I publicly stated and told reporters that my top five reasons for supporting Trump were trade, immigration, foreign policy, political correctness and campaign finance. I liked Trump on the basis of these issues because I disliked mainstream conservatism. It wasn’t the man himself or his celebrity personality cult or shit like the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate that appealed to me. It was always his positions on the issues. When he failed to deliver on those issues, I moved away from him.

I wasn’t alone in this respect:

A substantial number of Trump voters are moderates who are simultaneously economic populists and immigration restrictionists. They are “cross-pressured” voters. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost the House of Representatives because those voters swung toward the Democrats.

White populism has its own “three-legged stool.” Those three legs are White identity, economic populism and opposition to social liberalism. In the 2016 election, Trump hit all three notes and decisively beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election by winning the Populist vote 3-to-1. Mitt Romney, however, did not have the same appeal or message and only won Populists 2-to-1 in the 2012 election. Similarly, Donald Trump ran a more traditional Republican campaign in 2020 and performed much more poorly with White Independents and moderate voters while he performed much better with upper middle class Republicans.

White populists are not going to vote as a bloc for the GOP on the basis of cheap culture war rhetoric like evangelicals. These same voters backed Obama over Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in 2012. They swung against the GOP in 2018 and against Trump in the 2020 election. The 2020 election illustrated that not even Trump could win only with conservatives and that the Republicans have maxed out with those voters. There aren’t enough voters who only care about culture war issues to elect a Republican president.

I’ve written about the last five elections from a White populist perspective on this blog:

2010 – For the first time, I voted for the GOP in the Tea Party Revolution only to be disappointed when the party failed to deliver on immigration

2012 – I supported Ron Paul in the primary and voted for the Constitution Party candidate as a protest vote in the general election.

2014 – I didn’t vote in this election

2016 – I strongly backed Trump in this election. This was the first time I had ever strongly backed a Republican presidential candidate

2018 – I was disaffected and sat out the election

2020 – I didn’t vote in this election

I’ve never voted on the basis of “white supremacy,” dog whistles or cheap culture war rhetoric. I have always had complex views on identity and culture, economics and foreign policy. I supported Ron Paul twice and broke with Trump on the basis of foreign policy. I didn’t vote against Obama in either the 2008 or 2012 elections. The fact that Obama was black mattered less to me than the fact that John McCain was a warmongering neocon and Mitt Romney was a cutthroat corporate CEO.

About Hunter Wallace 11383 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

6 Comments

  1. I voted FOR ofTrump based on foreign policy. He started no wars. I believe that is the reason why both parties conspired to dump him while leaving Mitch as majority leader.

    Its pretty much over, now. I have no plans to ever vote again. We need a White Separatist Party. We need a Homeland or two or three. A kind of 14 Words Party.

    I would vote for that, but of course the machine would be programmed to toss that vote. No way to vote our way out of this. But we still need such a party. After ZOG is annihilated in the coming world war, we will have to build something new.

    • Trump could not adopt an intellectually coherent position in 2020. He had one in 2016 but rapidly abandoned it in the face a certain political reality.

  2. Both conservative and liberal personality types have been weaponized against our national interests. Leftist “compassion” and virtue signalling is used to push degeneracy and immigration, while chauvinism and jingoism is directed against the enemies of Israel and the Zionist world order. In a sane society both personality types would positively contribute to the nation. Leftists would help the downtrodden of our own and patriots would guard against foreign threats.

    A nation in which the two major personality types are at war with each other is in an unnatural state.

  3. Speaking of ‘economic populism’:

    “You would think the GOP wouldn’t put up such a fight over a measly $1,200 check around Christmas in light of mass unemployment in a pandemic. You would be wrong. They really are this stupid”

    Not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but the government is basically a bunch of people with a credit card, and that credit card not only has your name on it, but also the name of every other American alive today, as well as those to be born in the coming decades — they will have the product of their labor sucked away by the coercive tax system in order to pay interest on the debt, which will likely rise to be the second largest federal budget item (behind ‘entitlements’, i.e. SS and Medicare, but ahead of ‘defense’) within the next 5 years.

    Personally, I think they ought to give out the $1.2k checks, both to help people who may need the cash, as well as to accelerate the decline ala Cloward–Piven — preferably the money should be created/issued in the form of US notes, i.e. not debt-based Federal Reserve notes.

    And anyone else who advocates for these ‘stimulus’ payments ought to, on every such occasion, at least acknowledge the wretchedness of the whole system in the same way — because there is an obvious principled reason to oppose these payments, which do involve the creation of more debt which enslaves the population.

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