If you went out on the street in any lower/working class neighborhood and surveyed a random sampling of Americans, the idea of direct cash relief would be amazingly un-controversial. But of course it’s extremely controversial among rich “bipartisan compromisers” in the Senate— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) December 15, 2020
[THREAD]— A New Radical Centrism, GED (@a_centrism) December 15, 2020
1/ The woke elites "have broken free of the claims of allegiance made upon them by [their co-citizens]… Instead of feeling bound up in a shared fate with one’s countrymen, one develops an alternate solidarity that is placeless."https://t.co/56VvTGmHuh
It didn’t come as a surprise to White populists when Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. I predicted the outcome and gave the following reasons on this website well over a year ago:
Donald Trump Loses The 2020 Election
“If I had to bet on the outcome of the 2020 election, I would predict that Donald Trump will lose the 2020 election. I’m not saying this because I am personally disappointed with him.
Trump won the 2016 election because disaffected swing voters turned out in record numbers in the Rust Belt and because the Democratic base was overconfident and failed to rally behind Hillary. Those non-traditional voters who won him the presidency have melted away which is why his campaign is making a play for states like New Mexico in 2020. The Trump coalition has shrunk, Democrats will be energized in 2020 and the demographics will be less favorable. The Silent Generation and Boomers are a declining share of the electorate and the demographic tipping point was the 2018 midterms. The energy is still also on the Democratic side.”
This was before COVID and the George Floyd riots sealed his fate.
Trump ran in 2016 as an interesting populist and nationalist outsider against mainstream conservative orthodoxy and won the presidency. He spent four years governing as a conservative. When he tried to win reelection as a conservative, he slipped because he disappointed his own base. Far from being a decisive break with Reaganism, the Trump era was a continuation of Reaganite policies.
We were the original MAGA voters who pushed Trump through the Republican primaries. Trump gained traction with populist and nationalist voters in 2016 by activating White identity, running on economic populism and by breaking the norms of political correctness. He ran against Wall Street, globalization, endless wars and open borders. Trump didn’t sound like John McCain or Mitt Romney.
MAGA as a notion had been an enticing prospect to White populists in 2016. The reality of MAGA in 2020 was a different story though. It had come to symbolize a fusion of the policy agenda of mainstream conservatism, ultra-Zionism and Dems R Real Racists aversion to White identity, a vacuous celebrity personality cult surrounded by an army of grifters and a sort of cranky libertarianism and performance art politics epitomized by Alex Jones. In spite of this, the Left was so toxic and repulsive that Trump won 10 million more votes than last time, Republicans didn’t lose a single House seat and Trump nearly won in the swing states. The man was fortunate to have enemies with slogans like “defund the police.”
It is easy to imagine how the outcome could have been different:
- What if Trump hadn’t staffed his administration from the beginning with his enemies like John Bolton and Gary Cohn?
- What if Trump hadn’t spent his political capital in 2017 on advancing the wildly unpopular Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell True Cons agenda on health care and tax cuts?
- What if Trump hadn’t empowered Jared Kushner and Ivanka who spent four years hobbling his administration and giving him bad political advice?
- What if Trump hadn’t been such a lazy president and delegated responsibility for running the government to the conservatives around him?
- What if Trump hadn’t been so obsessed with delivering policy victories for a tiny group of Jewish billionaire donors like Sheldon Adelson, Bernie Marcus and Steve Schwarzman?
- What if Trump hadn’t listened to those donors and responded so poorly to COVID which was a genuine national crisis?
- What if Trump had invoked the Insurrection Act to crush the riots?
- What if Trump wasn’t so focused on the stock market and had wrangled a second stimulus check out of Congress before the 2020 election?
- What if Trump had leveraged his celebrity personality cult to force the Republican Party to become more moderate on economics?
- What if Trump had offered the Platinum Plan to college-educated Millennials drowning in student loan debt?
- What if Trump had succeeded in bringing the troops home from the Middle East and taken more credit for destroying ISIS?
- What if Trump had simply acknowledged the existence of the White voters who supported in 2016 with a few tweets or included them in his rhetoric?
- What if Melania had taken away Trump’s Twitter account and forced him to act like the president of the United States?
- What if MAGA and rightwing populists in general had not lost their minds and gone full conspiratard over COVID which is a moderately lethal virus that mainly kills sick and old people?
For years, I criticized the Trump administration on all of these issues.
There are countless missed opportunities like this which could have dramatically changed the outcome of the 2020 election. The Right was unable to reform itself under Donald Trump. If it had succeeded in reforming itself by becoming more moderate on economics and more willing to challenge the tyrannical norms of political correctness, it would have easily defeated Joe Biden.
“A major theme in liberal media is that the Trump era proves right-wing populism is nothing but standard conservatism, unvarnished. In this reading, the libertarian worldview of the Republican Party remains intact — Trump has only electrified the vulgar, racist, and authoritarian sentiments behind it.
When Trump first campaigned for president, he promised to break with free-market ideology in a bid to appear “pro-worker.” But aside from the CARES Act in response to the pandemic and haphazard attempts to increase manufacturing jobs through renegotiated trade deals, his administration has not wavered in its commitment to shrink the welfare state, cut taxes for the rich, and deregulate business.
Trump’s swift abandonment of substantive economic populism may have been a factor in his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, given that Joe Biden’s victory pivoted on recapturing Rust Belt states that Trump had won in 2016 like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
The gulf between Trump’s early promises and his actual record, however, has not stopped a loose cohort of heterodox conservatives and right-wing communitarians from developing a framework to convince more working-class voters that they have a real alternative in the Republican Party.
Precisely because the premise is to make capitalism more rewarding for workers while reproducing the fundamental hierarchies of capitalist society — as well as preserving the power of hyper-extractive industries — a heterodox approach to economics from the Right could well pose a serious threat to the egalitarian and climate-focused goals of the Left.
What unites the heterodox-populist group is not only an aversion to “globalism,” but a willingness to criticize the Republican establishment’s role in its acceleration since the end of the Cold War. Spanning journals like American Affairs and First Things, the think tank American Compass, and communitarian populists like Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, proponents of a new Republican economic agenda are trying to give substance to what Trump’s former advisor, Steve Bannon, envisioned as a new mass politics.
In this vision, a realignment of the working class toward “economic nationalism,” combined with the Democrats’ focus on increasing support among the college-educated in highly affluent suburbs, will decisively fracture the Democratic coalition, and the GOP will pick up the pieces. …
As the center-left political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson illustrate in their 2016 book American Amnesia, the mainstream of the GOP wasn’t hostile to welfare capitalism, and in fact was supportive of government investment in infrastructure, research, and development, until “fusionist” conservatives and radical libertarians began to take over the party in the 1970s. …”
Socialism is deeply unpopular.
Libertarianism is even more unpopular.
Populism is the sweet spot between these two extremes: moderate on economics, conservative on social issues. History shows that social instability is caused by extreme levels of income inequality.
The Right is hamstrung by its conservative/libertarian wing. If the Oren Cass/Julius Krein/Michael Lind wing or the developmentalist Right had been hegemonic in the Trump era, Trump would have sailed to victory. Instead, he listened to people like Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore. From the state level to the federal level, these people and their thinking still dominate and hobble the mainstream Right.
I would go much further than Cass and Krein. The ideal candidate to run against the Democrats in 2024 would be an immigration restrictionist, a non-interventionist, a protectionist and someone who is loudly against political correctness, which is at least the image (if not the reality) that Trump cultivated in the 2016 election, but also someone who supports raising the corporate tax rate, student loan debt forgiveness, Universal Basic Income and a single government program that guarantees health insurance. Yes, I know it would take a miracle to get such a candidate through the Republican primary.
The GOP has the most to gain by conceding the health care issue:
Health care is the primary issue that unites Democratic Independent Liberal Elites (DILEs) and Democrat Leaning Working Class (DLWC) voters. Otherwise, the Democrats are two different parties with competing agendas. The White upper middle class professional wing is animated by wokeness and climate change. The rest of the party is much less interested in these issues.
I would love to see a real populist candidate, not a demagogue like Trump or a circus act like Alex Jones, run against the Democrats and the socialists who is capable of pinning them down on economic justice and forcing them to run solely on the basis of their unpopular positions on social issues.