The last four years were exhausting.
In retrospect, it is obvious that a lot of mistakes were made. Hopefully, the 2020 election and the aftermath exposed most of those flaws and we can learn something from the experience and move forward again. It feels like we were stuck for four years and lost the momentum we had in 2016. I sense that things have changed though with Neoliberal Joe in the White House.
“There’s no longer a chief of staff to screen his calls and he keeps no predictable working hours. So an unspoken rule has governed Donald Trump’s calendar since he left Washington last month: To sit down with the former president, you must belong to his posh Palm Beach club or know how to contact him directly.
But even that won’t always do it. For weeks now, Trump has rejected meetings with everyone from former South Carolina governor and 2024 hopeful Nikki Haley to House and Senate GOP candidates vying for his ear — preferring to spend his days leisurely calling friends, binging cable news, golfing with a rotating cast of partners and basking in standing ovations whenever he arrives for dinner on Mar-a-Lago’s outdoor patio. One person close to the ex-president said he’s become “unreachable” to anyone outside his limited circle of loyal aides, longtime friends and die-hard political allies. …
The planning for Trump’s coming revenge tour comes as other top Republicans try to cajole him into working with the party’s apparatus ahead of next year’s midterm elections, rather than recruiting rival candidates whose bids could complicate primaries and cost the GOP critical seats. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is expected to meet with Trump over the weekend to discuss his upcoming plans, including the former president’s desire to push for voter reforms at a time when the topic of election integrity has created a major split among elected Republicans. …”
The last four years weren’t entirely Donald Trump’s fault.
When Donald Trump won the 2016 election as an insurgent candidate, he didn’t have many allies to work with in Washington, DC. The Trump administration was staffed by Never Trump establishment conservatives. The Trump Cabinet was filled with literal snakes in the grass. The federal courts were full of people that previous Republican and Democratic presidents had appointed over the years. The Republican Congress in particular was full of people who were unsympathetic to the Trump agenda.
The governing ideology of the Republican Party was mainstream conservatism which was built to address the problems of previous generations in a bygone age. The policy agenda was still a legacy of the Reagan era. The whole apparatus of Con, Inc. was full of hacks who were handpicked to mouth slogans and defend an ideology that was increasingly out of touch with the problems of the wider electorate. The Republican Party continued to “conserve” the status quo as it aimlessly drifted into the future.
From the vantagepoint of 2021, we have a clearer picture of what happened in 2016 and why Donald Trump became president and where we are going in the future:
This big chunk of the electorate had been around for 30 years and was not represented by the two-party system and was growing ever more cynical and disenchanted with American politics until Donald Trump came along. These people were weakly attached Obama voters in 2014.
In the 2016 election, this group of disaffected voters and its traveling companion who had been labeled “Upbeats” or “New Era Enterprisers” crashed into the Republican Party. The noisy online avatars of these big two swathes of the electorate were the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite:
In the surveys of the Republican Party that have come out since 2017, there have been four clusters of voters, not the traditional two:
Before the 2016 election, the “Core Conservatives” or “Business Conservatives” or “Free Marketeers” or the “True Cons” as we call them had been the governing wing of the Republican Party. Since Trump has become president, the MAGA voters that rode into the GOP with Trump have increasingly fused with the Republican base who always resented the “GOP establishment” into a new majority.
In the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections, the establishment wing of the Republican Party has been bleeding its demographic base to the Democrats. These people are well to do suburban voters whose politics can be summarized as “Muh Principles” combined with neoliberal economics and virtue signaling about “racism.” They are the sort of Republicans who voted for Mitt Romney and who voted for Joe Biden to save “our democracy” while voting down tax increases in their own areas. These people align with their fellow neoliberals in the Democratic Party on their shared modernist and cosmopolitan values. They hate Trump because he shifted the demographic balance of power away from them in the Republican Party.
Conservatism is over. The electorate is slowly but surely realigning into a new party system. The populist wing of the Republican Party has become the governing wing and the influx of working class voters (he continued to find new working class votes in states like Ohio, Texas, Florida and North Carolina) is shifting the party in that direction. Donald Trump spent four years catering to suburban voters, maintaining the status quo and endorsing establishment candidates but voters are switching sides with their feet anyway. Everything from Congress to Conservatism, Inc. to the donor class hasn’t adjusted yet to this new reality. It is like grandpa has suddenly died and the kids have inherited his estate.
Donald Trump is correct to focus on vetting and electing a Trumpist Congress. He needs to finish off Conservatism, Inc. which obstructed his presidency. Everything is going to have to be rebuilt from scratch to reflect this new reality within the Republican Party. The old taboos have zero support when 90% of Trump voters are worried about racially charged attacks on White people and 64% have explicit racial consciousness. We’re going to also need a new governing ideology to replace to mainstream conservatism and a new electoral strategy as well. We need solutions to the problems of our own times and the decades ahead. This is all obvious to me.
Note: As usual, what is obvious to me will undoubtedly take others much longer to digest and adjust to and only after bitter resistance. All I can really do is offer my take on the situation.