"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Donald Trump’s Victory Without Winning – Radical Populism Is Here To Stay

The latest Nate Silver predicti0ns give Hillary Clinton an 85 percent chance of winning the 2016 presidential election with an almost insurmountable 10 percentage point lead in the polls.   As of a month ago the race was tight, but in the ensuing weeks, Trump’s missteps and miscalculations have cost him dearly.  His ill-advised remarks about the Muslim family of a dead American soldier and his inflammatory calls to ‘Second Amendment people’ and a thinly veiled threat to Mrs. Clinton have driven away supporters on the margins and forced even his most partisan supporters to take a second look at their candidate.


As importantly, with only three months to the election, their visceral emotions have been spent.  They have vented their anger, resentment, hostility, and frustration; reveled in Trump’s outrageous challenges to the politically correct establishment; and found in him a loud and compelling voice; but now that the reality of the election is near, they have begun to visualize their candidate as President, and have begun to revert to form.  The risks of having an eccentric showman with his finger on the button are simply to great to run. 

Hillary Clinton – as disliked among the electorate as Donald Trump – is taking up the slack.  There is no viable third party candidate in the race, and those voters tempted by Trump’s uniqueness and his populist defiance of the old guard and politics-as-usual but suspicious of his credentials, are now defecting, leaving only his core - disaffected, frustrated and punitively angry voters – still absolutely and defiantly committed to him.

There is still a chance that Trump will regain some standing in the polls.  Not everything has been heard from Julian Assange and Wikileaks regarding Hillary’s emails.  The Clinton Foundation is being scrutinized for allegedly passing money through to Hillary’s campaign; and given the borderline ethics of the Clinton’s, much more damaging information might be revealed.  Yet Hillary has shown herself to be an agile Teflon candidate; and the wider the gap in the polls, the less forthcoming she will be.


Yet if she wins the election as it now seems she will, Trump supporters will not go away.  While the Trump Revolution may have lost steam, its impact will be felt for many years to come.  What Donald Trump represents is far more important than the man himself.  He may return to Hollywood, reality TV, and real estate, but the radical populism he uncovered, defended, and promoted will not disappear.

On the contrary, this new populist movement could easily be far more influential than the Tea Party ever was, for it is comprised of millions of ‘ordinary’ Americans who have not risen to collective prominence because of intellectual criticism of big government, onerous taxation, and other familiar oversteps of the federal establishment, but because of a rejection of everything that smacks of central authoritarianism, progressive arrogance, and arrogation of moral authority by the few.

Once Hillary Clinton is in office, and if  her appointees to the Supreme Court are confirmed (she will nominate liberals to replace Justices Ginsberg, Breyer and Kennedy), the movement will be even more aggressive and determined. 

If she, in a gesture to Bernie Sanders, continues to promote the progressive agenda of race, gender, and ethnicity – the rallying point for most radical populists – former Republican efforts to bring President Obama down will be nothing in comparison to their resolve.

The issue is the down-ticket elections, and whether or not radical populists can elect enough Representatives and Senators to form a Tea Party-like coalition in Washington.  The problem is that because so much attention has been focused on Trump, and because he has so badly if not irremediably fractured the Republican Party, the GOP may not be able to marshal the resources, energy, and focus to defeat Democratic candidates. 

National elections, however, are only part of the radical populist movement.  Many states like Texas have already defied both Supreme Court rulings and Administration fiat regarding abortion and gay marriage.  America is still a federalism, and the assaults on liberal received wisdom will only accelerate and intensify at the grass roots.


Perhaps most importantly, radical populists have been emboldened by Trump to express their defiance, to air their resentment against what they see as unfairly imposed restrictions on personal freedom, religious liberty, and individual rights.  They as individuals will no longer be intimidated by the politically correct progressive Establishment.  They understand that a cultural shift has taken place in America, and that thanks to Donald Trump the values, principles, and beliefs of American conservatives have finally been aired as explosively as those of Black Lives Matter.   There is no way that they will go home.

More moderate conservatives are in synch with many of radical populists’ demands, but they have been too focused on neutralizing Donald Trump than they have in expressing their solidarity with the movement.  They have been shortsighted at best, ignorant of the seismic shifts in the American electorate at worst.  There is very little time for them to move on from Trump and get back to the business of winning Congress.   Showing support for the movement is not showing support for Trump, and the sooner they catch on, the better.

It has been said that true tolerance is not saying, “I disagree with what you say, but defend your right to say it”; but “You may have a point.”  Yet it is rare to meet a progressive who will grant that life may begin at conception; that same-sex marriage raises legitimate moral, religious, and spiritual questions; that racism goes both ways, black and white; that uncontrolled immigration does indeed have implications for both economy and culture; that government is the problem and not the solution; and that a strong, muscular, and defiant foreign policy is not militaristic but rational.

These principles are roundly and consistently condemned by the Left as ignorant, backward, and destructive; and the chance for constructive dialogue is nil.  The more the progressive agenda is promoted – and promoted it will be under a Clinton administration – the more the radical populist base will rebel and revolt.

It is a shame that Donald Trump has not taken the movement more seriously.  He has gotten caught up in his own popularity and seeming invulnerability and as a result has been painfully myopic.  He has not been able to see beyond his own campaign, when the true victory is only down the road.  The viability of the radical populist movement in America needs a leader, and that leader is not Donald Trump.

There is no one waiting in the wings.  The former Republican contenders for the presidential nomination have been dismissed, damaged, wounded, or marginalized.  None of the many who first put their hats in the ring can possibly be considered serious leaders of the movement.  Most of them, like Trump, are less political leaders than politicians looking only for immediate success and gratification. 

Ronald Reagan was a visionary, a politician, and most of all a political leader.  He like Donald Trump sensed a frustration in the land, and gave voice to it.  But his voice, although passionate, was temperate and reasonable.  He espoused only a few basic principles of governance and never deviated from them.  As a result he was able to marshal supporters from all segments of society, all of whom responded to his calls for a strong military and foreign policy, a dismantling of big government, a reinvigoration of the private sector, and an absolute commitment to individual liberty.

The Republican Party, let alone its radical populist Right, has no one, let alone a charismatic leader like Reagan.

The point is only this – radical populism is here to stay; and to gain further traction, acceptance, and power, it will need direction, leadership, and widespread support.  It can be the countervailing force to confront radical progressivism, but because it now is only a visceral movement and not a political one, the road ahead will be difficult indeed.

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