Post-Trump, populists still have a big future in the GOP
With a month in the rearview mirror since the Americans headed to the polls, it’s clear that the election confirmed and crystallized many a massive political realignment.
The multicultural left describes a nation balkanized along racial lines, but the emerging reality is quite a bit different. President Trump, despite a four-year effort to tar him as a bigot, made substantial inroads among young black men and Hispanics. At the same time, donor-class elites — Wall Street, Silicon Valley and corporate America writ large — broke overwhelmingly for the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
To those who, Rip Van Winkle-like, may have been asleep for the past 20 years, this may come as a surprise. Octogenarians who grew up in the New Deal era may be even more shocked. Long gone are the days where the Democratic Party was the political vehicle for the downtrodden, oppressed “little guy,” and the Republican Party the organ of conniving, Mr. Burns-esque plutocrats.
The reality, of course, is that today’s Democratic Party disproportionately represents the college-educated elite — purveyors of the addlebrained “woke” catechism, dispensers of New Green Deal, bottom-to-top redistributionist nonsense.
Meanwhile, it is the Republican Party that disproportionately represents a multiethnic, non-college-educated working class — the Rust Belt and Sun Belt “deplorables” of Hillary Clinton’s ire who, per Barack Obama, still cling desperately to their guns and religion.
Though it’s true that exit polling data suggest blacks and Hispanics didn’t quite mirror whites in breaking so sharply along the educated/non-educated line, it is still undeniable that class, not race, is the main line of fracture in our two-party political system.
Elites are often puzzled by this. Democratic elites, prone to word-vomiting the full litany of social-justice “woke”-isms, are often in denial as to how unpopular “defund the police” and the Green New Deal are with the public.
Republican elites, for their part, are still stubbornly moored to laissez-faire fundamentalism and limited government as an end in itself. That leaves them in denial as to how minuscule the political constituency is for a pro-corporate libertarianism detached from the day-to-day needs of the working class.
Even so, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. America’s political realignment will not slow down any time soon.
Assuming the Electoral College formalizes Joe Biden as our next president, the next four years are potentially ripe for crossover opportunity. The beauty of an unfolding political realignment in which so much is in flux is that there may well be more Venn diagram overlap than meets the eye.
Conservatives must remain constantly vigilant about a far-left capture of the frail and deteriorating Biden, but it would also be a mistake to preemptively write off the possibility of any bipartisan cooperation whatsoever.
On economic matters, there is room for legislative deal-making on the need for an industrial policy that reshores strategic supply chains and spurs greater domestic investment in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and semiconductors.
Even before the pandemic, Republican populists were hawkish on China, wary of the downsides of free-trade absolutism and alert to the need for greater economic resilience on the home front. The damage wrought by a Chinese virus buoyed that wing of the GOP, giving it an unquestionable we-told-you-so Trump card.
Biden has voiced support for some variety of a pro-manufacturing industrial policy. Republican watchdogs should ensure that such a policy, if enacted, does not manifest itself in the form of cronyist, Solyndra-like boondoggles.
On Big Tech, too, there is strong bipartisan outrage at the status quo. Conservatives and progressives may be angry at Facebook and Twitter for different reasons. Yet it’s likely that there will be room to collaborate on antitrust reform or on reform of Section 230, the 1990s-era legal-immunity giveaway to the Big Tech giants. Partisans from both sides are increasingly coming around to the view that these goliaths must be reined in.
It’s unfortunate that Trump looks headed for an Electoral College defeat. The next four years could be rough. But there are always silver linings to be found amid the rubble.