From: John Heart
It’s time for a collective deep breath as a nation. Yes, the unthinkable has happened and Donald Trump has become the presumption Republican nominee. Yes, the Republican Party as we’ve known it may not survive. Yes, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win a general election in a blow out. All of these things are true. Yet, a reading of history beyond the moment suggests more good than chaos may result from the age of Trump, if not for the Republican Party then certainly for the republic.
1. The Rise of the New Elites — We the People
For the past year, the media and many campaigns have fed the public a deeply dishonest, self-serving and flawed shorthand narrative about American politics. This narrative pits an all-powerful Establishment against beleaguered and marginalized outsiders. Trump’s victory blows that up.
Trump’s win proves the system isn’t rigged at all but allows the will of the people to be exercised. The rules worked perfectly. In many respects, Trump is now the Establishment. The takeover worked. Congratulations.
Trump, of course, will disappoint his voters. But his victory proves that the rules of the game actually favor the people. These rules changed many years ago with the rise of technology, blogs and social media. Across the planet, the balance of power has shifted from big institutions to individuals. On balance, that’s a very good development for anyone who loves freedom.
We’re in a new era of personal responsibility in which enlightened and empowered citizens truly are in control of their own destiny. Yes, Trump is a bad choice. But the freedom to get it wrong is a precious freedom in our democracy. And the more we acknowledge the reality that voters are in command and enfranchised, and let go of the fake victimization narrative, the more likely it is they will exercise their responsibility wisely.
Yes, Trump is a bad choice. But the freedom to get it wrong is a precious freedom in our democracy
2. The Rise of Results and Opportunity Conservatism
This excellent postmortem of the race by the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes draws out a simple but profound explanation: Trump won because he talked about things people cared about whereas Cruz didn’t. Again, Trump’s policies are wrong, incoherent and leftist. He’s running as the jobs fairy who will “bring back” jobs and he’s promising to de-globalize the world economy. Good luck with that.
But Trump did convince a significant block of voters that he cared about them and could relate to not just their fears and prejudices but their practical material problems. Trump’s win shows the political marketplace is starving for practical solutions that work in the real world, as my colleague Ellen Carmichael argued recently.
Before Trump, Republicans were already finding their voice on these issues. As our “Comeback” series shows, the answer to poverty isn’t going to come from a new government program or compassionate conservatism 2.0, but rather from local grassroots community leaders. If frustrated Americans want to listen to some who “gets it,” forget about Trump and listen to Bob Woodson at the Center For Neighborhood Enterprise.
Similarly, the best way to create jobs, unleash innovation and encourage growth isn’t to create a new D.C. “jobs” program but to create the conditions for growth through smart regulatory and tax reform. Again, even if Trump isn’t capable of delivering policy results Republicans would be wise to listen to voters who are more interested in practical problem solving than fake purity tests.
3. The Repudiation of Conservative Pharisaism
Over the past five years or so, the greatest opposition to opportunity conservatism — a conservatism that speaks with an aspirational and substantial voice and offers specific solutions rather than mere protest — hasn’t come from the Left but from fake conservatives on the Right.
Case in point: the Obamacare replacement debate. At the very time conservatives were developing and introducing thoughtful and practical replacement plans the anti-Establishment Right decided the “pure” course of action was to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare. Those who objected were part of the “surrender caucus.”
Trump’s victory shows voters aren’t impressed by Washington “conservatives” who pretend they’re living in the world of “Highlander,” the cheesy 1980’s sci-fi fantasy cult classic in which a race of immortals are locked in a sword-wielding death match across time. Cruz’s “There can be only one pure conservative” campaign, which started with the government shutdown, was a dud.
The greatest opposition to opportunity conservatism hasn’t come from the Left but from fake conservatives on the Right.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argues the race was a defeat for “True Conservatism,” but he’s being too charitable. What we’ve seen too much of isn’t real conservatism but a fake, hypocritical and corrosive conservative pharisaism that “keeps score” and creates the appearance of purity while ignoring the practice of policymaking. The problem isn’t “True Conservatism” but conservatives pretending to be true.
Like many conservatives, I swallowed my personal dislike of Cruz and supported him as the best candidate to stop Trump. But the fact remains that Cruz made a tragic and destructive blunder by abandoning his past support of “opportunity conservatism” in favor of the politics of self-promotion, fake purity, and instant gratification.
The coming effort to rebuild should reject this brand of fake conservatism and its tactical arguments that undermine the very form of constitutional conservatism its adherents say they want to protect.
4. Paul Ryan, Ben Sasse, the GOP House and Senate, Governors and State Legislatures
While it’s true that Donald Trump is now the Establishment, the Republican Party has plenty of other voices and leaders who are more capable of empowering Trump supporters than Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent town hall at Georgetown, Sen. Ben Sasse’s recent Facebook post calling for better leadership, and the GOP’s string of victories over the past few years at the national, state and local levels show a party that can probably withstand Trump. In all likelihood, Trump won’t be able to shrink a party Obama has helped grow. Thanks to eight years of Obama’s failed policies, more states are GOP than Democratic for the first time.
Still, no one really knows what will happen to the Republican Party. With both former presidents Bush apparently willing to sit this election out, the party is undeniably at a crossroads. Yet, for the past 2,600 years or so — since the days when Israel wrestled with whether it should have a king — politics has been organized around the question of more or less government. If today’s Republican Party isn’t capable of organizing itself around the “less government” side of that debate it will either go through an internal correction or it will cease to exist and something else will take its place. In any event, the debate about ideas will carry on as it has for centuries.
If today’s Republican Party isn’t capable of organizing itself around the “less government” side of the debate, it will either go through an internal correction or it will cease to exist and something else will take its place.
And if something even more unthinkable happens and Trump wins the White House, he’ll encounter a system of checks and balances developed by wise founders who understood the sweep of history and the danger of consolidating too much power in any one office. So let’s exhale, and thank our founders for devising the most functional dysfunctional system ever designed in history.