For some, Trump operates as a clever and ambitious used-car salesman, with some victories under his belt, but a used-car salesman nonetheless. He will ultimately be unable to deliver on many of his promises without making too many short-term gains at the expense of long-term freedoms, principle, character and knowledge. Such a man has been summoned by the times, and may not be the worst we see yet.
To other conservative-minded folks, he may be a cruder, politically personalizing populist, yes, but he stands-up for their economic and personal interests, making all the right people uncomfortable in all the right ways by openly waving the flag and focusing on national sovereignty and economic growth (identity politickers, one-worlders, progressives, the media, political and Hollywood elites, liberal political idealists as well as many establishment Republicans and RINO’s are properly either driven into irrational frenzy or made irrelevant).
Jonah Goldberg defends his vision of conservatism as a vocal anti-Trumper here (I suspect it is somewhat personal), towards the end of his podcast ‘The Remnant.’ In it, he explains why he resists the incomplete, and what he sees as incorrect, ‘neo-conservative‘ label (for him neo-conservatives bring the terminology, analysis and methods of the social sciences into conservatism while using them against Communist, Socialist, Marxist and other collectivist, rationalist enterprises).
He envisions paleo-cons as part of a more recent movement, pro-Trumpers as potentially misguided, and his platform of freer-market, more Hayekian conservatism as just as well-established and valid, or perhaps more valid than other competing visions.
It’s true that although no one individual nor faction likely possesses all of the truth, most individuals and factions believe they do, especially under the pressures of politics, opinion and influence. Political coalitions can bring such disparate groups together for awhile.
One major rift seems to be this:
Free Trade vs Economic Nationalism–
If you’re for open markets and free-trade, you likely don’t see too much long-term viability in trade-protectionism (union Left nor protectionist Right), because the forces at work are as relentless as they are transformative. There is little choice but to ride the waves of innovation, global competition and mobile labor, as the goal is to keep creating win-win scenarios, and keep building newer, better opportunities which engage people at their core talents and ambitions.
It is inefficient, backwards-thinking, and even perhaps politically dangerous, to react to the same waves by paying some people to keep rearranging the chairs inefficiently and creating incentives to use our political system for their personal and factional gains. The open-market approach doesn’t tend to make for ‘compassionate’ politics when people are hurting (deeply), but its best case seems to be that it can make for a politics of moral decency and local involvement by embracing this role, engaging a lot of who we are as people, not just what we do in the marketplace.
On the other hand, economic nationalism can also be a unifying force; a large island of possible agreement and common interest in a rapidly changing political and economic American landscape. This is much of what Donald Trump responded to in speech after speech as he toured the country (he also appealed to simply not being Hillary, attacking his opponent as he was attacked). The demographics are changing, and The Civil Rights movement, along with the extension of Civil Rights logic to more and more minority groups and individuals has continued apace, leading to much social transformation.
Freedoms have been extended to even those once legally denied such freedoms, and some people are finding themselves with different views, and different understanding of relationships they once held, even with their neighbors. I think it’s also true to say that many people driving these changes are also having to answer for some consequences of their ideals and behavior in action. Many radicals seek to change laws they call illegitimate, just as they often seek to control the institutions and lawmaking process they consider illegitimate, just as they seek to make their own laws based on universal claims, to rectify past injustices, and often not recognize opponents as anything but illegitimate (or evil). There is a lot of dependence, decadence, resentment and lack of freedom among many activists and radicals claiming freedom for all, despite the truths they have to tell.
How does economic nationalism fit it? I think Trump’s focus on jobs and border walls does, in fact, call some people from allegiance to their individual ‘class,’ ‘race’ and ‘gender’ categories to different purpose (away from identity politics and towards getting a job and serving the country). But I don’t think the appeal is that broad.
Economic nationalism also crystallizes a return to a promised pre-existing order, and I think it’s fair to say it certainly does give voice to people being tired of called rubes, racists and misogynists.
Whatever your political stripes, then, I know I’m seeing a profound mistrust of most established institutions, authority and claims to authority right now. The extremes have often come to the middle, and the middle seems harder to find.
***As for the Democratic party, there is just as big a rift of populist, activist, and socially democratic progressivism within the base against older, establishment hawkish and more economically conservative establishmentarianism. The center seems sufficiently Left enough to have trouble winning working people back (though I could be wrong).
Here’s Trump giving a campaign speech in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania in October 2016 which has traditionally been a coal town, and is now trying to attract more and newer industries (Pennsylvania has traditionally been..traditional, with hard-work, patriotism and public service being profoundly important to most).
A lot of people went for Trump: