Donald Trump: A Man for This Season

Just four months ago, Democrats were flying high, assured of their own Party’s viability in 2017 and beyond.  Now, the Democratic left is splintered, and massive infighting will ensue to secure Party leadership and decide upon future political tactics.

The problem for Democrats, according to Michael Sainato of the New York Observer, is clear.  “The Democratic establishment relies on the status quo to recoup their election losses,” he posits in his article titled “Elitist Democrats Consider Abandoning Rural America.”  “Democratic elites,” he continues, “would rather give up parts of the United States than concede political power to progressive populists.”

Do Democrats court the political center and reach out to moderates, or shift harder-left to capture the populist fervor that nearly swept 74-year old socialist Bernie Sanders to the Democratic ticket?  That seems to be the pressing question facing Democrats today.

It’s a problem that I predicted back in August of 2014:

Democrats now face the familiar Republican dilemma.  In 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton represented a change from the unpopular status quo, and had the luxury of presenting their positions as bridge-building or moderate. Today, they represent the unpopular status quo, and while Hillary may garner moderate votes, she will not energize the voting base, just as McCain did not energize the conservative voting base in 2008. For a Democrat to separate him or herself from that perception requires a broad leap of faith from the perceived centrist positions which won Democrats the independent votes in the first place, as Elizabeth Warren’s recent invocation of radical progressivism has seemingly done.  And while that may energize the radicals in their voting bloc, it will undoubtedly turn off the moderate vote.

It was that last bit which Democrats feared, make no mistake.  They knew that Hillary was a flawed candidate, but the prospects of running a radical socialist (though Warren’s radicalism that I discussed became manifest via Sanders in 2016) who would risk alienating all those Americans in the political center was too great a danger, so they worked to ensure that Hillary would get the nod.  And she lost spectacularly.

The curiosity here is not that the Trump victory happened.  The curiosity is that so many among the left seem to think it would have been entirely different if Sanders had been the candidate, or that if he and Elizabeth Warren are able to bear the Party banner moving forward, things will be different in the near future.

It’s incredibly muddled thinking that is entirely ignorant to the reality of what actually happened in 2016, but perhaps Democrats can chalk it up to shell shock.  Donald J. Trump heaved a monkey wrench into the political machine in Washington last year, and in so doing, he dashed the Democrats’ dreams of shaping the future of America via executive and judicial overreach.  And he did that by doing what few would have suspected, Democrats least of all -- he stole their voters by reaching out to disaffected Democrats in middle America who’d been abandoned by an elitist gaggle of leftist politicians who’d taken the political devotion within the Blue Wall as an unchangeable fact of life.

Admittedly, Trump was not my first choice for a candidate.  Granted, I loved certain aspects of his ascension to the presidency.  He was blatantly honest and tough in the face of media inquisitions which would make most politicians run in foolish rhetorical circles.   He supported a repeal of Obamacare, and was unapologetically in favor of enforcing federal law when it comes to immigration (perhaps the two most prevalent issues which crippled Democrats in recent years).  He was vocal about our diminished stature on the world stage and our cooling relationship with our allies in Israel, along with supporting tax cuts, reduced regulation, and a pro-life and relatively pro-Second Amendment agenda.  In many ways, he seemed a conservative.

But in many other ways, his ideas were not conservative at all.  His talk of high tariffs on imports to protect American manufacturing?  Of having the “government pay” for health insurance “for everybody?  Of massive federal infrastructure spending while owning nearly $20 trillion in debt?  These are historically the mercantilist and big government ideas of Democrats.  They are not the ideas of classical liberals, who believe that government’s best place is outside of the realm of American business and individuals’ affairs.  For most classical liberals, i.e., conservatives, the very best government can do is be a mild but necessary evil, rather than an intolerable one meddling in our day-to-day lives and sluicing our wealth.

And yet, I voted Trump.  Not because he was as conservative as I wanted him to be.  But because he was conservative enough in the context of the election.

Similarly, there are millions of Trump voters in the Midwest’s “Blue Wall” with whom I may disagree for days when it comes to protectionist and pro-union economic policies that they support and that I believe to be destructive.  I doubt we’ll be coming terms on that, and I envision much Republican conflict in the future over this point. 

But they and I both obviously found something to cheer for in Donald Trump when juxtaposed with Hillary Clinton and the radical left that she increasingly seemed to represent.

Maybe it’s because we cling to the notions of our God, our families, and our liberty.  Maybe we cling to and are (gasp!) proud of our culture which values all of those things above the virtues of an authoritarian, redistributive welfare state which insists that all cultures but our own have qualities worth defending.  And maybe, just maybe, we all noticed the media and Democrats cultivating victimhood narratives to promote and align with CAIR, BLM, the LGBTQIA SJWs, and all the other radical leftist groups that generally despise us because of that culture that we love and hope to protect. 

And yet the lesson learned for left-wing pundits like Michael Sainato is that leaning harder to the left will unify the Democratic Party and, somehow, bring the center-left into the fold? 

We on the right can only hope that the left continues employing such foolish logic in plotting their political future.

The truth of the matter is that Democrats are not “considering” abandoning rural America, as Sainato suggests.  They abandoned rural America years ago.  And at a crucial moment in 2016, Donald Trump uniquely took advantage of that fact, embraced the Democrats’ forgotten constituents in middle America, and with their help, destroyed the Clinton machine. 

That, friends, is an incredibly good thing for America.  And to be perfectly honest, that is something I’m not certain that any other Republican could have done.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.