Trump opened the Overton Window on a host of issues

The Overton Window is a concept that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support. They will generally only consider initiatives that are accepted by a critical mass of society as viable options. Such policies are said to lie inside the Overton Window. Although other policy ideas exist, politicians risk losing popular support (and elections) if they pursue them. These policies lie outside the Overton Window. To open the Overton Window means to let in ideas that were previously toxic to politicians. In other word, ideas that heretofore were verboten are now considered respectable for debate in the political world.

The Mackinac Center of Public Policy, the think tank where John Overton developed his window concept in the 1990s, says: "Sometimes politicians can move the Overton Window themselves by courageously endorsing a policy lying outside the window, but this is rare.  More often, the window moves based on a much more complex and dynamic phenomenon, one that is not easily controlled from on high: the slow evolution of societal values and norms."

Donald Trump is the exception. He opened the Overton Window wide to let in a whole host of issues that the ruling class had long kept out of the public dialogue. These issues can be grouped under an umbrella called America First or Make America Great Again (MAGA). This is Donald Trump's major accomplishment.

On foreign affairs, putting America First was on the outside of the Overton Window before Trump came to town. Not one politician in either party dared to suggest such a thing. When you think about it, that, in and of itself, is surreal. Every other country on the face of the earth puts itself first. And so did America until after WWII. The elites who fostered subverting the U.S. national interest in matters of trade, immigration, military alliances, and kowtowing to international organizations did quite well for themselves while their policies beggared much of middle America. The rich got richer while the middle class either stagnated or fell behind. People had long sensed something was amiss but couldn't put words to it. It took Trump to articulate the problem and to offer counterpolicies which he called MAGA.

Trump also opened the Overton Window on domestic matters. By having the moxie to lift up the rock that's Washington, D.C., he exposed the denizens of the Deep State for what they are -- pompous bureaucrats who not only believe they're above the law but are entitled to run the country. Trump also knocked the legacy media off its pedestal. He showed the country how untrustworthy the media was and that it is more a propaganda arm of the leftist Democrat Party than anything else. He also showed conservatives that mocking political correctness is not a death wish.

For all of this, Trump drew the hatred of the establishment. Hate him they may, but regardless of who is president after January 20, the issues that Trump brought to the public's attention will not fade away. Even Biden, who is beholden to the Chinese government for so much, will now find it hard to accommodate the Red Dragon as he would like. That's because Trump has educated Americans about the true nature of that communist country and the threat it poses to our security. 

Such is evidenced by Rick Grenell, who says: "Let's be honest; the America First policy is never going back in the bottle." And John Mearsheimer wrote in the National Interest that Biden (or Harris) must embrace nationalism to move the country forward. As for the grassroots, polls show 72 percent of Republicans see MAGA as the future of the party. 

As a new year dawns on us, it can be seen that over the past four years, Donald Trump has opened the Overton Window on a number of critical issues, both domestic and foreign. Now it is up to others -- many others -- to pick up the ball and translate these issues into concrete policies. Hopefully enough conservative Republicans will step up to the plate and build on what President Trump has made possible. Skeptics don't believe they will, while optimists do. I'm tentatively in the latter group.

Image: Gage Skidmore