Why Trump Resonates
It's pretty simple: Millions of Americans want their country back.
While there is considerable and expected animus directed at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump from the Left, there might be as much, if not more, invective coming from the Right. Columnist George Will is infuriated by the extensive damage Trump has inflicted on the GOP, warning that the collaborationists who support him “will render themselves ineligible to participate in the party’s reconstruction.” Charles Krauthammer also speaks to the “ideological realignment” of the party. They are two members of a conservative army appalled by Trump’s rise among a voter base they believe has allowed anger to overcome ideology. Yet their angst is largely based on the conventional wisdom regarding the ostensible differences between conservative vs. liberal, or Democrat vs. Republican. What if the conventional wisdom no longer applies?
“Any true understanding of this election requires an appreciation of the one huge political fault line that is driving America into a period of serious political tremors, certain to jolt the political Richter scale,” writes a very insightful Robert W. Merry. “It is nationalists vs. globalists.”
Merry goes on to explain how the globalists “captured” American society by taking over elitist institutions that included the media, academia, big corporations, big finance, Hollywood, think tanks, NGOs, and charitable foundations. In the process of doing so, the elites who ran these institutions began to believe they were the ultimate arbiters of proper thinking. In turn, Merry explains that worldview led to a “quantum expansion of social and political arrogance on the part of these high-flyers.”
Enter Trump, who galvanized an American public furious with the elitist idea that national sovereignty has outlived its usefulness in a rapidly “shrinking” world.
Nowhere have the elites made this plainer than their failure to enforce immigration law. America is on the verge of yet another surge at our southern border. Through the first six months of FY2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a 78% increase from the 15,616 illegals apprehended last year, and only slightly less than the record-setting surge of illegals apprehended in 2014. Illegals the Obama administration purposely dispersed throughout the nation to await immigration hearings, even as the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review remains fully aware that between between July 2014 and January 2016, a whopping 88% of removal orders were issued “in absentia,” because illegals failed to show up for those hearings.
No matter how loud the public clamors for border control and a crackdown on visa overstays (less than 1% of visa overstayers were deported in 2015), Rule of Law is routinely ignored. Moreover, globalists are not content to allow America to wither from de facto invasion. They also insist legal immigration must be ramped up to accommodate their employment needs, even though many of those who demand such accommodation have been laying off American workers and replacing them with foreign counterparts willing to work for lower wages. This, despite the reality that wages have already been stagnant for decades.
On foreign policy, Merry explains that globalists are animated by humanitarian impulses where the “rights and well-being of the world’s people supersede the rights and well-being of the American populace.” Trump-supporting nationalists want America to remain strong, and any military intervention to be based on national security interests only.
Yet discontent with foreign policy pales in comparison to the animus driven by free trade. Rightly or wrongly (a lot wrongly) many Americans who flock to Trump are convinced free trade has hollowed out the nation’s industrial base. And while the protectionist impulses of these Americans are economically problematic, they are driven by two factors. First, there are towns and cities in America that have been decimated by globalization, and no amount of talk about the overall benefits to the nation will resonate with those directly harmed.
Yet the most important element of Trump’s appeal has nothing to do with political ideology at all. The Donald has taken a wrecking ball to the elite-driven political correctness that routinely ridicules and marginalizes ordinary Americans. And despite his multitudinous faults and foibles, Trump embodies the one thing most Republican politicians avoid like Ebola: a take-no-prisoners willingness to employ the very same street-fighter tactics Democrats and their media allies have successfully used for decades.
Krauthammer, et al, rightly rue the loss of dignity Trump represents. But a conservative electorate tired of milquetoast, GOP politicians willing to lose — as long as they do it nobly? Not so much. Thus they gravitate to a so-called Alpha Male they perceive as willing to defend American interests above all.
By contrast, Merry writes that Hillary Clinton “is the personification of the globalist elite … totally in sync with the underlying sensibilities of political correctness, a practitioner of identity politics, which lies at the heart of the assault on the national heritage.” He notes that nothing reflects this better than “the Clinton Foundation, a brilliant program to chase masses of money from across borders to fund the underpinnings of an ongoing political machine.”
Thus, be it by accident or design, Trump may signify the emergence of a new paradigm. “Make America Great Again” is hardly a cutting edge slogan (he “borrowed” it from Ronald Reagan), but it certainly resonates among millions of Americans who see Trump as their last chance to preserve national sovereignty, even if that preservation requires a level of ideological compromise that gives GOP/conservative gatekeepers fits. The very same gatekeepers who whine about the demise of conservatism and the GOP, while they apparently fail to see the steady march towards globalism will lead to the virtual extinction of both.
For those who still believe in the nation-state, Trump may prove ultimately disappointing. Clinton already has. But she and her globalist allies — as well as many disappointed conservative scolds — may be surprised when they discover that in 2016, millions of Americans’ political ideology can be reduced to five words: I want my country back.