America’s leadership class is in crisis beginning with our political class which includes the party leadership of both Parties, bureaucrats running the administrative state, the foreign policy experts that populate both think tanks and administrations, depending on which party is in power.
Trump had to depend on many within the establishment as he started his administration. This proved to be one of his Achilles heels, as many of these individuals did not buy into his agenda, including foreign policy where the amateurs proved to be more effective in implementing Trump’s goals than the foreign policy experts. This was shown in the Middle East as the Trump foreign policy team produced an anti-Iranian Sunni alliance with Israel in the Middle East. This overcame one of Obama’s great foreign policy mistakes, the Iranian nuclear deal. He and his amateurs saw changes in the Middle East that his experts didn’t see, such as how states such as the United Arab Emirates could be potential allies of Israel. The amateurs took advantages of those changes and made steps towards peace. Trump saw the threat of China that his experts did not see or refused to see.
The scientific class was a major failure in 2020 as this was the year when the pursuit of scientific truth died and may be incapable of being resurrected. The Wuhan virus demonstrated that our scientific class was perfectly willing to fit their science into political conventional wisdom, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the destruction of the world economy and local communities. Our scientists may have killed more people prematurely than they saved from the virus. The academic class has replaced teaching with indoctrination and the media class is merely an appendage of the political class, and the Democratic Party. As one wise pundit noted, “Media members are Democratic operatives with bylines.”
Glenn Harlan Reynolds described the suicide of expertise: “It was the experts — characterized in terms of their self-image by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest — who brought us the twin debacles of the Vietnam War, which we lost, and the War On Poverty, where we spent trillions and certainly didn’t win. In both cases, confident assertions by highly credentialed authorities foundered upon reality, at a dramatic cost in blood and treasure. Mostly other people’s blood and treasured, and these are not isolated failures.”
Over the past decade, we have seen the Great Recession, due to a housing bubble engineered by existing laws and promoted by the best and brightest on Wall Street. Trump inherited a foreign policy debacle in the Middle East engineered by Obama’s experts, who produced a policy that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, a million refugees headed for Europe, the rise of ISIS, and the upending of previous relations between the U.S. and the State of Israel. Nor can we forget the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi, which led to Libya becoming yet another sanctuary for Islamic terrorists and another places where refugees fled the Middle East for Europe. A year after the toppling of Gadhafi, attack on two United States facilities resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
While many in the Middle Class saw their income and wealth decline, they were often mocked when they rebelled by voting for Trump and that includes a few within the conservative ranks, some of whom didn’t even vote for him either in 2016 or 2020 and supported the two impeachment attempts.
The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020 shows the complete failure of the Leadership class. Biden was a mediocrity at his best but the one thing he was good at, he knew how to play the system and enrich his family and himself. Nor was this the usual graft as his family profited as his son made billions in deals with China while Biden as vice president was negotiating deals that cost many Middle Americans their jobs and allowed China to become even more powerful. Biden also got a prosecutor in Ukraine fired for investigating a corrupt company that Hunter Biden was making hundreds of thousands a year from. (Let us not forget that Trump was impeached over raising the issue of Hunter Biden with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump got impeached over asking about what a corrupt Presidential candidate did when he was the Vice President in a previous administration.)
Richard Fernandez noted in 2017, “Suicidal factionalism has torn apart famous nations before, Rome’s Crisis of the Third Century being the most famous example. . .. If Trump is overthrown by the Deep State in a year, he’s unlikely to be the last. If neither faction will suffer itself to be governed by the other, whoever succeeds Trump can expect his term to be short. America could have its own period of the 26 presidents. That will be good news for the Barbarians, waiting at the edge of the Baltics, in the South China Sea, and on Europe’s borders, ready to move in. Rome’s Third Century crisis did not end well. The new normal was not a return to the Golden Age, but the end of it.” In 2020, the Leadership class won this battle and essentially turned the country over to the socialists and oligarchies that fund their political activity.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds noted, “Strong nations can fail when their leadership class, or a part of it, succumbs to pettiness, and places its narrow factional interests above those of the nation. Americans have often assumed that we are immune to such things. Perhaps earlier Americas, with a more disciplined, more patriotic ruling class, were. But today’s America is not. Beware.”
Right now, the conservative movement is in turmoil, not exactly sure what to do in the wake of the 2020 elections. The Trump presidency is controversial among conservatives. since he was not a typical conservative of the past five decades. For those of us who came of age in the Reagan years, Trump challenged our ideas. However, times and circumstances change, and we need to recognize that while conservative principles are still essential, the solutions we have come up with to public policy problems need to be reviewed.
Over the past four years, our coalition is shifting, beginning with adding blue-collar workers living in medium size cities. rural areas and small towns, and we are adding minorities who are finding that states run by Democrats don’t work and give them with fewer job opportunities and higher crime than they would in red states. We have developed losses with suburbanites, but we don’t know whether these losses were due to the temperament of Trump that they didn’t like or something deeper.
The other shift is that the business class has changed, with many of the larger business leaders siding with the left in the culture war and becoming more caretakers than innovators. Even the tech companies that drove much of the economic growth in the 1980’s and 1990’s have ceased to be innovators. but instead have become monopolies but monopolies that are willing to perform censorship demanded by the political class, who want to crush any opponents who dare to resist the coming socialism of America. These monopolies want to use government to set up regulations to destroy their competitors.
When Apple, Facebook and Twitter went after Parler, they had two objectives: to crush a conservative competitor and to censor conservative thoughts. The past two election cycles 2018 and 2020, Republicans have been outspent by Democrats and much of this due to big business and big tech money going to the Democrats.
In my first book and reports for Americas Majority Foundation, I have made the case for the synergy between Trump populism and conservatism, and I’ve warned if we failed to form an alliance, then many of our coalition will either stay home or move to the left. Conservatism is at stake but there are solutions to preserving conservative principles beginning with studying the past.
Reagan lived in an era in which inflation pushed many in the middle class were pushed into high marginal tax rates once reserved for the upper class. A stagnating economy combined with double-digit inflation to produce “stagflation.” In addition, Reagan had to confront an expanding Soviet Empire.at the end of the 1970’s. Many observers in this period saw America in permanent decline. Reagan’s tax rate reductions and victory in the Cold War and winning the cold war produced world peace and nearly a quarter century of prosperity. Most Americans saw their income rise and by 2007, 63% of Americans became investors and the investor class was born.
Trump inherited a foreign policy mess. Yemen, stable before Obama took office, was in a civil war with proxy forces of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Ukraine was under siege and partially occupied by Putin’s forces. ISIS occupied much of Syria and Iraq and Chinese influence steadily grew. The economy was growing slowly, with many Americans were not sharing into the growth. Many in the middle class found their overall wealth declining as their wages stagnated.
Trump had foreign-policy successes, including formation of an anti-Iranian coalition including Arab states and Israel. Many Americans did see their income go up until the pandemic, which helped sink his chances for a second term. Many of his policies were center-right and his foreign policy represented a chance to restructure our overseas priorities. We will see if this can be resurrected in 2024 if Biden returns to the foreign policy failures of the Obama/Biden Administration.
The greater threat to our freedom comes from the democratic socialist movement. While a reform conservative movement can embrace rising national populism, there are no counterpoints on the right to the democratic socialist movement, since many moderates have either been defeated in elections or have simply left the Democratic Party. The Democratic donor class funds the socialist movement with glee, and the Democratic Party has become the party of the very rich and the poor. As the Democratic Party has shown since Obama’s presidency, they have no problem in using government to attack their opponents including the use of the IRS to target conservative political organizations. The left likes to portray Trump as the second coming of Hitler or Mussolini, but it has been the Democratic Party which is a real threat to many of our freedoms, beginning with free speech and free political association.
I observed that during the 2016 election, the future of conservative ideas was being fought between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Rubio and Cruz’s families both came to America from Cuba, but even though they were both Cuban-Americans, but this hid the differences between the two and the emerging Hispanic community. Rubio, like most Hispanics, is Roman Catholic, but Cruz is Southern Baptist; and a rising number of Hispanics are evangelicals. Before Rubio was elected to the Senate, he was a Florida legislator including being the speaker of the Florida House. Cruz worked in George W. Bush’s Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission before becoming the solicitor general of Texas, where he argued cases in front of the Supreme Court. Cruz drafted the amicus brief for Heller, a significant victory for gun rights in 2008 supported by 31 state attorney generals.
The differences between the two reflected the differences within the Republican Party. Rubio’s tax plan depended on tax credits for the middle class. His goal was to promote family values and help the middle class through tax reform. Rubio’s plan left the top rate at 35%, which is only a slight drop from the present system and. Of all the tax reform proposals between 2010 and 2016, Rubio’s plan had the highest marginal tax rates. Ted Cruz proposed a flat 10 percent tax plus a 16 percent rate on business transactions that was like a value added tax. In foreign affairs, Rubio campaigned as more of an interventionist whereas Cruz’s foreign policy was a return to the pre-9/11 more modest view of America’s role in the world.
Trump’s individual tax plans were similar to Rubio’s and his business plan was similar to what Cruz proposed. Trump’s foreign policy was a return to a more modest view of foreign affairs based on defending American interests and not being involved in parts of the world that may be part of America’s interests.
Both Cruz and Rubio are social conservatives and supporters of gun rights but that is the norm for Republicans even in the era of Trump. Cruz argued Second Amendment cases in front of the Supreme Court and Cruz opposed crony capitalism including ethanol and sugar subsidies. (Rubio supported sugar subsidies because Florida politicians support sugar subsidies just as Iowa politicians support ethanol.) As the Carrier case in Indiana demonstrated after the 2016 election, in which Trump used government power to aid the company, Trump supported his version of crony capitalism if it benefited his voters.
Both Cruz and Rubio are considered potential rivals for 2024, but the field has expanded to include South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Florida governor Ron DeSantis. During the pandemic, Governor Noem and Governor DeSantis showed leadership at keeping economic growth in their respective states while dealing with a pandemic and showed that much of the scientific class advice coming from Washington was not just wrong, but disastrous to many Middle-Class Americans, small businesses, and city residents, while failing to save lives. Noem and DeSantis ignored much of the Scientific class’s advice emanating from Washington. They instead listened to the “skeptics” whose ideas and solutions proven more correct. (I only use the word ‘skeptics’ because many of those who opposed lockdown strategies proved to be more accurate with their science, but the Media class and much of the political class viewed them as outliers as opposed to scientists who “got the virus right.”.)
The real need is for the conservative leadership to accept the fact that Trump’s supporters are here to stay and are a necessary part of the coalition without which Republican and conservatives can’t win. As for Trump, he will remain a Republican to ensure that his ideas are still part of the debate and his supporters respected. The one obstacle to Trump’s future is that Biden Department of Justice will continue to persecute Trump and his family and there will be attacks from Democratic state attorney generals as well. Trump may suffer the fate of Andrew Mellon, the secretary of Treasury in the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administration. Mellon spent his last years fighting off Democrats’ efforts to put him in jail for various tax crimes. Shortly after his death, Mellon would be exonerated. Democrats want not just to defeat Trump but also to humiliate him and his family, hoping to permanently blacken Trump’s legacy.
The good news is that Republicans have a deep bench for 2024 among both governors and legislators in Washington, but too many within the Republican establishment are just as happy not just to see Trump leave but his supporters as well. Without these Trump voters, there is no chance of a Republican victory. As I noticed in my previous book, many of Trump’s domestic policy ideas are in line with much of modern-day Republican and conservative principles and his foreign policy are becoming more in line with Americans wary of war and endless American military deployments. The potential to synergize conservative ideas with Trump populism is there, but it means that the conservative leadership class must change course and stop resisting Trump’s supporter and instead take advantage where his ideas mesh with conservative ideas.
My book The Rise of National Populism and Democratic Socialism: What Our response Should Be, explored how, if 2020 showed anything, we are a 50/50 nation, but the left holds the advantage as they control the leadership class, including the media class, much of the political class, the scientific class, and the academic class. We are witnessing the implosion of these classes, but their decline is also leading to the decline of America. The political class is the leading governing class that encompasses much of Washington including the administrative state, congressional legislators, the Democratic Party and even quite a few leaders of the Republican Party. The governing class extends to many governors like Andrew Cuomo who proved disastrous in running his state, implementing policies that resulted in the death of many senior citizens and trashing his state economy. (He was forced from office due to sexual assault and harassment of women but not for a policy resulting in the deaths of thousands of senior citizens.)
As Joel Kotkin noted, “One has to go back to Reagan to find a Republican Party that could consistently position itself as populist. Reagan’s appeal was based on security and taxes; for today’s GOP, the issue should be – besides terrorism and rising crime – how to address the decline of the middle- and working-class economy”. In the past, Democrats appealed to the middle class with programs designed for them, such as the G.I. Bill and had no problem with fighting class warfare. Hillary Clinton’s campaign attempted to appeal to the middle class through welfare expansion geared strictly to middle class voters but Hillary Clinton, like Obama, built a Democratic base based less than on class and more on race and identity politics and Biden is continuing this trend. Many of this new left-wing coalition is built around Millennials, minorities, single people, academics, and wealthy tech executives. Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and his war on fossil fuels was a dagger aimed at many blue-collar Democrats, including union members. With coal mines closing due to EPA regulations, many blue-collar voters who voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 were abandoned by his wife and her party in 2016. Biden is abandoning these voters as he seeks to increase Democratic suburban voters while maintaining minority voters. His opening executive orders blocking the Keystone XL Pipeline and energy development on federal land has affected blue states like New Mexico and Colorado, who are now seeing their energy sector trashed. Many blue voters are now seeing the price of voting Democratic. As H.L. Mencken noted, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” These voters got it hard, and this is only the beginning.
For four decades, the Republicans have depended upon a coalition of social conservatives, national security hawks and supply siders. But this coalition that elected Reagan is now fraying and is no longer the majority. The good news is that the left has abandoned blue-collar white voters as well as many within their minority base who have more in common with these white, blue-collar voters than with other parts of the Democratic base. These minorities own their businesses and are moving into the middle class, but they are seeing doors to opportunity being shut by the oligarchies that fund the Democratic left. At least more 1.5 million Blacks and Hispanics voted for Trump in 2020 than in 2016. The door is open for Republicans and reformist conservatives who understand that the Republican Party is now the party of Main Street. It is time for Wall Street to understand their long-term health is dependent upon a healthy Main Street. Wall Street can’t survive in the long run if nothing is produced on Main Street.
The Republicans will have the opportunity to rebuild a new conservative majority, based on conservative ideals beginning with this: the average American wants and needs a Fair Opportunity to Succeed. The challenge to the conservative leadership is to complement conservative ideals with the populist aspect of the movement to form a more permanent coalition. The present leadership class is no longer adequate to govern America and changes are coming, and we conservatives need to be the vanguard of those changes.
I wrote in 2017, “Trump has many failings including making a fortune as a crony capitalist making his own deals with government regulators and Democratic politicians, but part of his appeal lies with his own view of the political class which he is forever calling ‘stupid.’ He understands that much of America no longer trusts government, but this distrust goes to other institutions of the ruling class, including corporations and Wall Street. Trump appeals to independents and working-class Democrats who know the old rules of the game no longer work for them, ensuring and they are alienated from politics.”