As the populist-nationalist insurgency attempts to re-align the Republican party, or to repeal and replace it if re-alignment fails, we need a simple rule-of-thumb for judging whether a particular policy is worth supporting, or whether it should be altered to better suit our goals.
Since we are aiming at taking the GOP and the nation as a whole in an entirely different direction from where we're currently heading, we need to be wary of little changes that don't allow further changes to be built on top of them. That would be like laying a few stones for a bridge that needs to cross a mile-long chasm.
We understand that the bridge won't be built in a day, all at once -- but the process of laying stones must allow further stones to be laid, all of them connected eventually into a single cohesive bridge. A process that slows or halts its own growth will never get completed -- and half a bridge only leaves us right where we already are.
The Left gets this better than the Right, which has always had a problem with "the vision thing" and taking short-term actions with a long-term strategy in mind. *
Fortunately, that means the Left has already figured out a lot of the strategy stuff in general and neutral terms -- the Right only has to substitute their own goals into the framework instead of Leftist goals.
The Leftist social philosopher Andre Gorz came up with the phrase "non-reformist reform" to distinguish between reforms that would ultimately leave the status quo in place vs. those that would build and build toward altering the status quo at a fundamental level. That means that the same policy could be pursued in a reformist way, where it is not going to lead to larger and more sweeping changes, or in a non-reformist way, where it does lead to fundamental changes.
For example, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour -- if the campaign doesn't address why wages are so low to begin with, and how much wealth there is to go around at the top, merely raising the minimum wage will leave those forces in place and prevent fundamental change, which aims for $15 an hour wages without having to rely on minimum wage laws.
The campaign could point out how wages are low because American workers are competing with lower-wage workers in foreign countries (off-shoring), or those same people brought here as immigrants (legally or illegally). After slashing labor costs by pitting American vs. foreign workers, the stockholders of these companies reap the benefits in the form of higher profits. This is one of the main drivers of inequality.
Moreover, the rich are not getting richer because they invented some useful new thing, or have improved the production process in some ingenious new way. They've simply replaced higher-paid workers with lower-paid workers -- gee, it takes a real genius to come up with that business model. It involved no ingenuity, creativity, risk, or utility to others -- it only required sociopathy from those making the hiring-and-firing decisions.
Allowing their profits to soar, and those of American workers to plummet, from this process of off-shoring and immigration, is to reward sociopathy -- not to reward risk-taking or other entrepreneurial values.
Fighting for a higher minimum wage with this framework in mind would lead to calls for a return of jobs and industries that have been off-shored, as well as an end to immigrant labor (legal or illegal). That is a long-term vision that would introduce fundamental changes in the American economy, where cheap foreigners are no longer included as a structural release valve for the wages that the stockholders have to pay workers.
American workers would earn higher wages -- without needing a minimum wage law -- a new class of jobs would be introduced back into the American economy (manufacturing especially), and corporate sociopathy would be stigmatized to the point where managers fear the wrath of the mob, and don't think about resorting to cheap labor as their Plan A for profits. Instead, they would have to invent new useful things, or find more ingenious ways to do existing tasks than their competitors.
Of course, there's always the question of how far the fundamental change is intended to go. Even among the Leftists debating these non-reformist reforms, some groups may have wanted social democracy like they used to have in Scandinavia, others may have wanted to do away with private ownership of capital, others may have wanted public ownership plus a central planning board instead of a market, and so on and so forth.
The point was not to debate how revolutionary they were -- they already understood that some were more so than others -- but to think about how to achieve their ultimate goals, regardless of how far out-there they were compared to other Leftists.
Turning now to the Trumpist movement for populism and nationalism, we can see that most of the changes made since the transfer of control from the Democrat to the GOP administrations have mainly served to preserve or even enhance the status quo, and that the Trump movement must make more conscious efforts to re-direct any major policy in the populist or nationalist direction.
The GOP healthcare bill was clearly not going to steer healthcare in a more populist or nationalist direction. They did not seek to lower drug prices by negotiating with the drug monopolies, let alone a public option or single-payer that would have given the people even more leverage over the HMO and drug elites. Nor did they seek to cut off immigrants from government-funded healthcare programs.
A non-reformist reform in healthcare would have been, "Medicare for all, except those who gotta go back". That's what Trump meant during his campaign: "We have to take care of our people," which would have been a fundamental change to the reigning GOP values about "let everyone fend for themselves, except for the well-connected who can hijack the government for their own purposes".
The GOP tax bill shows the same intensification of the status quo, especially if they move onto gutting the social safety net afterwards under the pretense of controlling the debt explosion due to tax cuts. It is not punishing the elites who have driven our country over a cliff, nor those who expand globally at the expense of domestic workers.
A non-reformist reform in tax reform would have been, "You'll get your corporate income tax cut once 90% of your production is done here in America" or "We'll give you income tax cuts, but also 35% tariffs on off-shored production" to reward only those stockholders that are pro-American rather than amoral globalists. That would shift the reward structure from rewarding profits per se, no matter how sociopathic and society-wrecking the process was for earning those profits, to rewarding profits that came from pro-American and society-enhancing activities.
On to matters of nationalism, the immigration policies have so far preserved the status quo as well. The tiny uptick in deportations from within the interior are a welcome change, but will not come anywhere close to expelling the 10-20 million illegals here (off by 2 or 3 orders of magnitude, IIRC). A tiny uptick leaves the big picture in place -- you can illegally enter the United States, and the overwhelming odds are that you will never be deported. And everything that follows from that demographic shift -- lower wages, higher cost of living, fragmented culture, lower trust among diverse groups, etc.
A non-reformist reform in immigration would be to step up the rate of deportations so that at least 10 million illegals could be cleared out by the end of eight years. That's 1.25 million per year, which is what the Eisenhower administration managed to do during Operation Wetback in the 1950s, only we would need to sustain that rate for eight years. This would be paired with a drastic decrease in legal immigration, a la the RAISE Act (which is currently dead in the water even among GOP politicians), to keep our deportations from being canceled out by new arrivals.
And the rationale would be improving the standard of living for the American working and middle classes (higher wages, lower cost of living), not just protecting us from gangs like MS-13. Framing the immigration battle as primarily about violent crime and drugs would leave the GOP orthodoxy in place.
When the DACA people get their amnesty, a non-reformist reform would be to tie it to deporting an even greater number of illegals. Say, once 10 million illegals have been certifiably deported, then and only then will we give the DACA people amnesty. Giving them amnesty before collecting an equal or larger concession vis-a-vis immigration would be a movement-halting decision.
Nationalism in foreign policy has had the worst fate, since most people consider it boring and out-of-sight out-of-mind. But we've wasted trillions of dollars that could have been better spent on Americans and America, or not borrowed to begin with. And all in order to maintain our military presence in Germany, South Korea, and Japan long after the threat of Communist expansion has ceased to exist.
Indeed, rather than moving to "re-jigger NATO" away from Cold War concerns and toward the present and growing threat of radical Islam, we have admitted a new member from Eastern Europe (Montenegro), and are listening to the aspirations of others surrounding Russia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Georgia -- where the NATO-led uprising by Saakashvili in 2008 was easily put down by Russia). We are not moving to expel Turkey for supporting the political version of radical Islam (Muslim Brotherhood), let alone are we moving to bring in Russia -- the main force in thwarting jihadism in the Middle East, with its decisive intervention in the Syrian War.
We have only ramped up our commitment to the jihadist kingdoms who are the source of radical Islam as an ideology, and as a militia movement -- mainly Saudi Arabia, but also Qatar and the UAE. We have taken stronger measures against the secular nationalist leaders in the Middle East, such as Assad, and we are building toward a major confrontation with the non-jihadist nation of Iran.
Non-reformist reforms in foreign policy would be to draw down our presence in Germany and Eastern Europe, to ease off of Russia -- or to jump right to admitting Russia into NATO. We have to get along with Russia in order to beat back radical Islam. The Eastern European countries already in NATO would not serve to put pressure on Russia, but to halt the flow of Muslim migrants coming through Southeastern Europe (Greece especially). That would also provide the basis for kicking out Turkey, who is funneling Muslims into Europe like there's no tomorrow.
We could also draw dawn our presence in South Korea and Japan, which are more than capable of defending themselves against North Korea. And the main reason that NK developed nukes was to deter the US from attacking it preemptively, not to take over SK or Japan.
These moves out of Eastern Europe and East Asia would build toward the fundamental change of using the military for successful defense of the homeland, not failed imperial expansion. Partnering with Russia against radical Islam would provide the basis for shifting away from our alliance with Saudi Arabia.
"Sorry haters, but getting along with a nuclear superpower is more important for our national security than getting along with a bunch of fanatic Muslims who blew us up on September 11th and still have not paid the price for it."
So no matter how current events transpire, we should keep an eye more on the trajectory rather than isolated snapshots. Where have things been leading to so far, and where do they appear to be leading based on the latest events? We want our changes to be non-reformist reforms, not just feel-good isolated incidents that ultimately lead nowhere, let alone changes for the worse in the current direction.
* This is because liberals are adapted to K-selected environments, where population density is high, the niche is near saturation, and resources per capita are stretched thin. Conservatives are adapted to r-selected environments, where population density is low, the niche has just opened up and has plenty of room for growth, and resources per capita are abundant. Naturally, those who face grim prospects are going to have to be better at long-term planning than those who live in a world of seemingly boundless low-lying fruit.
The level of social complexity is also dramatically different, with liberals coming from highly complex social units. Conservatives have rarely had to face survival in such highly complex environments, so how can they be expected to appreciate how they work, let alone try to successfully manage them?
In niches marked by abundance, the highest social unit is the extended family clan. So conservatives can understand politics where the individual, family, and clan are actors -- but not where larger and more complex groups are actors, such as Wall Street or the Pentagon, or the party coalitions of (Wall St + Silicon Valley + media) and (Pentagon + Energy + Agribusiness).