September 27, 2017

GOP re-alignment uncertain: Challengers are cultural Right, not populist-nationalist

In the Alabama primary to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate, there was no Trumpian candidate -- someone who would argue against our failed imperial foreign policy, or our trade deals that gut high-paying manufacturing jobs while boosting agricultural jobs that pay poorly (and that go to immigrants anyway). Someone who did not see The Gubmint as the problem. And someone who was moderate, agnostic, or uninvolved in social and cultural issues.

Both Moore and Strange were from longstanding factions within the Republican Party coalition, back to the Reagan era -- Moore from the junior partner, the Cultural Right; and Strange from the senior partner, the Chamber of Commerce.

The battle was more of a civil war between social-cultural conservatives and the corporatists who they feel have sold them out. The original deal was that conservatives would support the business leaders in exchange for wins on moral issues. But for over 30 years, the senior partner of the GOP has failed, then refused to try again, and now resorts to insulting the conservatives for continuing to ask for something in exchange for their electoral support. E.g., John McCain calling conservatives whack-a-doos.

The Trump movement is not a weighing in on the Cultural Right side of this breakdown of the old GOP coalition. It doesn't care about social-cultural topics, but not being committed flaming liberals, is therefore totally willing and open to cutting deals with conservatives if that's what it takes.

Rather, the Trump movement is aimed at repealing and replacing the senior wing of the GOP -- the one that controls the economy, the military / national security apparatus, and the government per se. The main themes of the election were re-industrialization rather than de-industrialization (trade), shifting foreign policy focus away from the Cold War (getting along with Russia, re-jiggering NATO, pulling out of Japan, Germany, and South Korea) and toward the threat of radical Islam (Saddam, Assad, and Qaddafi were preferable to jihadists sent from Saudi Arabia), and making America a country for its citizens rather than immigrants.

Some of those topics overlap with the conservative movement, like limiting immigration to preserve American culture, or getting out of bed with jihadist hotbeds like Saudi Arabia. But others cut against the conservative movement, like re-industrialization, the government caring for its citizens by providing free healthcare to poor people so they aren't dying in the streets, and getting along with Russia.

Enough of the conservative voters accepted this re-alignment to deliver Trump the GOP nomination, followed by the disaffected Obama voters putting him over the top in the general for similar re-alignment reasons. ("I don't care about banning Muslims from the country, but we need those factories to come back and re-build the gutted working class.")

This post from March of last year laid out the shifting dynamics of the GOP coalition in the age of the Trump movement.

The path of re-alignment is for the Trumpists to replace the Chamber of Commerce and the Military-Industrial Complex within the "governing wing" of the party, while the conservatives shift their support to the Trumpists in exchange for some cultural red meat ("Stand for Our Anthem") and hopefully this time some real results (the intent to repeal the Johnson Amendment and allow chuches to participate in politics).

So far, there have been no Trumpist wins during these special elections, or for that matter during the 2016 Congressional elections. Trump himself has failed to support the ones who have run, such as Stewart in the Virginia governor's race (where he damn near won anyway, and where Trump's support would carried him over the finish line), or Gray in the Georgia Congressional race. So far the winners have been Establishment types from the corporate governing wing of the party.

But even Moore's victory is from a Cultural Right warrior determined to wring some actual concessions out of the governing wing -- whether that continues to be the globalist elites or their potential populist-nationalist replacements. He is not a Trumpian himself with an economic and governmental focus, though he is willing to cut deals with Trumpians if that's who replaces the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells within the governing wing.

Looking forward to the 2018 races, most of the list of challengers to GOP incumbents also seem to be Tea Party types rather than Trumpists. They hail from red states where "anti-Establishment" means the conservative base vs. the corporatist rulers who haven't delivered on their end of the electoral quid pro quo.

The one exception may be Danny Tarkanian challenging Dean Heller in Nevada, a purple / blue state, but we'll have to wait and see where he comes out on trade, foreign policy, and healthcare (Trump is for single-payer).

There's nothing wrong per se for the Trump movement if conservatives challenge and defeat the corporate globalists. What matters is where they stand on the economy and the nature of government -- if their idea of a quid pro quo is to support lower taxes, de-regulation, free trade, and generally painting the government as the enemy rather than something to be taken over for the people's benefit, then they are still stuck back in the Reagan era.

If they can adapt to the Trump era, they will become more electable with disaffected Democrats ("I don't care if the Senator is culturally conservative, as long as he's going to slam tariffs on Chinese imports"). More importantly for their conservative movement, they'll actually stand a chance of getting something back from the governing wing if it's made up of Trumpists, unlike the Wall Streeters who have sold them out for over 30 years.

If, on the other hand, they become puppets of the Club for Growth, Koch Brothers, and other pseudo-conservative groups that buy off the candidates of the Cultural Right in order to direct them toward corporate globalist elite plans within the governing wing, then they will be less electable (may not matter in red states, but will in purple or blue states), and even if they took office in Washington, they would not be advancing the Trump movement of populism and nationalism.

At such an early stage, it is not possible to tell whether things are moving in the right direction. If Roy Moore can channel his conservative tendencies toward a trade war against the Chinese and against our #1 military ally being Jihad University (Saudi Arabia), then we will see signs of the re-alignment coming to fruition.

In the meantime, we need more Trumpist candidates who make their focus populism and nationalism in the domains of trade, economics, foreign policy, and immigration. If all that happens is Tea Partiers replacing the GOPe, it will only intensify the Republican civil war and dysfunction. We need Trumpists replacing the GOPe in a hostile takeover, to work out deals with the Cultural Right of the party.


  1. Bannon's "economic crimes" line was a huge moment in politics, I thought. Will be interesting the political capital calculus for Moore once he's elected, but I'm just paying the scantest attention. Presume Bannon's still down there.


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