For years the South Carolina Republican primary has been the ‘Conservative’ primary within the GOP primary. In 2000 it is where George Bush solidified his win against John McCain, in 2008 John McCain was only able to win because of a divided Conservative field and in 2012 it nearly derail Mitt Romney’s campaign with a New Gingrich win. It is where Conservatives, Evangelicals and pro-military Republicans get to stand up and make their voices heard loud and clear. This year South Carolina just voted for Trump by a ten point margin of victory and all I see is the death of the old GOP coalition.
This isn’t Reagan’s party anymore. I find it very hard to believe a man who built his campaign on fighting Communism, Christian values, and small government would support a candidate who trashed the Bush era foreign policy, is on wife number three, and said some rather…questionable things about their sex life, and has supported a singly payer healthcare system. The National Review, the intellectual heart of Conservatism and the oldest Conservative magazine in America, has trashed Trump so many times I doubt even they could count them. Trump is nothing like Reagan ideologically, and the GOP seems totally fine with this, well, at least the part voting for Trump does.
I am sure a few of you reading this will disagree that Trump is a rejection of the Reagan Revolution but, hear me out. Reagan went after big government, Communism and was a strong supporter of Christian values.
- First, big government. On a whole laundry list of issues Trump just doesn’t fit the mold of a small government guy. From his support of Eminent domain, to a single payer healthcare system, to his guarantee to protect Social Security he has rejected small government, and cuts to entitlements.
- Second, Reagan viewed Communism as an immoral evil and was willing to challenge in every arena possible. While Trump talks tough he is actually far more dovish than people realize. He has said, point blank that Ukraine is Europe’s responsibility and U.S. troops shouldn’t be used. In Syria he has welcomed Russian involvement in the region and has shown a great deal of eagerness to make it their problem. Imagine Reagan or Bush telling our allies in a region that a national security issue isn’t a U.S. problem. I couldn’t imagine a more opposite reaction.
- Lastly, Christian values…I mean…this is the direct quote from his speech at Liberty University
“Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame,” Trump said, drawing laughter from the crowd of students at Liberty University who knew Trump was attempting to refer to “Second Corinthians.”
This isn’t Conservatism as we have understood it. This is right-wing populism, the idea that the common man is fighting against the elites, and that government is about helping the common man. It has followers in both the left and the right, but its right wing version tends to be very isolationists and America first. It tends to be very friendly to white, working class Americans and it doesn’t really care about the left/right divide when it comes to the role of government. Sound familiar?
In truth Trump reminds me of old school Southern Democrats. Men who were steeped in the New Deal, but also highly Xenophobic and very much in step with the needs of white blue collar workers in the South and Midwest. This group would later become Reagan Democrats, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised by the overlap. This is where Trump is getting his strength from. Right-wing blue collar independents who are extremely disaffected with both parties. They don’t care much about big or small government, only if its a system that is working for them. A belief that big government and big business is colluding to cut them out of the electoral process. That big government is their to give their tax dollars to minorities while they struggle.
The Democratic party has struggled mightily with the lose of working class whites and it seems many have found a new home with Donald Trump’s brand of populism. Brash, unapologetic, and very politically incorrect. He really truly reminds me of George Wallace, the segregationists Governor of Alabama. Both men have a very similar appeal, and both turned both parties upside down. The bombastic rhetoric that took no prisoners and the notion that both men were ‘saving’ America from outsiders who seek to destroy what it means to be an American. Even Trump’s slogan “make America great again” implies going into a time machine to an era when America was more old fashioned, and when being white meant you would succeed in life, no matter what.
All of this comes to one crucial point though, Trump has changed the GOP, maybe forever. It is not longer the party of family values, of Conservatism. Ted Cruz, for all his faults, is where the Conservative movement is right now. Digging its heels into the dirt to fight a rising tide of Liberalism. He is a Conservative Evangelical in every way and it shows. Yet he couldn’t even win this group in South Carolina. Trump did! He won nearly every county and every demographic of the GOP. Even if he loses to Cruz or Rubio he will have totally changed the GOP. He has shown that it isn’t about ideology, or the role of government. Its about making sure that ‘real’ Americans are in charge and the ‘real’ America is being protected. This isn’t the left/right divide we are used to. This isn’t about what Government should or shouldn’t do, but who it works for. This isn’t morning in America, it is Reagan’s grave, and Trump is dancing on it.
If you liked this be sure to check out our other articles.