I’ve been giving some thought to the rise of The Donald, and how it compares to the previous insurgencies on the right, most recently the Tea Party. The Tea Party was as much a revolt against the Republican establishment as against the Obama administration. Before they could take power, they first had to win primaries against incumbent Republican office holders. The Tea Party gave the Republicans major victories both in 2010 and in 2014 (2012? Not so much. There were 50 million extra non Tea Party voters). Not that the Party establishment was particularly grateful. Although grateful for House and Senate majorities that allowed the leadership to get bigger offices, they had no interest in the Tea Party priorities, cutting the budget, deficit reduction, and getting rid of Obamacare. The result has been a low grade civil war within the party for years, and given the conduct of the Republican majority Congress, the establishment is definitely winning.
At the same time, there has been a parallel right leaning movement rising across Europe, In France, it’s the National Front, in the UK it’s the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), in Denmark, it’s the Danish People’s Party and so on. These parties are not European Tea Parties. In Europe, the battle of big government against the little guy was decided long ago, and big government won, but these Parties are growing on issues that have nothing to do with Tea Party issues. These parties are Euroskeptic, anti-immigration, and nationalist. Now I wonder if there is an American equivalent…
And yes there is, Donald Trump. As I’ve noted before, Donald Trump isn’t a conservative, in the American tradition, and he’s barely a Republican, but he is an economic nationalist. Unlike in Europe, which has had these nationalist, right leaning movements for years, there hasn’t really been a US equivalent except on the edge of right wing thought in the Paleo and dissident right. Within the Overton Window of allowable views, there was no room for an economic nationalist.
In the month and a half since The Trumpening, Donald Trump has not only upended the Republican primary, he’s upended the issues and agenda that will define the 2016 race. He’s altered the discussion on immigration. Instead of discussing how many and will they get citizenship and how soon, the argument is now, “why should they be here at all?” On trade, Trump is positioning to upend the decades long Republican support of free trade, totally flipping what has been a reliable Republican consensus.
Trump has single handedly created an American UKIP, an entire political movement that didn’t exist even two months ago. I have to wonder, could a celebrity billionaire with bad hair, who’s been derided as a clown, a bozo, and totally unserious do all that?
He’s already done it, and the 2016 race isn’t going to be anything like what the conventional wisdom could have predicted 2 months ago.