A nationalist worker’s party led by a charismatic belligerent worshipped by his base as a national savior?
That sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.
In all seriousness, I think this is smart messaging by Trump, although other anti-Trump righties on social media seem horrified.
I asked Trump what he thought the GOP would look like in five years. “Love the question,” he replied. “Five, 10 years from now—different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry. What I want to do, I think cutting Social Security is a big mistake for the Republican Party. And I know it’s a big part of the budget. Cutting it the wrong way is a big mistake, and even cutting it [at all].” He explained the genesis of his heterodox views. “I’m not sure I got there through deep analysis,” he said. “My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party.” He says he learned that voters were disgusted with Republican leaders and channeled their outrage. I asked, given how immigration drove his initial surge of popularity, whether he, like Sessions, had considered the RNC’s call for immigration reform to be a kick in the teeth. To my surprise, he candidly admitted that he hadn’t known about it or even followed the issue until recently. “When I made my [announcement] speech at Trump Tower, the June 16 speech,” he said, “I didn’t know about the Gang of Eight. … I just knew instinctively that our borders are a mess.”
This tweet from Mary Katharine Ham is emblematic of conservative reaction:
LOL at being told I'm not conservative enough by excited adherents to the new Worker's Party. LMGTFY: https://t.co/jbN0HwKJnM
— Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) May 26, 2016
Yeah, not the phrase I would have chosen. I wouldn’t have chosen “America First” either, another slogan that’s crept into Trump’s arsenal lately as an adjunct of “Make America Great Again.” If you’re already leery of the right’s drift towards a more reactionary politics, watching Trump croon some of the greatest hits from the nationalist songbook isn’t going to get you more excited about the GOP’s “unity!” effort.
Even so, I think Ross Douthat’s dead right:
Trump's blithely ignorant appropriation of "worker's party" and the conservative freak-out in response is why he won and the movement lost.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 26, 2016
It reminds me of all the conservatives who like to inveigh against the term "working class" because "class" is a socialist concept. Sad!
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 26, 2016
I have experience with the latter. Not long ago, when the party’s grassroots was still pretending to be conservative, I’d get flak in the comments now and then for sticking the phrase “working class” into posts about the direction the GOP should take. “Class” thinking is Marxist thinking, RINO. Now here we are, with the newly anointed Republican nominee talking explicitly about making the party a “worker’s party.” It’s the mirror image of the conservative freakout four years ago over Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments. Doctrinaire righties hated that so much, it became a theme of Romney’s convention. Meanwhile, noooooo one else cared. To the vast spectrum of America’s wage-earners, who labor beneath the entrepreneurial class that the GOP is forever praising as an economic engine, it was a nothingburger with an extra helping of nothing sauce on the side. (It was also an ironic counterpoint to Romney’s damaging comments about the “47 percent” later in the campaign.) In fact, Trump himself elegantly captured in this same interview how elementary this stuff is to anyone who isn’t neck-deep in ideological dogma:
By obliterating Jeb, Trump redefined the Republican Party’s identity off the top of his head. And his vision of the GOP’s future is in many ways the diametrical opposite of what Priebus and the party Establishment had imagined. Many politicians, Trump told me, had privately confessed to being amazed that his policies, and his lacerating criticism of party leaders, had proved such potent electoral medicine. Trump says this was obvious, but craven Republicans wouldn’t acknowledge it. So he called bulls—. “It’s funny,” he told me, delighted by the swift triumph of his influence. “It’s like the paper clip: a very simple thing. But one guy got rich, and everyone else said, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ”
The GOP, which has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections thanks to perceptions that it’s the party of rich white people, should maybe spend more time addressing the concerns of America’s racially diverse working class instead of stroking themselves about comprehensive immigration reform? “Why didn’t I think of that?” Douthat, in fact, is part of the “Reformicon” wing of the party that’s been begging the leadership for years to do just that, not to be an, ahem, “worker’s party” but to be a party that takes blue-collar concerns more seriously. They didn’t listen, so now they’ve got a nationalist in charge whose demagoguery has likely forfeited many of the demographic gains the party could have made with a better economic message. Enjoy the new “worker’s party,” Reince.
As further reading, go see Michael Lind’s projection of what the two party’s respective bases will look like 15 years from now. He imagines the GOP as mostly southern and western working-class whites who “will favor universal, contributory social insurance systems that benefit them and their families” but will oppose similar means-tested programs for the poor. They’ll also oppose immigration, legal and illegal, and favor certain forms of protectionism, and they’ll share Trump’s supposed disdain for paper-pushing bankers. In other words, um, the GOP will look exactly like it looks now. Oh, and also read this op-ed by George Hawley about how the supposed popular appeal of conservatism was always mostly a matter of hype. Exit quotation: “Conservatism, as the ideological movement defines it, is not a mass movement.” Bingo. If the primaries this year stand mean anything, they at least mean that.