The conservative movement has become the GOP establishment. Now what?

If anyone within the large tent of the Republican Party qualifies as an establishment today, it is precisely the several-generations-old institutions of the conservative movement. What else would you call a group of well-funded salons whose conversations constantly return to the candidacies of Ronald Reagan (36 years ago) or Barry Goldwater (52 years ago)? It would be odd to search history and find Franklin Roosevelt’s brain trust looking for answers to the Great Depression by obsessing over Grover Cleveland’s legacy. The movement should not be shocked to be on the end of anti-elitist attacks.

The Republican Party, particularly in its pure Paul Ryan form, has lost all connection to the economic interests of many Republican voters.

They’ve been warned of this reality consistently, from all sides of the political spectrum, for a quarter century. First it was the Buchananite populists and paleo-conservatives. Left-leaning writers like Thomas Frank saw it. So too did the socially-conservative Sam’s Club Republicans, the Reformocons, and neoconservatives like David Frum. Yet in 2012, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ran as if it were still the 1930s and the GOP was the party of Taft and Midwestern middle-class business owners. In reality, it’s a party that needs the support of wage-earners to win elections, the people whom the analyst Sam Francis said descended from the “affluent proletariat” of post-World War II workers.

Putting a new Republican coalition together will not be easy. Trump’s coalition of supporters includes this endangered proletariat, the radical center. It also has an enthusiastic cheering section among the radical “alt-right.” That creates a difficult field of crossfire. When permanent members of the political class turn their fire on the easier targets of the alt-right, as when Rick Wilson called them trolls and “single men who masturbate to anime,” it’s very likely heard as an elitist insult by the distressed working class man whose marriage fell apart when he got downsized. When a Republican commentator tries to speak to the needs of working class whites, he is pilloried by the left and committed free-marketers on the right as making a pitch to Trumpian racists.