What feeds all this is the belief that America has fallen from greatness abroad, cannot offer rising living standards at home and must guard against a tidal wave of Islamic terrorism. America’s identity is at stake. But there are different answers to building walls and trying to abolish the state and taxation – and which have broader appeal. It is more obvious that a rogue capitalism is the source of America’s ills, not the poor old state, for most people even in the US their lifeline and shaper of opportunities. The idea of checked and balanced democratic government as the expression of the commonweal is the great Enlightenment gift, well expressed in the US constitution, and which mainstream America understands. In this sense, Cruz and Trump set themselves against the founding fathers of their country and its culture.
Thus it should be no surprise that the self-styled democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination more effectively than even he could have supposed 12 months ago. He is less a socialist, more an exponent of using smart government actively to serve the common interest, redistribute income and reshape the increasingly dysfunctional institutions of the US economy. He won’t win the nomination, but he is pushing Clinton into much more proactive left positions than she would have otherwise have taken. And she is much more likely to be president than Cruz or Trump. The right, notwithstanding its amazing financial resources, is in the depths of a deep crisis. As it becomes a prisoner of its worst instincts taken to their ideological extreme, it becomes unelectable.