Dear Republicans, the Grand Ol’ Party:
Do you hear the sound of the bell, the funeral bell? It is ringing for you, it is for you whom the bell tolls.
The party that was supposed to stand for the rights of all by ending slavery, that was reinvigorated by the writings of William Buckley Jr. and company, and that established neoconservatism as a political force, has been corrupted. It was corrupted when it was unable to have answers for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, corrupted when it voted for tax money to rescue the architects of the housing crisis, and corrupted when it turned its back on minorities and the middle class by refusing to give them suitable opponents to Democratic candidates.
The supposed party of individual freedom supported social conservatism, which hypocritically castigated those who used such an individual freedom in choosing whom to marry. They barked and screamed at the country for not being Christian enough, policed others in accordance with a draconian moral system, and censored those who disagreed. GOP leaders often sat fat and happy while bashing unions and sending the lower-middle-class jobs overseas, removing a critical step stool for those living in poverty to climb towards the American Dream.
I wish I could say I am saddened by the end of the Reagan Era, but it has been a long time coming. The GOP “elite” have been the directors of their own doom. As happens so often when a new class of elites takes power, the subsequent generations are chosen for their ideological commitment to the order, rather than on their merits. The free thinkers were replaced by photocopies that became less nuanced with each passing election.
The decay of the party was on full display by their impotent resistance to Donald J. Trump in the 2016 primary, who prevailed all the way to the White House. Trump successfully rose to power despite a substantial portion of the “elite” (the so-called “Never Trumpers”) attempting to stab him in the side every chance they had. They feared being exposed for what I already suspected: They are shams and charlatans, an illegitimate nobility that leans on their blue-blood cash to buy their way out of trouble. They are Al Pacino with their head in a bowl of cocaine. When the old guard shuts out the best and brightest in exchange for “yes men,” there should be no surprise when they are routed by a guy who picked up politics as a hobby.
President Trump is not the answer to this problem; he is the tip of the spear. To crack the old order, one must hire a fighter, and that is why he has a bedrock of supporters. Trump supporters knew that having both sides try to undermine him in the media was going to result in an ugly fight. This is why Trump supporters smile ear-to-ear when they read the attempts to tear him down. Call him a racist, a Nazi, a white supremacist; they do not care, because they believe it is all a show. The only fun is in trying to figure out which side, Democrats or the old GOP guard, is the shadowy character behind the story.
This is not to say that President Trump hasn’t said things that were offensive, and I haven’t found many Trump supporters who have agreed with all of his rhetoric. But they are smart enough to recognize manipulation and are willing to shoulder the shame generated by Trump’s rhetoric in exchange for removing the old guard.
Behind President Trump must come a new class of conservative. John Jiang ’21 wrote an excellent piece tearing down the first generation, and it should not be surprising that a bad class has stepped up to the microphone amid this vacuum. However, they will be replaced, and the new group that takes their spot will have nothing to do with white nationalism or white supremacy.
The new orientation will almost certainly be geared towards the middle class and small businesses, which were a significant portion of candidate Trump’s rhetoric. This will replace, one way or the other, the lower-middle-class jobs that have been destroyed by trade, technology, and aggressive anti-union policies. (I personally believe reviving the lower middle-class requires free higher education, be it traditional colleges, trade schools, or on-the-job training.) This new orientation includes a recommitment to individual liberty by discarding the social conservatives, a commitment to racial equality by offering a legitimate economic alternative to the left, and a recommitment to compromise by exposing hard-line activists and lobbyists for the damage they have done to local and national politics.
The NRA will have to come up with an answer that is more than “no.” It doesn’t mean the Second Amendment must change, but it does mean that to protect that right is to address concerns, such as regulating bump stocks. The same call for compromise is directed at the various liberal activists who demand ideological purity from their politicians.
But, ultimately, the new alignment will be a contrarian voice to the current order of social justice claims and identity politics that have emerged since the 1960s. It is not a return to white supremacy, which is largely a fear-mongering tactic by an establishment fighting for its life, but rather a movement towards social justice, which is meritocratically based. Its goal is unity, which has been destroyed by years of bad policies and low-quality news media, by legitimately offering an opportunity to everyone who wants to work to their full potential, regardless of their identity. All any hard-working American wants is a shot to prove themselves and rise to their level of competence. I asked a Trump-supporting friend for his final message to the GOP old guard, he responded with: “Tell them the middle class sends their regards.” I think that says it all.
Bryan Stascavage is a member of the class of 2018. Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.