Few people would argue that Donald Trump, love him or hate him, is insignificant. An almost equal number of people – millions upon millions of them – adore him or despise him. He may very well be the most recognizable person in the world. He looms large, like an imposing giant – a good or an evil one, depending on one’s perspective – dwarfing just about every other American politician out there. But speaking of those other politicians, who are they, what do they stand for, and does it even matter anymore?
It is useful to begin by removing Trump from the Democrat/Republican set, because he really is neither. Trump is a Trumpian, and the Trumpians are an unofficial party. While they do not comprise a majority of the American population, Trumpians are the vast, vast majority of modern-day Republicans. The few remaining establishmentarian GOP relics are nowadays the most irrelevant political creatures in the United States. Bill Weld, who is running for president, is one of them. Who’s that? Exactly. Another is Bill Kristol, editor of the (now-defunct) Weekly Standard. What’s that? You’re catching on.
The 500-pound gorilla in the room is that Trump sent the establishmentarian GOP into retirement in November, 2016, but someone forgot to tell Mitt Romney, John Kasich, and George Will to clear out their desks. And the reason over 90 percent of Republican voters firmly support Trump is because they were never traditional Republicans to begin with. The Republicanism of William Taft came to an end with Herbert Hoover. Since then, and until Trump, the only Republicans who won office were Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, two incredibly popular and larger-than-life personalities, and their vice presidents or their vice presidents’ sons. Trump is a creation of a dormant Republican base having remained double-parked for years, tolerating the likes of John McCain and Paul Ryan, not realizing they’ve been waiting for Trump to come along ever since Reagan went away. Much of the same phenomenon is going on across the political aisle. The Democratic establishment is also falling apart. Here we thought Hillary Clinton was snubbed because of her icy abrasiveness, but nice guy Joe Biden may have peaked too early. There remains a very good chance he will fade fast once the Democratic debates get underway – just like Republican Jeb Bush did four years ago.
Never in at least the past 100 years have so many Democratic voters been isolated to this extent. Centrist Democrats are forced to choose between Trump and a Democrat ideology that has veered so far left that, while well-meaning, is quite delusional (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a prime example). They practice political overcorrectness, either embrace or are indifferent to open borders or their virtual equivalent, promise everything from free college to a $1000 monthly government giveaway to every American, and bring any conversation back to healthcare or climate change.
If Biden or another candidate whose leftwing doctrine is somewhat watered down does not get the nomination, will these displaced voters just stay home – or make themselves feel good by writing in Biden’s name anyway?
Imagine for a moment that Mike Pence was president. Although he is Trump’s vice president, Pence is considerably different from his boss in ideology – Pence is more of a traditional (or neo-traditional) conservative – and they couldn’t be more opposite in tone. Ideologically, more Americans prefer Trumpianism to conservatism, yet too many of them can’t get past how unpresidential they consider Trump to be.
Millions of these centrist or moderate Americans, currently housed in both parties, will be left without a candidate. Moderate Republicans are fine with the message; they would just rather have a different messenger. Moderate Democrats, in turn, may like their messengers, but they think the Green New Deal is something about which even FDR or LBJ would cringe.
For the bona fide lefties out there, things are good. They have the momentum, and plenty of candidates to keep sounding the trumpet. But after Trump leaves the White House for good – the latest when that could happen is January 20, 2025 – to whom would he pass the Trumpian torch? Don, Jr.? Jared? Come on.
Another thing about the ultraprogressives, their ideology – while wacky and unsustainable – is clearly definable. It is all about big government solutions and multiculturalism – or more precisely, the diminishing of Western European Christian influence, particularly the white male version, on American culture.
Conservatism, however, is suffering from multiple personality disorder. Is a conservative an isolationist or an interventionist? A free trader or a fair trader? An immigration hardliner or a business-is-paramount advocate? And what about unilateral meetings with Kim Jong-un? The answers to that one are all over the place.
Finally, what is yet to be determined is Americans’ political mood a year from now. What kind of president will we want? In 1976, we sought a fresh-faced outsider to get our minds off of Watergate. By 1980, that outsider turned into Debbie Downer and we needed a motivator to lift our spirits. In 1992, we appreciated the candidate who told us “I feel your pain,” but by 2000, we opted for a straightlaced monogamous guy you’d want to have a beer with. In 2008, we decided he was a bit too average and instead wanted a loftier, more elegant orator. And in 2016, we had enough of the major party establishment duopoly and summarily tossed it out on its ear.
The MAGA-hat wearers and Trump-bashers have already made up their minds. It’s the ones in the middle who matter: what will decide the next election for the silent, moderate majority is what they can live with the least: ultraprogressivism, or offensive tweets?