The Rise of Donald Trump was inevitable in the Republican Party
Hindsight being 20/20 it is now very easy to see that the rise of Donald Trump or someone like him was inevitable.
Looking back to the 1960s, the Democratic Party characterized by FDR’s New Deal, was recognized as the energetic facilitator of integration of capitalist structures with socialist institutions. Confronted with this new reality William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater and others emerged on the right in order to bring the Conservative movement back to relevance.
Fiscal conservatism is the idea that the federal government should be small and limited in its reach. Social conservatism is the idea that social policy should be largely dictated on Judeo-Christian values as defined by the ultra-religious. Libertarianism is a strict belief in the idea of states’ rights over the federal government and a commitment to isolationism in foreign affairs.
By the late 1960s all of these concepts were discredited for various reasons. Fiscal Conservatism was discredited by the Great Depression which was caused by an inability to properly regulate the bank system. Social Conservatism was discredited by the Civil Rights movement which was led by Dr. Martin Luther King and which laid bare the deep moral contradiction of Religious leaders simultaneously supporting segregation and inequality. Libertarianism was discredited by not only the Great Depression, but by the World Wars which revealed that isolationism was a dream, and by the looming threat of the Soviet Union. At this point Conservatism was not a big enough movement to control national politics.
So how did Conservatism become so strong that by 2009, Conservatives had been President 28 out of a possible 40 years? By looking at Presidential strategies of capturing and maintaining power we can see that the Conservative movement paved the way for Trump years ago.
Richard Nixon captured office by espousing Fiscal and Socially Conservative beliefs. In addition, he capitalized on anti-communist sentiments by continuing to push the idea that he was strong on National Security. Initially, this was intended as a way to secure the nation against the threat posed by the Soviet Union, but one result of this approach was that in the 1960s, many Civil Rights activists were incorrectly labeled as Communists in order to promote harsh infringements on their Civil Rights.
Nixon used this anti-communist and anti-black sentiment to great effect with his Southern Strategy, which appealed to racist tendencies in America by suggesting that Black people were at the root of an impending disintegration of American values. This strategy was aided by the fact that many Democrats who had supported segregation switched to the Republican Party after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. As president Richard Nixon consolidated the War on Drugs which was disproportionately enforced in minority communities.
After his resignation, Gerald Ford took Nixon’s place. Their collective term was interrupted by one term from Democrat Jimmy Carter who was beaten by Ronald Reagan largely because of his appeals to limited government and strength on National Security issues. This was again aided by a variation on the Southern Strategy in which Reagan linked high levels of criminality with African Americans and attacked the welfare state on the grounds that it allowed poor Blacks to suck resources from the government.
After 12 years of Republican rule, President George H.W. Bush lost his re-election bid largely on the fact that he went against a promise not to raise taxes. This coupled with Ross Perot’s independent bid and the fact that Bill Clinton made his own concession to Republican politics by pledging that the “era of big government was over” was a major factor. During his presidency Bill Clinton sought to paint himself as a moderate by preserving longer sentences for crack offenses and reforming the welfare system.
President Clinton was succeeded by President George W. Bush who won based on the idea that he was a return to Reagan policies and also by making direct appeals to Social Conservatives.
By the end of George W. Bush’s eight years as President, Conservative policies were once again discredited by the War in Iraq which turned off Libertarians, and by the Great Recession which exposed Fiscal Conservative policies as inadequate. Since then, the Republican coalition of Fiscal and Social Conservatives, Libertarians, and people who respond to implicit racial messaging has fallen apart.
The current race for president represents the fissures in the Conservative Movement. Rand Paul is the Libertarian, candidates such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Jon Kasich, represent varying levels of Fiscal Conservatism, which is allegedly “the establishment,” Mark Huckabee and to Ben Carson represent Social Conservatism, while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz represent the caustic strain of Conservatism which is supported by people who respond to fear mongering and racially biased messaging also known as the “Tea Party.”
The assumption that income inequality has caused this extreme strain of intolerant Conservative politics to appear is partially incorrect. This racially intolerant messaging has been present in American politics from the beginning. In the 1960s it found a home in the Republican Party and has now emerged as the most energetic aspect of Conservatism. From this view, we can understand that the emergence of someone like Donald Trump who can speak to and exploit the intolerant was inevitable. Likewise it is no surprise that Republicans are now seeking to work with Trump. He has been stating that he is a Conservative and he may have been correct all along. After all he is saying explicitly what Conservatives have implied before.
The only way the Conservative Movement can save itself is to completely repudiate the intolerant ideologies it has turned to in order to gain power. It must separate itself from Trump and find a way to present its philosophy in a way that appeals to a multicultural and multiracial society.