Spitballing the Future
Every now and then I look for Daniel Larison at the American Conservative, and sometimes I get sidetracked to Rod Dreher, who had a piece called, Trump Disrupter-in-Chief, with the tagline, “How he’s realigning both parties, and no elites can do a damn thing about it.” Dreher was actually going paintballing, though, and just cited two other pieces.
The first, This Is What the Future of American Politics Looks Like, was posted on Politico way back in May 2016, by Michael Lind. Lind summed up what he saw then as the realignment of the two leading parties:
Today’s Republican Party is predominantly a Midwestern, white, working-class party with its geographic epicenter in the South and interior West. Today’s Democratic Party is a coalition of relatively upscale whites with racial and ethnic minorities, concentrated in an archipelago of densely populated blue cities.
In both parties, there’s a gap between the inherited orthodoxy of a decade or two ago and the real interests of today’s electoral coalition. And in both parties, that gap between voters and policies is being closed in favor of the voters — a slight transition in the case of Hillary Clinton, but a dramatic one in the case of Donald Trump.
With regard to the Republicans, Lind either leaves out all the well-to-do white folk that went for Trump, too, or is using a very broad definition of working-class. Also, he scarcely mentioned young Democrats flocking to Bernie Sanders, and ignores that many, many young independents didn’t want any part of Clinton or Trump. So I would say that the Democratic realignment is still being played out, and may end up more populist than he expects.
What is more interesting is that Lind sees a larger struggle between populist nationalists and multicultural globalists – though he very much wants to divide them along party lines. He clearly favors the nationalists, and takes pains to distinguish them from white nationalists, hoping that, “a populist American nationalism untainted by vestiges of racial bigotry might have transracial appeal, like versions of national populism in Latin America.” Elsewhere, he notes hopefully that many American Latinos and Latinas see themselves as white (and Republican):
The outlines of the two-party system of the 2020s and 2030s are dimly visible. The Republicans will be a party of mostly working-class whites, based in the South and West and suburbs and exurbs everywhere. They will favor universal, contributory social insurance systems that benefit them and their families and reward work effort—programs like Social Security and Medicare. But they will tend to oppose means-tested programs for the poor whose benefits they and their families cannot enjoy.
They will oppose increases in both legal and illegal immigration, in some cases because of ethnic prejudice; in other cases, for fear of economic competition. The instinctive economic nationalism of tomorrow’s Republicans could be invoked to justify strategic trade as well as crude protectionism. They are likely to share Trump’s view of unproductive finance: “The hedge-fund guys didn’t build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky.”
Of course this was written before Trump stocked his cabinet with Goldman Sachs alums, and before his team started hinting that Medicare and Social Security were back on the chopping block. Who knows where an again-betrayed working class may go in 2020?
The Democrats of the next generation will be even more of an alliance of upscale, progressive whites with blacks and Latinos, based in large and diverse cities. They will think of the U.S. as a version of their multicultural coalition of distinct racial and ethnic identity groups writ large. Many younger progressives will take it for granted that moral people are citizens of the world, equating nationalism and patriotism with racism and fascism.
The withering-away of industrial unions, thanks to automation as well as offshoring, will liberate the Democrats to embrace free trade along with mass immigration wholeheartedly. The emerging progressive ideology of post-national cosmopolitanism will fit nicely with urban economies which depend on finance, tech and other industries of global scope, and which benefit from a constant stream of immigrants, both skilled and unskilled.
Although the Women’s March and last weekend’s airport rallies might support a view of Democrats obsessed with multiculturalism, there is, as I wrote in my last piece, no clear picture of where the Democrats are going. Many will continue to serve their liberal elite donors’ others may follow the Sanders path. If the gang at dagblog is any indication, older liberals don’t seem inclined to build any sort of coalition with the white working class, but younger folk may feel differently.
As of a few days ago, Lind and Glen Bottoms in, An Infrastructure Fix, were urging Trump to think about trains and bicycles, instead of highways, and even a gasoline tax. Those are great ideas, but the Heritage wish list of defunded government agencies and programs – which many think Trump is following – include both Amtrak and Washington DC Metrorail.
Dreher also cited Peggy Noonan’s, Trump Tries to Build a ‘Different Party’. Noonan thinks Trump’s barrage of executive orders and memoranda will look like progress and promise-keeping to his base.
The significance and velocity of the orders unnerved and upset Mr. Trump’s critics and took aback some of his friends. But those orders — even though their use makes the presidency more imperial, even though it’s no way to govern, even though Mr. Obama did it, too — will likely not be unpopular in the country. It actually looked as if someone was doing something.
More important than the orders were the White House meetings. One was a breakfast with a dozen major CEOs. They looked happy as frolicking puppies in the photo-op, and afterward talked about jobs. Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin said she was “encouraged by the president’s commitment to reduce barriers to job creation.” In a statement after the meeting, the glassmaker Corning, whose CEO attended, announced plans to expand its U.S. manufacturing base significantly over the next few years. Because I live in New York and work at the Journal, I see and talk to American CEOs. I’ve never heard them bang on about a need to boost American jobs and manufacturing, ever. They usually talk about targeted microloans in India, and robots.
More important still — the most important moment of the first week — was the meeting with union leaders. Mr. Trump gave them almost an hour and a half. “The president treated us with respect, not only our organization but our members,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, by telephone. Liuna had not endorsed Trump in the campaign, but Mr. O’Sullivan saw the meeting’s timing as an expression of respect: “He’s inaugurated on Friday and we’re invited in Monday to have a substantial conversation.” The entire Trump top staff was there, including the vice president: “His whole team — we were very impressed.” They talked infrastructure, trade and energy. “The whole meeting was about middle class jobs, how do we create more?” Mr. O’Sullivan believes the Keystone pipeline will eventually generate more than 40,000 jobs. Mr. O’Sullivan said he hopes fixing “our crumbling transportation infrastructure” will be “the largest jobs program in the country.”
Noonan believes that Trump will prevail because Democrats, “don’t have a playbook,” to use against a populist. That’s true, but Trump’s main opposition isn’t coming from Democratic weebles; it is coming from neoliberal globalists in the Deep State.