Matthew Continetti is Bill Kristol’s son-in-law.
He has a new book coming out about the history of the American Right.
“It’s hard to think of two American presidents with less in common than Calvin Coolidge and Donald Trump. For one thing, Coolidge held a variety of public offices, from Massachusetts governor to vice president, before assuming office on Aug. 2, 1923. Mr. Trump had no government or military experience before his inauguration in 2017.
Coolidge, moreover, was a budget hawk who never met a line item he didn’t want to cut. Mr. Trump presided over record peacetime deficits even before federal spending took a quantum leap during the coronavirus pandemic. Coolidge was also a man of few words. Trump is not.
Yet these personal differences obscure important political similarities. Both Coolidge and Mr. Trump staked their presidencies on voter satisfaction with broadly shared prosperity. Both supported restricting immigration into the United States. Both wanted to protect American industry from foreign competition. Both sought to avoid overseas entanglements. …
Parts of the right today look a lot more like the populist Democrats of William Jennings Bryan—who rallied under one banner all those who felt excluded from or dispossessed by the economic, social and cultural powers of his time—than the business-friendly Republicans of Coolidge. This combination of cultural estrangement and economic insecurity has made today’s Republicans much more open to government intervention in the market than their forebears. …
From the vantage point of the pre-World War II era, such tendencies on the American right aren’t surprising. It too sometimes embraced demagogic leaders who pulled it toward the political fringe. What mattered then and still matters today is the willingness of intellectuals and politicians to confront and suppress the extremes. One way to think about the history of the right over the last 100 years is as a running battle between the forces of extremism and the conservatives who understood that mainstream acceptance of their ideas was the prerequisite for electoral success and lasting reform.
As the GOP has returned to its early 20th-century roots, it has struggled to persuade Americans that its agenda and spokesmen are within the mainstream. The right has benefited more from the false steps of its opponents than the popularity of its own ideas and leading figures. All of which might give Republicans pause as they embrace the changes brought about by Donald Trump and look forward to the midterm election this November. After all, the GOP enjoyed tremendous success during the 1920s—and then spent the next 40 years in the political wilderness.”
My ancestors were Southern Democrats until a generation ago.
The real setting for the development of my political views though was America in the 2000s under George W. Bush. At the time, America was being overwhelmed by immigration, the economy of the Heartland was being gutted and shipped overseas and we were embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global crusades of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) era. Nothing much has really changed today. We’re still in the business of smiting evil doers in Eurasia and neglecting our own massive domestic problems.