Thomas Edsall: Seven Years of Trump Has The Right Wing Taking The Long View

I recently wrote something similar.

Year One of the Trump era was exhilarating.

In the 2016 election, I backed Trump because I saw him as a bulldozer. If nothing else, I saw him as a useful instrument for steamrolling the True Cons faction.

“BTW, that’s why I supported Trump during the election. If a bulldozer plows over these people in Washington, why is that a bad thing? I don’t have to romanticize the bulldozer to think it is doing a good job.”

I repeatedly compared Trump to a bulldozer.

BG: Donald Trump’s platform happens to coincide with our interests on a number of key issues: political correctness, immigration, trade, campaign finance. He is a bulldozer who is destroying our traditional enemy on the Right. Is he one of us? There isn’t a single prominent figure in the alt-right who believes Trump is alt-right or a “racist.” He doesn’t have to be to advance our cause. …”

Trump will be gone one day and his main legacy will be getting rid of the True Cons faction who had dominated and constipated the Right since the George W. Bush era.

“I predict that is going to be the wave of the future … Trump-like national populists running for office against “true conservatives” all over the South. There are far too many working class Whites in the Republican Party now for it to remain a suburban party. There will be more Paul Nehlens running in 2018 in much more favorable districts. Can you wrap your mind around Governor Roy Moore? President-Elect Donald Trump is a reflection of the underlying changes in the demographic composition of the Republican Party. Watch for it to rip across the states now. That’s one reason why I haven’t soured on politics. I always saw Trump as a bulldozer who would clear the path for more interesting figures to emerge. …”

This has more or less come to pass.

As frustrating as Trump was as president, he really has succeeded in discrediting and diminishing the True Cons who can be found huddling together for warmth these days at The Dispatch. Those people have continued to lose power in Congress and at the state level. Virtually no one on the Right now agrees with Allahpundit that Liz Cheney is one of the most honorable people in American politics. Trump has devoted the last two years of his post-presidency to finishing them off for good.

Now that Trump has gotten rid of the True Con gatekeepers and has largely succeeded in purging them from Congress and conservative institutions, we are at a point now where mainstream conservatives can look at someone like Viktor Orbán as a role model and cheer on the victory of the Sweden Democrats and Giorgia Meloni in Italy. The Great Replacement and Christian nationalism have gone mainstream. Conservatives have spent the last seven years forgetting their former ideology.

In 2022, mainstream conservatives are rapidly shedding their former views and embracing generic nationalist politics while nationalists who were marginalized for decades remain blind to how much our politics has changed over the past seven years and particularly over the last three years.

New York Times:

“Could there soon be an American counterpart to Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, a right-wing populist who in 2018 declared, “We must demonstrate that there is an alternative to liberal democracy: It is called Christian democracy. And we must show that the liberal elite can be replaced with a Christian democratic elite”?

Liberal democracy, Orban continued, “is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal. And we can specifically say this in connection with a few important issues — say, three great issues. Liberal democracy is in favor of multiculturalism, while Christian democracy gives priority to Christian culture; this is an illiberal concept. Liberal democracy is pro-immigration, while Christian democracy is anti-immigration; this is again a genuinely illiberal concept. And liberal democracy sides with adaptable family models, while Christian democracy rests on the foundations of the Christian family model; once more, this is an illiberal concept.”

Or could there soon be an American counterpart to Giorgia Meloni, another right-wing populist and admirer of Orban, now on course to become the next prime minister of Italy?

Meloni’s platform?

“Yes to natural families, no to the L.G.B.T. lobby. Yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology. Yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death. No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders. No to mass immigration, yes to work for our people. …”

Thomas Edsall asks Arlie Hochschild for her view of rising illiberalism on the American Right.

In our view, liberals and progressives are defined by their shared commitment to globalism, cosmopolitanism, modernism and antiracism. They are anti-White, anti-Western, anti-Southern, anti-Christian, anti-male, anti-traditional, anti-republican and anti-federalist. They really do control all culture-forming institutions like the news and entertainment media, the universities and social media platforms which are ruthlessly policed and censored in order to impose a leftwing orthodoxy on the public. They have also leveraged institutions like the DOJ and FBI to criminalize their political opposition.

“I asked her about the prospects of illiberalism in this country and she replied by email: “We should keep a close eye on the sense of grievance stored up almost as a springboard within the word ‘stolen.’ ” The background to this, Hochschild argued, “is that blue-collar, rural/small town — especially white and male — have since the l970s been the “losers” of globalization, and the two parties now represent two economies. To this demographic, economic loss is compounded with a loss of fallback sources of honor — gender, sexuality, race — for white heterosexual males these, too, seem under attack. This is the “deep story” of “Stop the Steal,” and they see reality through that story.”

The story does not end there. Hochschild continued:

The right believes that it is the left, not the right, that is moving toward fascism. Inside the right wing mind today freedom is threatened “by the left.” Political correctness a form of “thought control.” The left controls the media. The F.B.I. is scanning Facebook to hunt down patriots in Washington. So, ironically, they see themselves as brave upholders of freedom, democracy, civil liberties. They aren’t saying we want strong totalitarian control so we get to impose our values on others. They see themselves as the victims of this control and Trump as their liberator from that control …”

Could it happen here?

It is already happening here.

Tucker Carlson has loudly promoted Viktor Orbán and Giorgia Meloni as role models and has negatively compared the GOP to them. Both Orbán and Meloni have been invited to speak at CPAC which was held in Budapest this year. Orbán spoke at CPAC in Texas after condemning race mixing.

In the old days, the True Cons used to do the thinking for the Right. National Review once had the power to excommunicate people like Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan from the synagogue of mainstream conservatism. Bill Kristol was a powerful and influential figure in Republican politics in 2012. Since the demise of the True Cons, the views of Francis and Buchanan are now more far more influential on the Republican electorate. Tucker Carlson tells Republican voters what to think about the issues. He tells them if you are not being loudly accused of “racism” and “fascism,” you are doing something wrong. He also defies and mocks and diminishes Jonathan Greenblatt and the ADL.

Donald Trump was a major disappointment in office. There were various reasons for this. A huge reason for this was because of 1.) the personnel who were hired to work for Trump in the White House who repeatedly got their way on major issues like the withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria and 2.) the strength of the True Cons in Congress and institutional conservatism and really everywhere outside the presidential office. Trump’s revolution fizzled in this first two years in office as he pursued conventional conservative priorities like repealing Obamacare and tax cuts. Trump worked with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to find common ground and produce “wins.” He spent his political capital on their agenda.

Four years later, the political landscape looks very different. The Republican Congress that Trump had to deal with between 2017 and 2019 which saw him as an aberration is gone. Paul Ryan is gone and nearly everyone who shared his mindset is gone. There is zero chance that Republican politics will return to the pre-Trump status quo. “Trumpism” has also put down roots in the GOP which weren’t there in his first two years. Even though Donald Trump himself is no longer in office, he has become the model for aspiring politicians just as “Reaganism” was the model from the 1980s through 2016. The Paul Ryan tax cuts look more like the last hurrah of Reaganism than True Conservatism enduring into the 2020s.

The upshot of this post is that conservative liberalism is rapidly fading. It was still going strong in the first two years of the Trump era. It has rapidly withered under Joe Biden though. It won’t have a pulse after the 2022 midterms. The American system is highly resistant to radical change for a variety of reasons. Radical change plays out over the course of decades across multiple election cycles. White evangelical Protestants are rapidly changing and moving on from the Christian Zionism of the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson era to reactionary populism, Christian nationalism and White identity politics.

Donald Trump didn’t do much but disrupt the status quo in his first two years in office. Over the long term though, a different picture is starting to emerge. He got rid of the True Cons faction which dominated the GOP from Reagan through Mitt Romney and their eclipse is starting to register as radical ideas are now pouring into the conservative mainstream and becoming conventional in our politics.


  1. I’ve always thought of Trump s more like a a strange, and alien (And that’s how smug Washington looks at him ) Bigfoot that came out of the wild woods to smash up their comfortable clubhouse. He smells awful to the gentry class And has terrible manners. He busted in the front door, smashed all the windows, busted up the furniture, set a fire in the restrooms, drank all the booze at the bar, and as a final hilarious insult, took a big smelly dump right in the middle of the Republican Inc closet, that they were allowed to have in Washington. They finally drive him out, but the place Is totally wrecked now. Trump is just too much like a wild animal in his personal behavior to move this party on in a more organized way, that will be left to new leaders that are better organized, and less compromised in all the ways he is. But he certainly played a necessary part, somebody had to bust up the clubhouse first. Now we can build something better.

  2. Everything runs in cycles, politics is no different, and, as the great American genius Frank Herbert wrote, “every cycle is a reaction to the preceding cycle.”

  3. Aside from discrediting the True Conmen, Trump also provoked the lib snakes into fully revealing their forked lying-tongues and venomous malice. Now it’s harder for them to pose as our moral superiors. That false perception has always given them an edge. Now that edge is getting dull.

    • >… fully revealing their forked lying-tongues and venomous malice.

      This is true — while today they whine about a ‘threat to democracy’, they spent Trump’s entire time in office thuggishly undermining him as president.

      >Now it’s harder for them to pose as our moral superiors.

      I’m less sure about this — it seems to me little has changed about the preening secular moral absolutism of the political and media establishments — the entire mainstream media bloc is on their side (the ‘libs’).

      >Now that edge is getting dull.

      Would that still be true without inflation and tension with Russia over Ukraine? — everything you say about them would still be true, but without widespread economic insecurity affecting so many individuals, I’m less sure what the impact would be.

  4. “Trump’s revolution fizzled in this first two years in office as he pursued conventional conservative priorities like repealing Obamacare and tax cuts.”

    Thank Jared Kushner who stabbed Trump in the back repeatedly, Trump did nothing about it. If Trump runs for President in 2024 it will be without Jared Kushner. If Trump gets elected Jared Kushner will be back in the White House on day one.

    • Can we please move on from Donald Trump? While the left will vilify anyone running on a pro America agenda, he has done their job for them with too many stupid gaffs that so alienated a lot of independents it cost him the last election and would probably lose again in 2024 considering how powerful their machine is against the Republicans. It will require massive turnout against the democrats to overcome this and Trump will only rally his base.

    • @12AX7…

      “If Trump gets elected Jared Kushner will be back in the White House on day one.”

      Maybe, but, I don’t think so.

      I think the collaboration between father-in-law and son-in-law has been broken by the issues surrounding the last weeks of the Trump presidency.

      Word has it that it’s nearing 2 years and Ivanka and Jared have not even exchanged a word with pappy.

      Also, if Trump is again president, I would not be surprised if he has some very different ideas about what and how to do – not to mention he will have a much more sympathetic judiciary and congress, as well.

      • Hello Ivan;

        Perhaps you are correct, time will tell. I believe the country will be a shambles by 2024, less than a year and a half from now, with everything up for grabs. The country’s trajectory has been down, down, down for a long time and there just isn’t much farther to fall, the bottom is approaching fast.

        Stay safe, watch out for those New England Yankees!

        • @12AX7….

          Thank you, 12AX7 for your reply.

          Sorry that I am only now seeing it.

          I agree with you that there is little reason for optimism in this country, as it is continually being fleeced – psychically, financially, demographically, culturally, so on and so forth.

          Worse still, we seemed to have backed into WWIII.

          All in all, your tribe is nothing to worry about, as y’all are a orderly and well-behaved folk.

          The government y’all have, and have had since 1861, however, is quite another matter.

          Everywhere it turns it sets things on fire.

          All the best to you and yours in the lovely Green Mountain State!

  5. ,”Donald Trump was a major disappointment in office.”

    I have a more balanced view in that I appreciate that Trump got rid of NAFTA, pulled out of the Paris climate accord, and imposed some tariffs.

    Additionally he held some good diplomatic meetings with the Rocket Man in North Korea.

    Admittedly though Trump did fail on The Wall and the Muslim ban.

    I am optimistic about the future. Hopefully a Republican House will impeach Biden for opening up the Border and corrupt ties to the ChiComs and in a few years an American Orban will arise to lead us forward!

    • Trump also kept us from the Asian coprosperity sphere or whatever they called it. It would have been a massive sucking sound worse than NAFTA,

      I think f he wins again, Kushner will not be in office with him.

      • Two tweets for you about Trump and his administration:

        Sep 5 2020 — Twitter/The HillTrump admin to label white supremacists as the “most persistent and lethal threat” to the US: report …

        Apr 4 2019 Twitter/The HillFBI director calls white supremacy a “persistent, pervasive threat” …

        (The FBI director was Christopher Wray, appointed by Trump.)

    • >Hopefully a Republican House will impeach Biden for opening up the Border

      You don’t have a correct understanding of the issue — as long as these people have applied for asylum, there is nothing illegal about admitting them into the country while their applications are being processed — so that is not a ground for impeachment.

      But what a majority of Republicans in the House could do as a bloc is announce a full stop on legislation until the Biden administration concludes a ‘safe third country’ agreement with Mexico to stop the flow of asylum-seekers — they would block ALL legislation proposed by Biden and the Democrats until that happened, including normal bipartisan legislation like the budget — that would be EPIC.

    • @Radicalized Jeff…

      “I have a more balanced view in that I appreciate that Trump got rid of NAFTA, pulled out of the Paris climate accord, and imposed some tariffs.”

      I was disappointed by the Trump presidency.

      That said, I have never understood those who are either still extremely high on him, as the ostensible coming savior of the Republic, or those who allege that they would never EVER vote for him – even if he were running against Stalin.

      So, I appreciate that you try to maintain a reasoned and balanced view.

  6. “Bill Kristol”

    The bad news is that, ideologically, the Tribe is indistinguishable from the Woke Left it spawned.

    The good news is that, among conservatives, it now stands out like a sore thumb.

  7. “Anyone who does not awake to find himself slandered and vilified in the Jewish press has not made a profitable use of his previous day’s efforts.” as one veteran of the Kaiser’s Army put it.

  8. To me we have not learned the lesson we should have learned in the Trump interlude. The system is beyond reform now. To attempt to do so is wasted energy and an exercise in futility. The system is beyond repair. It is done. It is a failed political experiment. We cannot go back to Mayberry Happy Days, or the Brady Bunch. That America is gone with the wind.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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