According to Machiavelli and his modern interpreter James Burnham, moderation is never the best policy. If an enemy is defeated, he must either be turned into a friend through generosity or completely crush him. Keeping someone as an enemy without destroying him guarantees he will rise against you in the future.
President Trump has governed like a moderate, while speaking like a hardliner — the worst possible combination. He has done so unnecessarily. One struggles to recapture the sense of the 2016 campaign. In retrospect, it seems like something out of Homeric times, with almost supernatural forces intervening in the affairs of men. Everything had to break Donald Trump’s way; Hillary Clinton had to make every possible mistake. Somehow, everything happened exactly the way it had to, leading to one of the most remarkable upsets in American political history.
Donald Trump’s coalition was a collection of contradictions, including conservative movement stalwarts such as the late Phyllis Schlafly, former Bernie Sanders supporters disgusted at Mrs. Clinton’s shilling for Goldman Sachs, isolationists furious at the second Iraq War, moderate Republicans unwilling to slash programs like Social Security and Medicare, conservative Christians brought on board by Mike Pence’s vice presidential nomination, and free market libertines eager to support the first Republican nominee not to oppose homosexual marriage. It was a coalition that could never be assembled again, but it meant that President Trump would take office beholden to no one, free to forge his own path and build a new governing majority.
During both the primary and general election, candidate Trump seemed to run as much against the Republican as the Democratic party. Some of his promises had cross-party appeal — notably his calls for a massive infrastructure program and his pledge to protect certain entitlements. His health care proposals were admittedly vague, as he simultaneously promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something great.” However, because President Trump had directly attacked the policy preferences of Republicans such as Speaker Paul Ryan and free-market institutions such as the Club for Growth, it seemed reasonable to believe he could lead the GOP away from the unpopular, wonkish economic policies that had little appeal outside the Beltway Right. The victory of President Trump was a victory for right-wing critics of Conservatism Inc., as he showed that its support for a liberal immigration policy, an interventionist foreign policy, and slashing entitlements had no real support among the conservative grassroots, let alone the larger public.
Yet since taking office, with rare exceptions, President Trump has governed like just another Republican. The president’s first major legislative initiative was a disastrous attempt to replace Obamacare. It is not surprising that President Trump did not have a specific “great” plan regarding healthcare, yet the conservative establishment’s failure to provide a workable alternative to Obamacare is testament to its uselessness. From that point on, it was perhaps inevitable that the GOP would lose the House; exit polls show voters thought health care was the top issue.
Of course, there was a self-styled “populist” among the President’s men: Steve Bannon, who put his political capital behind President Trump’s travel ban, another early initiative. Yet the whole reason the ban mattered during the campaign was because its purpose was to ban Muslims, not travel. Its real importance was demographic. Much of the Islamic terrorist threat comes from Muslims who are “paper Americans” who hold citizenship but are not part of the historic American nation. Mr. Bannon and the White House poured time and effort into a pointless policy. That effort could have gone into a massive infrastructure bill with bipartisan appeal or a controversial but possibly workable policy change such as eliminating birthright citizenship. Trump did neither.
Bafflingly and infuriatingly, President Trump has never taken up the overseas-remittance tax he promised vaguely during the campaign, a change that would transform the immigration debate and, more importantly, keep his promise to have “Mexico pay for the wall.” Today, few believe he will build a wall, and even fewer that Mexico will pay for it. This staggering act of political incompetence remains inexplicable given the presence of knowledgeable and committed immigration patriots such as Stephen Miller within the administration.
In his most recent book, Nixon’s White House Wars, former Richard Nixon staffer Pat Buchanan argued that one of President Nixon’s biggest mistakes was not pushing his most right-wing, populist policies right after his election when he had the most political capital. President Trump made the same mistake. The main legislative accomplishment of President Trump’s first term was a tax cut largely indistinguishable from any that Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush might have pushed. Though President Trump did follow through with some populist actions on trade, few of his actions are a departure from GOP orthodoxy, especially the emphasis on deregulation. Yet during this time of supposed prosperity, more and more Americans are suspicious of capitalism and think they support socialism.
Ross Douthat is right to argue that “Trump could have flattened liberalism, but instead he’s given it an opening.”
Imagine that instead of just containing himself and behaving like a generic Republican, Trump had actually followed through on the populism that he promised in 2016, dragging his party toward the economic center and ditching the G.O.P.’s most unpopular ideas. Imagine that he followed through on Steve Bannon’s boasts about a big infrastructure bill instead of trying for Obamacare repeal; imagine that he listened to Marco Rubio and his daughter and tilted his tax cut more toward middle-class families; imagine that he spent more time bullying Silicon Valley into inshoring factory jobs than whining about Fake News; imagine that he made lower Medicare drug prices a signature issue rather than a last-minute pre-election gambit.
This strategy could have easily cut the knees out from under the Democrats’ strongest appeal, their more middle-class-friendly economic agenda, and highlighted their biggest liability, which is the way the party’s base is pulling liberalism way left of the middle on issues of race and culture and identity.
There are already signs President Trump’s coalition is shrinking. The Rust Belt that gave him a presidential victory tilted heavily towards Democrats this election. The crushing humiliation of some of the most “Trumpist” immigration patriots was so predictable that almost no one is even bothering to mention it. Corey Stewart ran on defending Virginia’s monuments, opposing gangs such as MS-13, and staunchly supporting President Trump’s immigration agenda. Congressman Lou Barletta was one of the most promising politicians in the country, once spoken of as a possible secretary of labor, where he could have been a leading voice in transforming the GOP into the “workers’ party” President Trump promised. Both men were defeated by lopsided margins.
These temporary political defeats are dwarfed by the relentless demographic consequences of mass immigration. Lou Barletta’s fight against illegal immigration as former mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, may have gotten him to Congress, but Hazleton has now been utterly transformed against the wishes of its people. The lickspittle National Review has even said it was “ugly” to oppose this transformation. In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz eked out a victory over media favorite Beto O’Rourke, yet it is clear that the Lone Star State is now up for grabs. In Florida, Ron DeSantis defeated black socialist Andrew Gillum, but a measure awarding the franchise to felons passed in a state referendum. If black felons had been able to vote, they would have wiped out Mr. DeSantis’ slim margin of victory. As even Bill Kristol admitted — why did it take him so long to see the obvious? — the election proves that demography is destiny. Time is running out.
This grim reality is not being discussed within the Beltway Right. Though the “Never Trump” conservatives have largely come around to supporting the president, the conservative movement itself has learned nothing from President Trump’s victory. There is no sudden openness to discussion of race or demographics. There has been no serious talk about how conservatism must change to appeal to the Rust Belt voters a Republican coalition badly needs. Most importantly, there is no sense of urgency about avoiding the permanent Democratic majority that immigration is relentlessly ensuring. Instead, there are the same embarrassing campaigns to win over black voters and even attempts to “purge” stalwart conservatives such as Steve King. The movement has never thought seriously about power. It’s not really a “movement” at all; it’s a grift.
As Ronald Reagan famously asked, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” It’s hard for white advocates or many Trump supporters to say they are. Consider the iconic photo of Alex Jones hijacking a Young Turks broadcast with Cenk Uygur, once posted as a kind of proof of victory in the 2016 campaign. Today, Alex Jones has been all but entirely wiped off the internet, while Mr. Uygur enjoys sponsorship from YouTube. From civic nationalists to white advocates, a combination of media pressure and legal warfare has made life far more difficult for Trump supporters. As Peter Brimelow has observed, supporters of the current president’s immigration platform can’t book a conference venue anywhere in the country.
It is disastrous to have campaigned successfully on controversial issues while not exploiting the resulting victory. For example, President George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 by expanding white turnout, especially by appealing to social conservatives with his declared opposition to homosexual marriage. However, once he took office, he promptly abandoned that issue and turned to Social Security reform, an unpopular plan except within the Beltway Right. Not surprisingly, the resulting fiasco and the continuing debacle of the utterly unnecessary second Iraq War led to the “thumping” of the 2006 election, the revitalization of the Left, and the rise of Barack Obama. It also energized fanatics for homosexual marriage, who, not facing any real opposition from the White House, built a movement that made it inevitable.
Today, arguing against homosexual marriage is almost as dangerous as supporting race realism. The Trump Administration may have the same medium-term effect; precisely because white nationalism helped drive the 2016 campaign, it is now regarded as a real political threat. In the face of opposition, a real political leader must not only deliver on policy but think of ways to strengthen his supporters and weaken his opponents. President Trump has done neither. Instead, the Justice Department is selectively prosecuting his supporters and using reports from his antifa opponents as evidence. Antifa are now raiding the home of one of President Trump’s most prominent supporters, Tucker Carlson.
More broadly, Donald Trump’s seizure of state power has been a catastrophe for his close friends and allies. Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and other aides have had their lives ruined by the Robert Mueller investigation for crimes that would have been completely ignored had Donald Trump not won the election. By contrast, despite all the chants of “lock her up,” Hillary Clinton will never be prosecuted, nor will she ever pay any legal price for her actions. Somehow, the president of the United States seems to be fighting the government he ostensibly controls, as everyone from leading officials to petty bureaucrats resists his policy initiatives. One even bragged about it in the New York Times in the notorious anonymous Op-Ed , and there was less media interest in demasking him than there is when someone puts up an Identity Evropa sticker.
The Trump Administration is the worst of both worlds in that it crates the illusion of a vigorous, nationalist government — that accomplishes nothing. The president’s opponents can call themselves the #Resistance and pose as rebels and underdogs, while never paying any price for their actions. Unlike white advocates, they enjoy access to every online media and fundraising platform, a vast network of nonprofits and NGO’s that support them, and all but universal praise from journalists. Worse, even while enjoying these advantages, progressives can still rage against “elites” and “capitalists” because the president has combined his nationalist rhetoric with economic policies that reward the richest people in the country.
The classic progressive case against nationalism (and, by extension, racial patriotism), is that these concepts are false social constructs created by elites to safeguard their own position. By aligning with nation rather than class, white workers are supposedly tricked into protecting their exploiters, rather than uniting with their working brothers of darker hue to safeguard their own economic interests.
The most obvious objection to this is that “elites” today — including tech CEO’s, the Chamber of Commerce, millionaire celebrities, financiers, bankers, and the journalists paid to promote their viewpoints — all but uniformly support mass immigration. It also makes sense why such elites support mass immigration: The resulting influx of disparate groups gluts the labor market, the deracinated newcomers are unable to organize around common interests, and the deconstruction of the nation-state eliminates any patriotic or cultural obstacles to the economic interests of corporations. It’s easy to rule a world of interchangeable people with no common culture beyond Coca-Cola and pidgin English. A people with a shared identity that unites both rich and poor is not so easily manipulated.
Yet the conduct of the Republican Party with Donald Trump at its head has given progressive fairy tales enough credibility to fuel a socialist insurgency. President Trump speaks loudly but carries a small stick. While his supporters have been bankrupted, silenced, jailed, or prosecuted, his most fanatical enemies are raising unprecedented sums with which to fight him. While President Trump’s populist supporters suffer, Wall Street prospers. Professional capitulationist Rick Wilson complains that President Trump has now turned the GOP from the party of limited government into one that uses the state to “punish your enemies.” The opposite is true. There is no easier road to popularity, wealth and fame than to declare yourself the president’s enemy, as Mr. Wilson’s own career proves.
In contrast, there’s no easier road to infamy and persecution than to say that “It’s OK to be White.” Yet, white advocacy is inevitable because it provides the only solution to the social problems facing this country. It is not possible to talk about health care, infrastructure, defense, the economy, poverty, education, inequality, the national debt, or anything else without confronting racial reality. It is precisely because Americans can’t openly discuss the truth about race in a rational, reasonable way that policy solutions are impossible and the country feels like it is falling apart despite economic prosperity.
Given President Trump’s failures and the rising cost of white advocacy, where do our strengths lie? Paradoxically, they come from the strength and fanaticism of our opposition. With the Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, President Trump faces more than a challenge to his political survival. His opponents have made it clear they don’t want just to defeat him, but to destroy his business, humiliate him, and even imprison him and his family. Simply out of self-interest, President Trump must take the political fight to his enemies. This is an opportunity for white advocates, because his enemies are largely our enemies.
President Trump has done nothing for us. No one is coming to save us. Every day of demographic dispossession is a defeat for white America. Far from “being tired of winning,” we have won nothing since President Trump took office. Illegals are not being deported, anchor babies continue to get US passports, mass immigration continues, and anti-white discrimination law still stands. Though President Trump is routinely accused of having “emboldened” white advocates, it is hateful anti-white speech by journalists and others that has been emboldened. President Trump is an energetic campaigner, but he is weak and indecisive in power.
But we still have a stake in his battles. Whatever his real beliefs or his actions, President Trump has become a kind of avatar for white America. This means that politically, his fight is our fight, as we become the vanguard of beleaguered white America under attack from journalists, antifa, and non-white activists driven by tribal hatred. We will be betrayed and disavowed. But as polarization sharpens, Beltway Right grifters will be driven relentlessly towards our positions.
Some might even argue that we would be better off if President Trump had not been elected. Yet the deplatforming, media campaigns, and DOJ investigations would probably have occurred under Hillary Clinton; they might even be worse. It was never likely that white advocates would prevail through routine politics. Many of our people will arrive at racial consciousness slowly and reluctantly, enlightened by reality. We will increase our numbers by participating in political battles, but the more unstable the political climate, the greater our opportunity. The current instability makes our situation more hopeful than that of the George W. Bush years.
President Trump has done us an immense service, not by “emboldening” us or helping us in any concrete way but by so infuriating our opponents that they have shown their hand more clearly than ever. The other side now says openly that the political divide is a racial divide — and that we are an odious obstacle to progress. It remains only for us to wake up our side to this reality. This country is becoming more polarized, and the division of the past two years is just the beginning.
This instability is our opportunity. President Trump could have saved America. He didn’t. However, the political climate he created makes it more likely that we can.