As we now reach the one month anniversary of Donald Trump’s wholly unexpected presidential election victory we see the emerging fallout of this win, which recounts and desperate efforts to woo electors will not change. First of all, a look at the Democratic Party shows shock and bewilderment, as the Party regulars fully expected to win in a walk. The stories about champagne corks popping on the campaign plane the afternoon of November 8th testify to the level of their certainty. The Democrats have to get used to the fact that they lost to a candidate they called a “carnival barker,” among other things. The mainstream news media shares this sense of shock, but will add a deep and unrelenting sense of hostility to the mix. They got it all wrong from understanding the national mood, all the way to predicting how the election would play out, and the media do not like being shown up. Most of the conservative media, and those Republicans who voted for Trump, are understandably gleeful over the election results, and this includes those who are rejoicing over Hillary Clinton’s fall, rather than Donald Trump’s ascent. The potential trouble spot in this scenario for the conservative movement is the growing conviction that our side has established a “new conservative governing majority.” The Trump Era will no doubt provide many lessons of historical significance, but our side had better be careful before we blithely announce victory, and declare that the foe is vanquished. Recent history and the cyclical nature of politics should be our guides.
When we review the electoral situation from our admittedly short perspective we see that Trump, the less liberal candidate won the election. Trump’s commitment to the conservative movement has been minimal in the past, and he avoided calling himself a “conservative” during the campaign. He is now stocking his cabinet with conservatives like Ben Carson, Tom Price and others. This may be seen as a bouquet tossed to the right wing, or it may be seen as a willingness to admit that the conservatives can run things better than the establishment types. We shall see over the course of time.
We must also note in our review that our side beat Hillary Clinton, and we should be happy, in fact we should be pleased as punch about this development. Still, we should remember that many Democrats argued, amazingly, that Hillary Clinton was too much a pillar of the community, was too much of an insider, and was, in fact, too conservative to represent the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton is shifty and chameleon-like, but no one can take the argument that she is too conservative at face value. In any event, many Democrats voted for an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, and some sat out the general election as a silent protest. So, we haven’t completely subdued the enemy just yet.
Recent history should caution us that we have bumps in the road ahead. Our side has been through this before. Back in the halcyon days of the 1980s many conservative intellectuals digested the two Reagan landslides, a booming economy, and victory in the Cold War and believed that these stunning occurrences heralded an era of conservative dominance. That confident, almost complacent sense of setting the terms of debate crashed during the feckless Presidency of George HW Bush.
The conservative side bounced back with the near-realigning election of 1994. Newt Gingrich, the true visionary, nationalized the midterm elections and engineered a huge victory, delivering control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to the Republican Party for the first time in forty years. The GOP establishment, astonished by the victory, gladly took power and remained a congressional majority for twelve years. They accomplished some things, but dropped the ball a number of times, too. More recently, the Obama era has proved more difficult to chart and categorize. The Democrats won big victories in 2008 and 2012, when Obama headed their ticket, but the Republicans won big in 2010 and 2014, when the president was not running, at least officially. In no case did the predictions of a new era of conservative dominance materialize. So, there is no telling what the future has in store.
Let us take a measured look at what did happen a month ago before we begin planning for our new era of dominance. First of all, we know that the Democrats wrote off the white working class voters, and realize now that they made a big mistake. The Democrats also discounted Catholic voters as a bloc to be courted, and as we heard in the WikiLeaks releases, senior Democrats referred to the Catholic faith in highly unflattering terms. The white working class and the Catholic voters finally perceived the depths of liberal and Democratic hostility and they voted accordingly. The Catholic vote went to Obama twice, but they abandoned the Democrats this time. It remains to be seen whether this is a long-term trend or if most working class whites and Catholic voters will return to their former political home, the Democratic Party.
We also saw the end result of Democratic identity politics crashing on the shoals of common sense and sanity. Many of those who voted Republican saw the Democrats as appealing to an assortment of every marginal pressure group under the sun. The Democrats seemed bent on cobbling together an alliance of LGBT activists, illegal immigrants, anyone who can claim to be a minority, and trial lawyers thrown in for good measure. The Party seemed more interested in putting men in girl’s restrooms than in dealing with national problems.
There is now much evidence that the Democrats see this issue more clearly than they did on November 8th. The Clinton campaign has ruefully admitted that the candidate’s “Basket of Deplorables” remark caused untold damage to the ticket. We will see the Democrats making a pitch to reconnect with those deplorables before the next election.
Yes, we are in for exciting politics in the next few years. Still, it would be in the interest of all conservatives to remember that a triumph, no matter how sweet, does not usually win a war. We have won a big victory, but have much work ahead!