Throughout the course of the 2016 election, the conventional groupthink was that the renegade Donald Trump had irrevocably torn apart the Republican Party. His base populism supposedly sandbagged more experienced and electable Republican candidates, who were bewildered that a “conservative” would dare to pander to hoi polloi by promising deportations of illegal aliens, renegotiation of trade agreements that “ripped off” working people, and a messy attack on the reigning political correctness.More.
It was also a common complaint that Trump had neither political nor military experience. He trash-talked his way into the nomination, critics said, which led to defections among the outraged Republican elite. By August, a #NeverTrump movement had taken root among many conservatives, including some at National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal. Many neoconservatives who formerly supported President George W. Bush flipped parties, openly supporting the Clinton candidacy.
Trump’s Republican critics variously disparaged him as, at best, a Huey Long or Ross Perot, whose populist message was antithetical to conservative principles of unrestricted trade, open-border immigration, and proper personal comportment. At worse, a few Republican elites wrote Trump off as a dangerous fascist akin to Mussolini, Stalin, or Hitler.
For his part, Trump often sounded bombastic and vulgar. By October, after the Access Hollywood video went viral, many in the party were openly calling for him to step down. Former primary rivals like Jeb Bush and John Kasich reneged on their past oaths to support the eventual Republican nominee and turned on Trump with a vengeance.
By the end of the third debate, it seemed as if Trump had carjacked the Republican limousine and driven it off a cliff. His campaign seemed indifferent to the usual stuff of an election run—high-paid handlers, a ground game, polling, oppositional research, fundraising, social media, establishment endorsements, and celebrity guest appearances at campaign rallies. Pundits ridiculed his supposedly “shallow bench” of advisors, a liability that would necessitate him crawling back to the Republican elite for guidance at some point.
What was forgotten in all this hysteria was that Trump had brought to the race unique advantages, some of his own making, some from finessing naturally occurring phenomena. His advocacy for fair rather than free trade, his insistence on enforcement of federal immigration law, and promises to bring back jobs to the United States brought back formerly disaffected Reagan Democrats, white working-class union members, and blue-dog Democrats—the “missing Romney voters”—into the party. Because of that, the formidable wall of rich electoral blue states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina crumbled.
Beyond that, even Trump’s admitted crudity was seen by many as evidence of a street-fighting spirit sorely lacking in Republican candidates that had lost too magnanimously in 1992, 2008, and 2016 to vicious Democratic hit machines. Whatever Trump was, he would not lose nobly, but perhaps pull down the rotten walls of the Philistines with him. That Hillary Clinton never got beyond her email scandals, the pay-for-play Clinton Foundation wrongdoing, and the Wikileaks and Guccifer hackings reminded the electorate that whatever Trump was or had done, he at least had not brazenly broken federal law as a public servant, or colluded with the media and the Republican National Committee to undermine the integrity of the primaries and sabotage his Republican rivals...
One thing you don't hear as much these days is how folks said they liked Trump because they wanted a fighter. They wanted someone who would fully push back against the left. That's what I always loved about Trump and I saw in him a chance to destroy radical progressivism. I'm happy to say it's a new day. We might not get everything we want, but there's no denying it's a new era in American politics, and the radical left has been badly sidelined.
Even if that's just for four years that's good enough to help preserve our country for decades. Leftists are again going to have to go back to the drawing board to mount a sustained power grab to match this last eight years. It's glorious.