Despite being at the DNC in Philly, my mind continues to work on trying to figure out what happened to the GOP. And I think there’s a point that I have implicitly been making that probably deserves to be expressly stated. And that is this: Social conservatism is being rejected by the new GOP—and America.
Don’t let the GOP “platform” or the selection of Mike Pence for veep fool you. Watch the GOP convention, read Breitbart, listen to Donald Trump—and you’ll immediately understand this isn’t the socially conservative party it used to be.
(Note: Anyone who has read my work knows that this isn’t a development I’m necessarily applauding. But I think it is a trend, nonetheless.)
Sure, his celebrity status is a huge factor. But Trump’s wider cultural resonance can also be partly explainable by the fact that he has rejected social conservatism (frankly, this is intertwined with his celebrity status). It makes him acceptable to a lot of working class Americans who, in the past, were turned off by talk about abortion or gay marriage.
Consider this. Pat Buchanan and Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee all ran on populist economic platforms, and all were defeated for the nomination. Granted, one big reason is that they aren’t as famous as Trump, but I think it’s also fair to say that Buchanan and Santorum are both devout Catholics and Huckabee was a Baptist minister. Christianity was an important part of their culture war rhetoric. It turned off a lot of people, and gave the media fodder to portray them as neanderthals. That’s not the case with Donald Trump.
Politics is downstream from culture, and our culture is more secular than it used to be. Donald Trump is a pop culture guy. He gets this. Is it a coincidence he’s doing so well?