The collapse of history’s great empires happens largely the same way. Internal divisions and strife rage on while a united enemy relentlessly attacks. While right now there is an uneasy peace, the conservative movement is in danger of falling to that same historical law of nature once Election 2016 is over.
After November 8th, undoubtedly we will be spending a lot of time talking about the GOP’s future. Many of the tensions within the conservative movement that drove Trump to the GOP nomination will remain with us. Some are already preparing for the upcoming “GOP Civil War”, an event for which the left licks its lips in anticipation.
Many will have different solutions. Some will want to cut the conservative movement into pieces and arbitrarily expel various chunks of it, pushing the movement’s coalition to a tiny fraction of the country. Others will want to simply restore the old way of doing things, which led to the steam building up and exploding as Trump and Cruz and will simply do so again.
Over the past year an avalanche of commentators have tried to fit their own ivory tower narrative on the Trump phenomenon. Yet for many of us who have been on the ground, we understand clear as day how it came to be.
The wave behind Trump’s rise, and to a degree Ted Cruz’s, wasn’t really just “nationalism vs. globalism” or “populism vs. elites”. It wasn’t really just white-working class economic and cultural angst. The “alt-right” remains largely a boogeyman rather than a legitimate factor.
While the Trump-Cruz movement showed itself to be driven by a large variety of causes, it was at its core a massive counter-reaction to the internal dysfunction within the Republican Party’s organization.
The conservative movement is a strange coalition. The movement brings together people from backgrounds as different as can be. A steel worker may have difficulty communicating and relating to an M&A executive, and vice-versa. What DC consultants and lobbyists want to hear may make ordinary middle-class folk back in the district feel ignored and forgotten. Yet all have the same fundamental conservative values and want to see generally the same kind of America.
It is a delicate process to make sure everyone believes they have a real place at the table, and the loss of that is what has led to the rise of this election cycle’s revolutionary leviathan.
The fact of the matter is that while Trump himself may be a strange aberration, Trump’s base of supporters during the primary weren’t. They differ little on the issues compared to any other Republican. Their voting and support records differ little from any other conservative.
The Democrats have their problems too. As Hillary Clinton’s bitter primary against Bernie Sanders and WikiLeaks revealed, the business-oriented Democrats constantly worry about how to appease the Democrats’ “Red Army” faction (their term).
Yet despite all the WikiLeaks revelations and the bitter primary, Sanders supporters are largely comfortably behind Hillary Clinton. Why? Because they really believe that their agenda will be advanced, even if imperfectly, under a Hillary Clinton administration, and that they will be given a real voice.
In contrast, the GOP’s traditional “burying the hatchet” has been to bury it on the defeated side’s back. Reconciliation is seen as weakness as factions muscle each other down. Former enemies remain current enemies.
This perpetual civil war has to end. Too much is at stake for the country. The left has advanced its agenda far not just the past eight years, but the past few decades. Even if conservatives put aside all our differences and unite completely, it would still be a titanic and difficult struggle. Each day the left is steadily moving this country to a “permanent progressivism” through entrenching liberalism in public policy and our education system, as well as poisoning the conservative brand.
This means the “Washington Cartel” has to be willing to shake hands with “the deplorables.” This means that the movement’s core must be open to understanding the realities of governing and the limits that imposes. This means we have to be willing to reach out and understand the differing priorities and perspectives among factions.
We would benefit to remember we are united by a vision of a free, prosperous, decent, and proud America in contrast to the left’s degeneracy, corruption, and stagnation. And while we wage our inevitable post-election infighting, we have to remember this if we want to retain any chance of ever seeing the America we hope for.