Like him or love him Donald Trump has changed Americans. For better or worse; the Donald has completely disrupted the electoral process, and possibly changed American politics beyond recognition.
Here are six ways that Trump is changing politics beyond recognition:
- By demonstrating that the conservative movement is a paper tiger. For the past 40 years every Republican politician in the United States lived in fear of the bogeyman known as organized conservatism. The most powerful people in the GOP had to kowtow to National Review writers, loudmouthed talk show hosts, Fox News personalities and policy wonks at the Heritage Foundation to get elected.
- By becoming the Republican front runner; while ignoring conservatism and refusing to go along with many aspects of modern conservative orthodoxy such as free trade, Trump has proved the conservative movement has little or no popular support. He has also survived vicious attacks from some of the most powerful conservative organs; including an all-out broadside from The National Review, from which he emerged unscathed. Thanks to Trump, the conservatives are no longer setting the Grand Old Party’s agenda.
- By demonstrating that the Religious Right dead. Trump has also slain the other bogeyman that Republican politicians have lived in fear of for over a generation: the Religious Right. He’s made a successful bid for the party’s nomination while ignoring most of the issues “cultural conservatives” care about – such as gay rights. Has Trump even mentioned his position on homosexuality? To make matters worse, Trump has attracted lots of votes from so-called evangelicals; even though he is the most secular and least moral political figure to emerge in at a least a generation. He has proved that the Religious Right is dead and its political influence is gone.
- By showing that the Republican establishment still matters. For the last 25 years a variety of grassroots activists have dominated the GOP and set its agenda. Trump’s successful insurgent campaign is demonstrating that these activists are largely powerless; while the establishment still retains some power. Fear of Trump is driving many Republicans back to the establishment; and reminding the leaders that they can use the party’s structure to stop the invader. Trump has achieved what was once considered impossible; he has resurrected the Republican establishment, and restored much of its’ power and influence.
- By proving that race still matters to white voters. Trump has demonstrated that white voters can be mobilized by appealing to racial pride and prejudice. He’s also demonstrated that there is a constituency of white voters that respond to the kind of hysterical, racially-charged politics long found in the black community. Trump’s style is a great deal like that of African-American politicians; such as Al Sharpton, like them Donald uses a combination of shameless race-baiting, ego-driven posturing, hysterical attacks upon the “other” and appeals to group pride and solidarity. Just like Sharpton; Trump blames all his problems, on his foes real or imagined. Like Sharpton Donald also positions himself as a persecuted minority; a silly stance, that has a lot of appeal to poor white voters.
- By proving that economic insecurity trumps ideology. For the last 35 years, the Republicans have largely ignored economic issues for ideological reasons. The party assumed that most of its’ voters shared its free-trade, pro-business and small-government agenda. Trump has disproved this notion by playing to the fears and insecurities of working and increasingly middle-class whites; whose economic status is declining in America. He has proven that a lot of Republicans value social status and economic security more than freedom.
- By demonstrating that effective marketing is more important than a political agenda. Let’s face it, Trump’s political agenda is a very bad joke; some of it is silly, and much of it is sheer fantasy. Yet Trump has put it over with effective marketing and some savvy strategy. He’s shown that a strategic spending of money; clever use of celebrity, and media manipulation can make even a terrible candidate a serious contender. This could be the most important change because it will open the door for other celebrity pests; such as Michael Moore, Jenny McCarthy, Sean Penn, Ted Nugent and Kanye West, to run for office. Both parties will have to be on guard against such nonsense in the future. Expect several left-wing Trumps to crawl out of the woodwork; and drive Hillary crazy, in the near future. Their influence will be amplified by Bernie Sanders’ digital-fundraising tactics; which will let anybody with a digital wallet rake in huge amounts of cash from gullible supporters.
Trump himself may not be around for very long, but he may have launched a new era in American politics. What that portends for the Republicans and America remains to be seen.