“Today we are in turmoil…many young people are losing faith in our society. Our inner cities have become centers of despair. Millions of Americans are caught in the cycle of poverty – poor education, unemployment or serious underemployment, and the inability to afford decent housing.
“Inflation has eroded confidence in the dollar at home and abroad. It has severely cut into the incomes of all families, the jobless, the farmers the retired and those living on fixed incomes and pensions. Today’s Americans are uncertain about the future, and frustrated about the recent past. America urgently needs new leadership – leadership courageous and understanding – leadership that will recapture control of events, mastering them rather than permitting them to master us, thus restoring confidence in ourselves and in our future.”
Does that pretty much sum up America’s mood and situation as the 2016 Presidential election shapes up? It’s a passage from the 1968 Republican Party platform which gave Richard Nixon a narrow election victory over Hubert Humphrey.
There are many forces on the move in 2015 similar to what was going on in 1968, not least of which were certain ideological and intellectual trends. In May of that year (which, like 2015, was a wild one) Nixon gave a CBS radio address titled “A New Alignment For American Unity” in which he quoted French thinker and politician Alexis de Tocqueville:
“Time, events or the unaided individual action of the mind will sometimes undermine or destroy an opinion, without any outward sign of the change. It has not been openly assailed, no conspiracy has been formed to make war on it, but its followers one by one noiselessly secede; day by day a few of them abandon it, until at last it is only professed by a minority…They are themselves unaware for a long period of time that a revolution has actually been effected…The majority cease to believe what they believed before, but they still affect to believe, and this empty phantom of public opinion is strong enough to chill innovators and to keep them silent and at a respectful distance.
This year saw the collapse of political correctness. From cultural gatekeepers insisting that a man is a woman if he says so, to the campus Victorians banning harmless Halloween costumes, and culminating in a San Bernardino man not reporting the suspicious activity of Islamist terrorists who murdered 14 out of fear of being called racist or bigoted, the whole thing has fallen apart. It’s just as de Tocqueville described, people have been silently defecting from the worldview mandated by political correctness for years, though the affectations of belief persisted. But 2015 has been the breaking point. One man is largely to thank for bringing out into the open and making it official: Donald J. Trump. As Monsieur Alexis said in one of his lesser known books: the mainstream media and political class have felt the cold stinging wind on their bare assess as they get caught with their pants down. And it’s beautiful to watch.
In Nixon’s “New Alignment” address he laid out five areas where the alignment had formed. Aside from the Republican Voice, there was “The Voice of the New Liberal” which called for a workable form of “‘participatory democracy.’ It demands a political order close to the people who are governed, in which the people play a vital part. That voice demands greater personal freedom and less government domination.” There are echoes of this in 2015. The Left still calls for “participatory democracy” and “fixing income inequality.” Conservatives are looking for the same thing, but with more of a “the glass is half full” approach usually expressed as “growing the middle class.” Nixon said “Let’s not oversimplify. The voices are not joined in harmonious chorus – far from it. The ideas of the new alignment differ in emphasis, not fundamentals; differences in the speed of change, not so much in the direction of change.” Again we have come to a point where the lines of Left and Right are somewhat dissolved if you look at the fundamentals. The more accurate dividing line is authoritarianism versus liberty – despite how it looks on the surface, there is a lot of overlap. This will continue as long as liberals are pushed out of the Democratic Party by the hard Left. Many of them are looking for alternatives but can’t yet bring themselves to vote Republican (who can blame them really?) Indeed, some of Trump’s support is said to come from Reagan Democrats.
The “Solid South” began making the switch slowly from Democrat to Republican in the 1930s (although it wasn’t solidly Republican until the late 80s and early 90s). The Democrats’ hold on the South was akin to their hold on New York and California today, but in ’68 Nixon spoke of the “Voice of the New South,” a South that was “in ferment.” It hasn’t been talked about much, but many staunchly Democratic areas are in ferment today in the face of municipal bankruptcy and school system failure. Hell, even Victor Davis Hanson holds out on the possibility that there will be a shift in the California political landscape back to something more conservative as the massive immigrant population moves up into middle class life.
Nixon’s fourth Voice was that of the “Black Militant.” “There is a deep and widening division between today’s black leadership and the doctrinaire welfarist,” he begins. “When you listen to these black voices, you hear little about ‘handouts’ or ‘welfare.’ Instead you hear the words ‘dignity,’ ‘ownership,’ ‘pride.’ They do not want to be recipients, they want to be participants.” The black militants are still with us alright. But if Nixon is accurate here in summing up their stance, I’ll take them over the screeching victicrats who occupy our universities today. Nixon called for “a share in American opportunity” and “a legitimate role in private enterprise.” I don’t get the sense that today’s black militants are very interested in these things. Most of them are rich already anyway. They want “the system” torn down in its entirety. The black militants are the one group today who have purposefully excluded themselves from any new alignment forming today, and I’m afraid the only solution here is widespread social opprobrium and ostracization until they grow the hell up. One of the dirty secrets of 2015 is the black (and Hispanic) support for allegedly racist Donald Trump. The reason? He came out swinging on illegal immigration which has hurt blacks the most, especially young blacks, by driving down wages and swelling the labor pool.
The last voice Nixon spoke of was “The Silent Center” – what he said was actually “a non-voice” of sorts. They are those who “do not demonstrate, do not protest or picket loudly. Yet, these people are no less committed to seeking out the new direction. They are willing to listen to new ideas, and they are willing to think them through.” The silent center or silent majority concept has been around for a long time, and though I think 2015 is overwhelmingly going to be a base election, I think the silent majority will also assert themselves like they haven’t in many years. A lot of them are the Trump supporters – or at least people who declare as much to pollsters. One thing the media doesn’t understand is that Trump supporters don’t necessarily actually support any of his stances or policy proposals – they are simply reacting to what they know they hate: the media, entrenched career politicians, the politically correct cultural climate. Trump has finally given everyone a runaway freight train to latch onto as it smashes all of these things, and most people are just going for the ride even if they are not going to the ultimate destination.
The Democrat Party has collapsed morally and ideologically, though not yet formally. That risk lies with the Republican Party, for it is in that party where there is debate and flexibility. On the Democratic side, there is the coronation of Hillary Clinton with all of its inevitability and predictability. Senator Bernie Sanders has been an interesting addition shaking things up a bit and bringing some honesty and integrity to the table (he’s still wrong about just about everything though), but so far his chances of winning the nomination look improbable and his campaign is largely symbolic. The Republican nomination, by contrast, is up for grabs.
With the Party looking at more than a dozen candidates (half of them imaginable) and the possibility of no one getting a clear majority of delegates in the primaries, there has been talk of a brokered convention and third parties. Donald Trump said in the Las Vegas debate that he was truly committed to the Republican Party, but the possibilities are still worrying. Trump has no discernible chance of winning a general election, and a Trump nomination will probably put the White House out of the Republicans’ reach for a generation or longer. Why? Four years of Democrat manipulated immigration and demographic trends will ensure it.
The next most likely Republican nominee at the moment, Ted Cruz, also has the specter of a Goldwater repeat looming over him. However, I don’t think this will happen because in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson had taken over for the slain President John F. Kennedy just a year earlier and due to public sympathy was probably unbeatable, no matter whom the Republicans nominated. The country at large was just not ready to take the sharp right turn the Republicans wanted to with Goldwater. The next two elections seemed to prove Nixon right in his assessment of the “New Alignment” as he won the next two elections – the first barely squeaking by, the second in a landslide. His resignation left a bad taste in the public’s mouth so Ford lost in ’76, but the “New Alignment” was still there and made itself heard in ’80,’84 and ’88 with Reagan’s elections and then Bush. Ted Cruz has plenty of enemies, but the Democratic Party of Obama and Clinton is more out of favor with America at the moment.
This does not guarantee victory for the eventual Republican nominee. It’s theirs to lose, and Republicans excel at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A brokered convention will signal the demise of the Party because in a year of raging against the machine on the Right, the insider backroom dealing that will happen is exactly what the base is fighting against. The moment will come for a fracturing of the Party and the Right, thus putting both out of national power for a long time.
Nixon spoke of the 3 thirds of the 20th century – the first was the New Deal era, the middle was the shift, the last ended with the Reagan era. He was overall correct in that division, even though we are not entirely done with the New Deal era. 2016 is about setting the tone for the next century – will the Obama administration turn out to be the final gasp of the New Deal era, or its rejuvenation?
With the internet and the capabilities provided to individual citizens by the smartphone, American society and its economy have long discarded the New Deal/Great Society model and it is impossible for the State to catch up, but half the country hasn’t realized this yet. In short, we have a smartphone economy and a New Deal/Great Society government. Half the country still believes in continuing down the road of greater centralization – be it Obamacare or the proposals of Sanders and Clinton to centralize education. Just as the future of warfare is a micro affair, the future of economics and politics is diffused and decentralized. And that’s not a prediction – it has already happened. The choice is The Hyperloop “Race” or Jerry Brown’s choo choo chase. The choice is whether we want a government to catch up and serve this reality, or to stubbornly preserve the old bureaucratic armies of the past.
One can only hope that Nixon’s vision will come to pass again: “As we coalesce the elements of this new alignment, some surprising things will begin to happen. As frustration ends, violence will wane; as runaway government is curbed, personal freedom will grow; as demanding welfare systems are replaced, individual initiative will take the lead; as peace returns to the American city, America will be better able to build peace in the world.”