How does the most hated presidential candidate in postwar American history (that’s the Civil War) form strategy? Why that’s easy: Have the other party pick someone who won’t listen but shouts loud.
Hillary Clinton promoted “pied piper candidates” who would drive a wedge further into our divided country. She wanted someone who would double down on Americans who increasingly see a different country than those who support a progressive like Clinton. Chief among those were Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, two very different individuals, who sadly share the national defect of loudmouthed deafness by their supporters.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 10, 2016
It took Trump to destroy Cruz. As much as wishful and wistful-thinking Republicans (like myself) may muse on the fantasy of a Clinton-Cruz race, and how Cruz would tear Clinton apart on policy, reality throws a bucket of icewater on our heads. This race isn’t about policy so much, and it never has been. America is well past the days when policy mattered.
This race is about two Americas populated by actual and pseudo-religious adherents, ranging from zealots to simple practitioners who rely on prescriptive homilies from their respective priesthoods.
To wit, a typical Trump voter, who could be a composite of many of his supporters (but is an actual person):
I like to think freely. I like to speak freely. I don’t bother you when you make fun of the church or big cars or guns. All the TV shows out there are about you, not me. I get like three shows with folks I recognize and sports. Those Duck Dynasty guys reminded me of my crazy uncles. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Drives was my kind of travel show. All of America isn’t New York or Hollywood. I want someone who understands that.
These are denizens of “the other America,” referred to by academic Joel Kotkin as the “New Heartland.” They look on with horror as liberals paint a globalist, environmentally radical future, and their support of Trump is a symptom of their continual shouting when nobody in Washington D.C. is listening.
When liberals shouted, their political leaders have listened, and in fact led the charge. New Heartland Americans can only react with deep chagrin as politicians fail to stop the bicoastal assault from progressives.
The other America constitutes, as economic historian Michael Lind notes in a forthcoming paper for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, the “New Heartland.” Extending from the Appalachians to the Rockies, this heartland economy relies on tangible goods production. It now encompasses both the traditional Midwest manufacturing regions, and the new industrial areas of Texas, the Southeast and the Intermountain West.
New Heartland Americans think of our country as resource-rich, self-reliant and independent. The bicoastal economy of Kotkin’s “Ephemeral America” are less interested in leveraging America’s natural resources, but see us as thought leaders in an increasingly global world facing global problems.
The new conflict between regions reflects a conflict between different ways of making money. Ephemeral America’s media and academic adjuncts generally portray the New Heartland’s economy as exploitative and environmentally harmful. A massive oil discovery in Alaska may be welcome news there, but a horrific prospect in places like Seattle, New York, or San Francisco.
As California deals with cow flatulence, the Keystone XL pipeline becomes another delay in implementing a planet-saving economic system based on rabid environmentalism, capped by the showpiece of climate change alarmism. Adherents of climate change as “settled science” (an oxymoron when applied to prescriptive and metaphysical value-based solutions) shout loudly, but they don’t listen.
Americans are shouting past each other, so policy has become moot. We’ve devolved into arguing over two candidates as avatars for competing views on America. It simply doesn’t matter what crimes Clinton has or has not committed. It doesn’t matter if Trump is a sociopath and a pathological liar. Clinton represents the dreams of Ephemeral America and the aspirations of those who believe after decades of progressive advances in government, that their time has come.
Clinton represents a victory for progressivism, as the first female president, and the first openly progressive president who didn’t have to bow to the New Heartland to get elected. Even Barack Obama had to run on a Christian, traditional marriage platform, then change his tune when he got into office. They feel entitled to her, as she feels entitled to the White House.
On the other side, Trump represents a rollback, no matter how small, or how shallow, to progressives’ sense of entitlement. Trump is the candidate of denial–a big middle finger to Ephemeral America from the New Heartland. It doesn’t matter that Trump’s actual policies are a word salad, or that his governing style mixes nonsense with an insatiable lust for power and fame. It doesn’t matter if a Trump presidency is flat-out dangerous for the country and the world. The entitled progressives must lose, at all costs.
William F. Buckley called for the conservative movement to “stand athwart history, yelling ‘stop!'” but this didn’t mean yelling while failing to listen to the actual needs of Americans. George H.W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” attempted to reconcile the burdens of ordinary Americans with those of political reality–ruined by the populist billionaire Ross Perot.
Now the populist has taken over the ticket, with no conservative in sight to save us. Trump, without a miracle or deus ex machina, will lose to Clinton on November 8. Ephemeral America will cheer with delight, and begin to dance on the graves of New Heartland Americans. But those graves will hardly be filled.
Trump will have lost not because he didn’t represent what the New Heartland Americans want–nearly anyone who spoke the right words could have filled that role–but because he made himself too big a distraction from the voters he drew. Trump could have easily won if he stopped being Trump for even a few weeks, and that’s a tragedy for Americans who have been ignored for decades.
The bigger tragedy is the death of listening on both sides, as each tries to shout down the other.