by Frank Cannon
This article was posted originally at The Hill.
“Is Trump finished?” one of his savviest conservative supporters asked me recently.
In other words, will restless Republicans, unable to achieve any legislative victories, turn on the president of the United States? Abandon hope all ye who succumb to this temptation.
Turning on Trump is not the first, difficult step to GOP survival; instead, it would be a death blow to conservative resistance and revival in America. The full shock and awe fury of the Left and its media dogs has been unleashed on Trump for one reason: Trump has uncovered the specific formula for destroying progressivism.
What is this winning formula?
The first component is obvious: Trump promised to preserve American jobs for Americans by fighting illegal immigration, renegotiating trade agreements that disadvantage American workers, and getting rid of regulatory barriers that keep American industries from thriving here.
Trump’s new economic message plainly rejected Mitt Romney’s uninspired promise to protect “job creators” and instead focused on empowering blue collar workers. Progressives concentrate on these same constituencies, but all they are capable of offering is government largesse. The idea of self-sufficiency is a much more attractive and expansive economic message to take to the middle and working class. Trump knew this, and used it to win big league in 2016.
Progressives are frightened by Trump because they fear Trump’s winning message can — and ultimately will — be extended beyond his largely white working class base to minority demographics like Hispanics and African American workers, who, whether they are conscious of it or not, are just as desperate to make America great again.
Conservatives would be foolish to run away from Trumponomics. Instead, they should build upon that message with strong cases for federalism, monetary reform, and other conservative ideas to smash the administrative state in Washington — a.k.a. the dreaded “swamp.”
The second component of Trump’s winning message is the least digested by GOP elites: Trump understood intuitively that embracing social conservatism is a surefire political winner, especially on the pro-life issue. Trump grasped that the very same voters who wanted him to fight economic decline also worry about social and cultural decline. And no, it is not just evangelicals; Trump’s outspokenness on life and religious liberty was key to destroying the blue wall in the Rust Belt, attracting Catholic and other Reagan voters who had drifted away from the Republican brand.
There is a clear lesson here for GOP elites: Mitt Romney tried to call a truce on cultural issues, Donald Trump didn’t, Mitt Romney lost, and Donald Trump won. Republicans can’t win without embracing social conservatism. There is also a clear lesson for social conservatives: moving forward requires us to abandon our alliance with Romney-esque corporate “conservatives,” who loathe us anyway, and forge a new winning alliance between values voters and conservative economic populists.
The third leg of Trump’s formula for victory: He broke through the left’s strategy of shaming Americans into silence. Voters saw Trump’s success in refusing to be cowed by political correctness as their own success. For social conservatives, this is critical: The progressives’ entire strategy depends on shaming Americans into acquiescing to strange new moral orders from Hollywood and Washington.
The left’s shaming strategy tells those who disagree we must relinquish our power and be silent. For many, voting for Trump became the only means of expressing cultural resistance. Politics is thus the irreplaceable way Americans learn we are not odd or alone: our values are widely shared. We are the majority.
Understanding what Trump accomplished is critical for Christian conservatives especially: Political retreat is not an option. Investing more heavily in more direct and effective politics is pivotal to preventing elite cultural and political repression of traditional values.
But it was not just Christian conservatives who responded to Trump’s refusal to cower to elite political correctness. The left’s shaming is not just individual and it is not just about Christianity. The progressives’ strategy is to shame America itself. That is why progressive calls to tear down confederate statues are so quickly followed by calls to tear down statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
The left hated Trump’s unabashed pro-Americanism. Voters understood that national pride is not evidence of hatred or racism or any “ism” except Americanism, which is in fact good. Voters sided with the Trump in part because they knew Trump’s unalloyed patriotism is part and parcel of his refusal to submit to the Left’s moral authority.
Conservatives are beyond foolish if we fail to recognize that we are engaged in a death battle for the soul of America. Trump is an imperfect but direct counter to what has heretofore been a one-sided story of decline and impotence now on vivid display in a GOP-controlled Congress. The left is far advanced in its agenda to destroy the American constitutional system, including federalism, limited government, the rule of law, and the rights of the people to rule themselves.
If President Trump can now deliver on any form of economic renewal, pursue his pro-life agenda in a serious way, protect conscience, and continue to display a proud nationalism, he will be poised for one of the great comebacks in American history.
No president can govern effectively alone. He needs our support. Republicans have a binary choice: fight for President Trump, or die. The time to fight is now.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore