The Decline and Fall of the 9/11 Republicans

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla., October 16, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
The conservative movement faces a future without a common enemy to keep its liberal and illiberal tendencies together.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he nationalist–populist tendency that buoyed Donald Trump in 2016 has many precedents in American politics: the Tea Party, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, George Wallace, a political bloodline that runs back through William Jennings Bryan to Andrew Jackson and Patrick Henry. But one aspect of the Trump movement has received insufficient attention: its roots in the trauma of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The 9/11 Republican was a curious creature, characteristically found not in the traditional conservative habitat but in progressive, Democrat-aligned cities and suburbs from New York to the Bay Area. The 9/11 era was marked by fear of

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