Why are so many conservative voters attracted to Donald Trump?
Pundits have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why people on the right would back someone who is conservative on neither economic nor social issues, someone who addresses the concerns of neither the low-tax crowd nor the moral traditionalists.
What they overlook is the third – and most important – leg of the conservative stool: robust American nationalism. Few voters really care that much about small government or free-market economics, as compelling as the case for them is. More important are moral issues like abortion and natural marriage and religious liberty, but even that cluster of concerns represents only a part of the reason people identify as conservatives.
I’d submit that underlying everything else, Republican primary voters are patriots and nationalists. With the post-1968 Democratic party’s rejection of American patriotism, they have nowhere else to go; in our two-party system, there’s no space for a UKIP-style party to establish itself. This lack of options is something the post-American, anti-borders nomenklatura of the GOP has counted on.
But in the primaries, there is an option, a way for Republican voters to rebel against the contempt of their betters. As Colin Dueck writes today over at the National Interest, “Trump’s real niche, carved out in his own strange way, is simply American nationalism. And this is a powerful force among Republicans.”
Even if Jeb were a competent candidate, and had a different surname, his manifest post-Americanism would doom his candidacy. Rubio is both competent and not named “Bush,” but his leading role in selling Chuck Schumer’s nation-breaking Gang of Eight bill makes his nationalist rhetoric seem false. Ted Cruz would seem to be the obvious person to fill this niche, but even he has called for quintupling the number of H-1B cheap-labor visas for tech companies.
Though he was referring to Europe, George Soros summed up the view of much of our own ruling class when he wrote last week that he sees “national borders as the obstacle.” Trump is a buffoon running a largely content-free campaign, but the one thing he is offering is what’s utterly lacking among the Soros Republicans – a straightforward, unapologetic assertion of American interests. The only way Trump will be denied the Republican nomination is for another candidate to persuade GOP voters that he offers a more electable and more responsible version of the same message.