I was with a close friend last night watching a Fox New interview with James Webb, who discussed the Democratic Party’s embrace of identity politics and the role it has played in sapping the party’s historic support from the white working class.
At one point, my friend turned to me and observed, “Can you believe that it’s finally possible to watch these sorts of anti-PC discussions on television?”
He’s right, of course, and it reflects the fact that identity politics is a double-edged sword. Sooner or later, working-class whites inevitably would wise up to its unpalatable, if not frightening, implications and embrace a version of their own identity politics – or so went conventional thinking. Indeed the late paleoconservative intellectual and Washington Times columnist Sam Francis, who coined the term Middle American Radicals (MARs), foresaw this trend emerging a generation ago. It emerged briefly around columnists Pat Buchanan’s short-lived celebrity candidacy in 1992.
Yet, I wonder: Was Middle American Radicalism, which finally succeeded with Donald Trump, really an inevitable outcome? A quarter century ago, this radicalism gained only a tenuous and brief hold under Pat Buchanan. But should we be surprised? Unlike other other groups – African-Americans, feminists and LGBTs, for example – MARs lacked any discernible support among media, higher education, etc.
Only with the advent of alternative news outlets – Talk Radio, Fox News and, more recently and perhaps most notably, social media – has Middle American Radical sentiment managed to coalesce and to become self-aware.
Despite the entirely unexpected and unprecedented Trump victory, MARs face an unusually steep uphill climb over the next few years, certainly in demographic terms.
Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira accurately observes that the Trump/MARs realignment will likely turn out to be a short-lived political resurgence that is increasingly supplanted by the shift of college-educated Millennials to the Democratic base, one that already is augmented by the all but unwavering support of Asian, African-American and Latino voters.
Emerging tech supplied the means through which the MARs insurgency coalesced around the unprecedented candidacy of Donald Trump. Now a soon-to-be President Trump must supply the vision to ensure that this insurgency is not remembered a century from now merely as a flash in the political pan.