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On Republican Radicalism
Polling data is increasingly pointing to a propaganda coup rather than actual radicalization of Republicans as the best explanation for the rise of Trump and Trumpism.
This morning, an article by George Hawley in Fusion made the rounds among Freedom Conservatism signatories that contained a lot of concrete data points pushing back against what Hawley terms the “myth of Republican radicalism.” These data points support a lot of the conclusions I’ve held and tried to communicate in recent years.
The feed ramp to Trumpism was not a radicalization of the general GOP electorate but negative partisanship, an intense disdain of Democrats and those seen as enabling Democrats. Trump rose to prominence because he and his enablers convinced Republicans he was a fighter while the establishment bent over and acquiesced to Democrats. It was a propaganda coup, not a philosophical transformation.
This is why the "vote Democrat to punish Republicans," "NeverTrump for Biden," and the supposed "coalition of the decent" were the precise wrong tactics to take. Far too many of those who could have thrown cold water on the false premises of "Trump the fighter" from within the conservative movement and within the Republican Party defected over to the Party whom even Trump-skeptical Republicans viewed as the enemy of all they believe in and stand for, confirming and reinforcing the propaganda messages of Trump and his enablers. The misguided efforts of NeverTrump ended up being a big part of the equation that led Trump to consolidate and dominate the American right-wing.
The good news is, there is no evidence in the data to suggest the general GOP electorate has migrated en masse to the new philosophical doctrines of the New Right, national conservatism. or even nationalist populism. All that's needed for renewal is clear and consistent messaging from uncompromised voices within the GOP and unabashedly still attached to the conservative movement able to draw a contrast between what bread-and-butter conservatives still believe about limited government constitutionalism and the legacies of the American project and the ways that folks like Trump, who they think champion their values, have actually departed from them.
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