In all my years of observing and at times working in politics, I have never seen an election cycle quite like this one. At this point, I am convinced that the 2016 election cycle will go down in history as the 2016 Popular Revolt. While this revolt is part of a broader worldwide trend, I will strictly focus on American politics in this two part series.
The 2016 Popular Revolt is so named because we are possibly for the first time seeing the Populares overrunning the Optimates in both, rather than just one of the American political parties. These terms themselves come from Roman history and are useful, both as analogy and as historical background, for the term “populism” itself arises from the Roman “Populare.”
The Roman Republic was typically administered by the Optimates, the traditional elites of the senatorial class who wished to extend the powers of the Roman Senate. The Optimates though, were often opposed by the Populares, or those who wished to act through the Tribunes of the Plebs and the People’s Assemblies. While the Populares at times sought to push through reforms in favor of the people at large, most notably the Gracchi, and the Optimates were far more exclusive, it is wrong to classify these factions in terms of contemporary politics. Often the Optimate or Populare stances were simply ploys for power by an always competitive Roman aristocracy.
What can’t be denied though, is that populist politics grew in Rome in response to a period of globalization, which in turn concentrated power upward. In this regard, the 2016 Popular Revolt is another iteration of an age-old struggle with shades in history. There’s nothing new under the sun, as the old saying goes.
The 2016 Popular Revolt is a response to the latest period of globalization which has been underway since the 1970’s. The Optimates in both parties are currently the proponents of globalization at any cost. The current Optimates are the globalists, who in turn have taken on the mantle of moderate centrists (the opposite is actually true). The present day Populares are those that, for varying reasons, are opposed in whole or in part to the race for globalization.
Dissatisfaction with both parties has been high since the second Bush Administration. Instinctively, we know that party politics is irrelevant, since the Optimates, the supposed “moderates” and “centrists,” on left and right, have merged into one party, the party of globalization at any cost, which means unlimited immigration, unfettered neoliberal trade agreements, and endless war. In short, they stand for the gutting of your nation’s economic and cultural distinctness and well-being in the race to construct a global monolithic regime, a marketplace of individualist automaton consumers with no identity. This is why despite elections, nothing that matters ever seems to change, since both parties are in every way that counts a single party.
In 2016, however, with the decentralization of media and new ways of raising money, and the increasingly negative returns of globalization to broad cross-sections of the population in multiple dimensions (economic, cultural, etc.), the revolt has begun.
Understanding this background, it’s now time to introduce our first lead in the 2016 Popular Revolt, entering from stage right.
An American Caesar:
Donald Trump seemed unlikely to lead a revolt of the Populares. He may be something of a “new man” in American politics, but he had nothing to gain by leading a popular revolt as he was a darling of the globalist elite. Whether it was through patriotic fervor or a desire for power (probably both), Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring and has dominated ever since.
To mark a man out as a distinct leader of the 2016 Popular Revolt, he will need to eschew the established protocols of fundraising, as that is the means by which the Optimates entrench themselves and propagate their power. Here is how favors are distributed and alliances are made, as the Optimates cut deals and carve the globalized world up between themselves. A large part of the reason why Barack Obama was a false Populare leader was because he was not independent of this power structure.
Enter Donald Trump. With a net worth of anywhere from $4.5-10+ billion (depending on who you believe), the fundraising power structure is irrelevant. Donald Trump can fund his own campaign. Thus, he need not answer any external favors. In his campaign, he is pursuing a certain Caesarian strategy – he is self-funding.
Caesar, who successfully led a populist overthrow of the Optimates, self-funded by the enormous wealth he’d acquired in his Gallic campaigns during the 50’s B.C., which took him from heavily indebted to one of the wealthiest men in Rome. No longer needing any favors, it was easy for him to mount a popular revolt.
Donald Trump is in the same class. Since he does not need anyone’s money, he is not beholden to globalist interests and does not need to deal with the power structure. As such, Donald Trump is his own man and thus perfectly poised to be a leader in the 2016 Popular Revolt. Donald Trump does do some crowd funding, but it is not his signature, and largely irrelevant compared to the funds that he can bring to the table just by the sheer volume of his personal wealth.
Donald Trump’s wealth and his pledge to not take any money from the donors (donatarii?) among the Optimates creates a wall (no pun intended) that separates him from them. Donald Trump would not be able to lead the 2016 Popular Revolt if he did take the donor money. This refusal on the part of Donald Trump ensures, to a degree, that he won’t be carving up the world with the globalists. Spending your own money, even when you have as much of it as Trump does, means you are invested in what you’re doing. Spending millions of his own dollars, soon to be more, ensures an attachment to a degree to the popular revolt on the part of Donald Trump.
The 2016 Rightist Realignment:
Every so often there is what political scientists term a realigning election. In these elections, new coalitions form to deal with new issues that supersede the old ones in dominance, new demographics of power arise, and in general, a new political zeitgeist is formed. Those precise elections that are distinctly “realigning” have always been a subject of debate, but arguably, the last one in Republican Party politics was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan swept to power and ultimately became the patron saint of the modern GOP and the conservative movement on which it bases itself.
It’s here where I must link to an article out of the mainstream media that was surprisingly nuanced:
Ignoring the title, the main thrust of the article is that the Republican Party is split into three factions – nationalists, globalists, and moralists. Not to get too hung up on definitions, we can take those broad swathes from the article and add some new thoughts:
Nationalists: American traditionalists. They are typically averse to government power and expansion, but not to the point of ideological axiom like libertarians, and see some role for government to ensure the well-being of the nation. They want a strong America, but not an imperial one that plays the role of policeman of the world. Protective of their culture and with a desire to put Americans first, they are against mass immigration and trade deals that gut the nation’s sovereignty and economic base and ship jobs overseas.
Though the media often derides right wing nationalists as being largely white, working class, and blue-collar, most of the educated people I keep in my social circle (and by that I mean really educated, not those who parade around degrees from SJW universities and then go on to live in a bubble, i.e.: people that are autodidacts and have varying real world experiences), fall into this faction, as do I.
The nationalists are the present Populares, and while many of them are struggling working class people, a good deal of them (like me), aren’t (hint: we like Western civilization and are tired of seeing it deconstructed).
Globalists: These are the current Optimates. They are the ones you’ll find in government, the think-tanks, and directing the right wing media like National Review. The right wing globalists are marked by a religious, axiomatic belief in tax cuts and the free market (or so they say), but they are, as their name suggests, strong proponents of globalization. They will negotiate trade agreements like NAFTA, strongly favor mass immigration, and take an imperial approach to American foreign policy, often assuming that all cultures are inherently the same, as seen in the invasion of Iraq, when George W. Bush believed that Iraqis would seamlessly transition to democracy. Neoconservatism is a strong influence in this faction, as is the Israel lobby.
Moralists: This is the religious right, the Moral Majority people. Their main calling card is social issues, such as their opposition to abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, and so on. The Israel lobby is also influential with this group, as many on the religious right believe in its eschatological biblical significance.
In the realigning election of 1980, and possibly before, going back to 1968 (hence the trouble with singling out one election as “realigning”), the globalist faction of the Republican party swept to dominance, taking on the moralist Christian right as their junior coalition partner. Hence, ever since, the key issues in the conservative movement, and in right wing politics, have been globalist ones – neoliberal economics, foreign interventions to “promote democracy,” and so on, while social issues like abortion and gay marriage have also gotten their fair share of time and energy.
For decades, nationalists have been shut out, but in the 2016 Popular Revolt, that is now changing. The media and virtue signalers of all kinds mock this group as being “they took our jerbs” lowlifes, but as we have seen, that is only part of the picture. This faction is now spearheading the 2016 Popular Revolt, and Donald Trump is its champion. The globalists are doing their very best to keep the dam from breaking, as seen with National Review’s recent broadside against Trump, but each attack increasingly reeks of desperation.
For months on end, ever since he announced, the Optimates told us Donald Trump would eventually sputter. He didn’t, because something is afoot. If the 2016 Popular Revolt has the strongest chance of one thing, it is the realignment of right wing politics.
Donald Trump is often accused by the Optimates of not being a “true conservative.” This is smart on their part, because it is an attack on identity.
The problem is that, in 2016, no one cares about that identity anymore.
The 2016 Popular Revolt is poised to show us this most of all – the conservative movement is dead.
The utterly impotent performance of Mitt Romney in 2012 was the loudest siren of the flailing impetus of the conservative movement. Romney couldn’t even energize his own base, and millions of normally Republican voters stayed home in 2012.
Romney was the largest advertisement, but numerous campaigns in the past 30 years have indicated that the direction of the winds was against the conservative movement. Such campaigns have been those of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot in the 90’s, which ran to great success on nationalism, but the time was not yet quite right for a great popular revolt in rightist politics. The rot of globalization was not yet deep enough, the media was not decentralized enough, and they were not the right men for the job. Nevertheless, their successes showed some cracks in the wall of the conservative movement and the globalist Optimates that headed it.
Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 came at a more ripe time, as the results of globalist policies were in, but his axiomatic libertarianism and his lack of charisma and media savvy didn’t do him any favors. The media was also not quite yet as decentralized in 2008, or even in 2012, to support a prolonged revolt of the Populares.
But 2016 is a whole different ballgame. The establishment media is rapidly losing control of the narrative due to a surging decentralized, alternate media. The march of globalist hell continues unabated, and the Optimates not only refuse to listen, but double down, all the while left-wing moralism (more on that in the second part) derides and alienates the majority, who believe political correctness has become a serious issue. Enter Donald Trump, whose name recognition, charisma, media savvy, and nationalism combine with a corrosive atmosphere to produce…the 2016 Popular Revolt.
In short, Donald Trump is the right man talking up the right issues at the right time.
Should the 2016 Popular Revolt carry Donald Trump to the Republican nomination – and it now looks quite likely indeed that it will, it will be an exclamation point on the realignment of right wing politics that is fast underway. The governing coalition of globalists with their moralist juniors are on the verge of being thrown out by a resurgent nationalist wing of the Republican Party. The moralist wing may think it prudent to join the nationalists, as we have already seen Ted Cruz (the current moralist leader) espouse Trumpian nationalist talking points. At any rate, the globalist Optimates seem just as worried that they will be superseded by their moralist juniors as they are that the nationalist Populares will overrun them in 2016. Globalist warmonger extraordinaire Lindsey Graham recently described the prospect of a Trump or Cruz nomination as dying by either gunshot or poison.
Ultimately, the moralists, with their Christian underpinnings, may decide that they have more in common with Donald Trump and American nationalism than with Jeb Bush/Marco Rubio and globalist plutocracy and join in the 2016 Popular Revolt as the junior partner in the new governing coalition. The moralist right wing is itself losing influence among the electorate rapidly, as religiosity is declining and social issues like abortion are now largely irrelevant non-starters (the moralists can talk up a game in their local elections, but nothing will really change policy-wise). Ultimately, they will need new allies to retain a smattering of their declining influence, and Donald Trump’s nationalist Populares may look to them like the most enticing way forward, as seen with Ted Cruz’s recent stances.
A New Power Base:
Whatever the case, the conservative movement is dead and right wing politics will realign. The demographics don’t lie. The median age of National Review readers is 66, and only 5% of its readers are 25 or under.
If the conservative movement isn’t dead (it is), it is dying, literally. Very few young Americans identify as conservatives, but Donald Trump’s reinvigorated brand of American nationalism is attractive to the young, especially since they have felt the full brunt of globalization and were scammed by Barack Obama. It is also attractive to some traditionally Democratic voters – black voters, union workers, and so on. A recent poll seemed to suggest that Donald Trump could get as much as 20% of the Democratic vote in a contest with Hillary Clinton. If that, or anything close to that, happens, it’s a landslide victory.
The conservative movement’s demographics are fading fast, but Donald Trump’s 2016 Popular Revolt is fast creating a new demographic power base supporting a new political right.
We tend to think of right wing politics and conservatism as synonymous, but this is not the case. As Thomas Sowell (ironically part of National Review’s recent broadside) writes in his The Vision of the Anointed:
Those who oppose the left are said to be on the right – and when they are strongly opposed, they are said to be on the “far right.” But this is a somewhat Ptolemaic view of the political universe, with the political left being in the center of the universe and all who differ – in any direction – being called “the right.”
Whether free-market libertarians or statists ranging from those with monarchist to fascist views, opponents of the left are called “the right.” In the United States, especially, the related term “conservative” is routinely used to encompass people who have no desire to preserve the status quo or to return to some status quo ante. Friedrich Hayek, for more than half a century a prime opponent of leftist policies on the international stage, was thus considered a conservative, if not part of “the far right.” Yet Hayek himself wrote an article entitled, “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” Milton Friedman has likewise repudiated the “conservative” label and wrote a book entitled The Tyranny of the Status Quo. Yet he is regarded as the leading “conservative” intellectual of his age, though many of the things he advocates have never existed in any society, or – like school vouchers – did not exist when he first advocated them.” (pg. 208)
School vouchers are a popular policy among the conservative movement, but forget that. The point is that “right” and “left wing” are both fluid, and “right wing” is not synonymous with “conservative.”
And honestly, when looking at the conservative movement, how could it be? For decades, it has not only failed to oppose the left in any meaningful way, but when that movement has actually held power, it accelerated that which it was supposed to oppose. When “conservatives” held the unfettered reins of power in the Bush 43 years, government expanded at its fastest pace since that hallmark of modern leftist presidents, Lyndon Baines Johnson (to say nothing of the massive increase in spending under Saint Reagan). Americans watched as third world immigrants continued to pour into the country at an unprecedented extent, while the country’s borders were not secured. Americans watched as leftist and conservative administration alike rushed to close trade deals that gutted their economic well-being. Americans watched as conservatives not only gave in to political correctness, but got on board with it, even recently stooping to being sympathetic with left wing outlets like Salon who seem bent on de-demonizing pedophilia. And of course, Americans watched as conservatives dragged our soldiers into one useless foreign adventure after another, costing trillions of dollars, thousands of lives, the loss of civil liberties at home, and a migration that threatens to destroy the heart of Western civilization in Europe.
In short, Americans watched as the conservative movement and its acolytes not only failed to defeat its professed leftist enemy, but actively betrayed their own interests, and then insulted and denigrated those that dared to disagree and challenge them.
This is the essence of the rightist branch of the 2016 Popular Revolt led by Donald Trump. Right wing politics will realign, as indicated by this election. The conservative movement is dead and soon Trumpian nationalists, off the back of the 2016 Popular Revolt, will dominate the right wing in America. Put simply, the Populares on the right are tired of losing and worse, being sold out by those supposed to represent them. 2016 is the year that the emperor was revealed as having no clothes.
What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump’s success is that he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn’t need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don’t need them, and you’re better off without them.
This is not mere empty bluster. Another indicator of just how weak the conservative movement really is is that since 1992, the Republican party, dominated by the the globalist Optimates at “Conservatism, Inc.” has only won the popular vote in a presidential election once, in 2004. While the Republican party has since dominated at a more localized level, especially in Congressional races, these are often heavily gerrymandered districts, and turnout in congressional mid terms is far lower than in presidential contests. Republicans have also relied far more on “dark money” than Democrats have.
The conservative movement has always had strong internal weaknesses, and Donald Trump exposed them in the most humiliating light. Such a movement is ill-poised to defend itself against the massive offensives being undertaken by the new rightists rising to the occasion in the 2016 Popular Revolt.
And yet, this is all only half of this fascinating story. While a popular revolt on the right was inevitable, the 2016 Popular Revolt has two distinct dimensions. More surprisingly, the Optimates on the left, too, are themselves being besieged by the Populares in their own sphere of influence. This wing of the 2016 Popular Revolt is being led by an unlikely leader, and were it not for Donald Trump, he would have been the biggest story in American politics in the past year.
He, and the Populares behind him, will be explored in depth in part two of this series.
The popular revolt of 2016 will have an impact on the political landscape for decades to come. To see why, and how Trump brought a certain set of skills which made him exactly the right man for the job, check out Stumped: How Trump Triumphed. It will change the way you see politics…and the world.