Implosion or Sea Change?
by Thomas Katsampes

June 15, 2016

A response to the statement: "Republicans are in implosion mode."

Establishment conservatism of the last 20-25 years, the conservatism of Bill Kristol, George W. Bush, and most of the Washington Republican elites, is dead.

A similar thing happened in 1980 when Reagan defeated Ford for the Republican nomination. Ford was the last of Eisenhower conservatives. Eisenhower conservativism died when Ford lost the nomination to Reagan.

Reagan conservatism isn't dead — although there are some who would say that. There is room — plenty of room — in a Trump Republican party for Reagan conservatives. More on this presently.

This is not an implosion, it's a sea change. Both parties go through this. The Democrats went through this in the 70s and 80s after the Carter disaster. Then, the so-called "Third Way" Democrats led by Bill Clinton won in 1992.

We had a fluke election in 2000 — some argue Gore should have won. But Bush won and after 9/11 ushered in a new brand of conservatism — neo-conservativism. The primary focus was hawkish foreign policy coupled with a fairly generous domestic policy.* The neo-con theory was you can get bad people to become good people (or at least do good things) if you just give them democracy.

It was a fine idea but it didn't work because we put ideology ahead of national interest. Multiple mistakes by McCain and then Romney led to Republican defeats in 2008 and 2012. In 2016, along comes Donald Trump saying guys, we need to put the country ahead ideology, and that's resonating with people.

So, like I said, Reagan republicans can find a home in a Republican party led by Mr. Trump. But the era of "free trade" — in other words, signing bad trade deals that rip America off — is going to be over when Mr. Trump is elected.

What will remain in a Trump party is Reagan's ideal of America as a shining city on a hill, the last best hope of man on earth. In fact, Mr. Trump vows to make America richer, stronger and better than ever. Politicians make a lot of promises. Mr. Trump isn't a politician. He might actually be able to deliver. This remains to be seen.

Much of the world has benefited from globalization, but not America. Just look at textiles, manufacturing, steel, and so on. Those once America-dominated industries have been decimated. This is a result of globalization. If you don't believe me, take a drive across Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. On our way to Mackinac Island, we drove through literal ghost towns — the shell of what's left after factories shut down because of globalization.

Of particular concern is the fact that America has a hard time manufacturing what's needed to defend our country. Most parts are now made overseas. Some critical parts are made in countries with stated interests which are inimical to those of the United States e.g. China.

The open question is Mr. Trump's foreign policy. Although he's given a great speech about it, we still don't really have specifics. Will he flex American muscle to keep Russia and China at bay? What if Muslim countries declare war on Israel on his watch? What would a Trump response look like? What if China puts missiles off the coast of Taiwan as they did in 1996? Will Mr. Trump do what Bill Clinton did in 1996 and send a couple of carrier groups into the strait to tell China to back off? Or will he say, "sorry that's not America's problem?"

Taiwan cannot be easily waved off. Taiwan is a de facto American protectorate because of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, a law still on the books, which states among other things that
... any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes is considered a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States. The United States shall provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character and shall maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.
On the other hand, because the Left has been wrong about nearly every foreign policy decision since Vietnam, I support Mr. Trump's foreign policy, not that of Hillary Clinton. In foreign policy, as in other respects, Mr. Trump is a roll of the dice. But I would rather roll the dice for a chance to win than live with the certainty of losing — not to mention more liberal Supreme Court Justices in the mould of JJ. Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer.

*In 1996, the Republican Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed welfare reform — neither George W. Bush nor his Republican Congress did any such thing — in fact, they grew government — remember Medicare Part D?