Levin’s thinks the prevailing post-Trump viewpoints define the problem too much in economic terms. The crucial problem, he argues, is not economic; it’s social: alienation. Millions of American don’t feel part of anything they can trust. They feel no one is looking out for them. Trump was a false answer to their desire for social solidarity, but the desire can be a force for good.
“What’s needed,” Levin says, “is not just to expand economic conservatism beyond growth to also prioritize family, community and nation, but also to expand social conservatism beyond sexual ethics and religious liberty to prioritize family, community and nation. The coalition can be a powerful political force again if its different wings converge on these priorities, without each giving up on its longstanding aims.”
The Republican Party looks completely brain-dead at every spot Trump directly reaches. Off in the corners, though, there’s a lot of intellectual ferment on the right. But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the decades, it is never to underestimate the staying power of the dead Reagan paradigm.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page stands as a vigilant guardian of the corpse, eager to rebut all dissenters. The former U.N. ambassador Nicki Haley and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are staunch defenders of Minimal-Government Conservatism. Senator Ted Cruz seems to be positioning himself for a 2024 presidential run that seeks to triangulate all the pre-Trump and pro-Trump versions of the party into one stew.
And if Joe Biden defeats Trump and begins legislating, as seems more and more likely, there’s also the possibility that Republicans will abandon any positive vision and revert to being a simple anti-government party — a party of opposition to whatever Biden is doing.
But over the long term, some version of Working-Class Republicanism will redefine the G.O.P. In the first place, that’s where Republican voters are. When push comes to shove, Republican politicians are going to choose their voters over their donor class.
Second, the working-class emphasis is the only way out of the demographic doom loop. If the party sticks with its old white high school-educated base, it will die. They just aren’t making enough old white men. To have any shot of surviving as a major party, the G.O.P. has to build a cross-racial alliance among working-class whites, working-class Hispanics and some working-class Blacks.