Traction
NYT’s Frank Bruni Says "Trumpism" Doesn't Have Traction. So Why Was Hillary Going On About The Alt Right?
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August 29, 2016, 03:31 PM
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The New York Times’s Frank Bruni [Tweet him] wants us to believe, and clearly wants to believe himself, that Donald J. Trump’s America First message doesn’t have “much traction beyond Trump” within the Republican Party. Bruni claims that, unlike the Tea Party in 2010, the “next Congress won’t be full of Republicans who ran on Trump’s signature ideas or have any particular investment in them.” He goes on: “Not one of those ideas—his extreme brand of protectionism, his call to re-examine military alliances, his threat of mass deportations—shows any sign of becoming Republican dogma the way that supply-side economics did in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s evangelism for it” [Links added] [The Misery of the Mini-Trumps, August 28, 2016].

Of course, if Bruni were correct, Hillary Clinton’s claim that the Alt-Right has “effectively taken over the Republican Party,” would be false. But he somehow did not mention this. However, Bruni is wrong. There was a reason Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president running on an America First platform 100% at odds from the globalist Bush/McCain/Romney establishment GOP agenda that has dominated the GOP.  As authorities as diverse as Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary Robert Reich and GMU political scientist Justin Gest have argued, Trumpism is here to stay

Bruni cites three “mini Trumps” to demonstrate the failure of the America First message: Paul Nehlen, who lost a primary challenge to Paul Ryan in a landslide; Mike Pape, who lost to James Comer in an open primary for Kentucky’s First Congressional District; and Carlos Beruff who appears poised to lose to a U.S. Senate primary challenge to incumbent Marco Rubio in Florida.

But of these candidates, only Nehlen can be considered a Trump Republican.

  • Mike Pape. As Bruni notes, Pape ran an ad showing Mexicans cutting through a border wall: “‘Once through,’ one of them vows, 'we’ll stop Donald Trump!' Another chimes in that they’ll also have to stop Pape, because he’ll 'help Trump build the wall.’”
mikepaperWhat Bruni doesn’t mention: the Mexicans also say they want to “Stop Ted Cruz” because "this Mike Pape help Ted Cruz repeal Obamacare.” One even had a “Stop Ted Cruz” shirt [A Frame-by-Frame Analysis of the Worst Campaign Ad of 2016, by Tim Murphy, Mother Jones, Apr. 22, 2016]. While Pape was willing to make a Politically Incorrect ad to appeal to both Cruz and Trump voters, his platform made no mention of foreign policy or trade, and his immigration position was identical to that of his opponent [Issues, Mike Pape for Congress]. Calling Pape a “Mini Trump” is a beyond a stretch.
  • Carlos Beruff Beruff has adopted much of Trump’s rhetoric, using the campaign slogan “Put America First,” and attacking Rubio for opposing the Muslim ban.
However, even cursory inspection of Beruff’s platform shows he hasn’t really adopted any of its positions outside of immigration. He has not made trade (other than the Cuban embargo) an issue. His foreign policy is strongly interventionist, complaining that the "horrors in Syria have continued without repercussions," and "North Korea continues its aggressive posture with no consequences.” [Issues, Carlos Beruff for US Senate]

Paul Nehlen, however, did lose despite adopting Trump’s America First platform and making it the centerpiece of his campaign.

But had Nehlen won, it would have been unprecedented. No sitting Speaker of the House has ever lost a primary election. In fact, Tom Foley was the only Speaker in the last 150 years to lose at all.

Indeed, incumbents in general very rarely lose primaries. During 2010, the year of the great Tea Party rebellion, only three Republicans lost primaries. One, Parker Griffith of Alabama, had just switched parties to avoid sure defeat in the general. Another, Lisa Murkowski, still won in the general election as an independent.

Nonetheless, as is invariably the case in immigration patriot vs. Establishment contests, Nehlen scared Ryan into spending an astounding amount of money. The last reports are from three weeks before the election: as of July 20, according to Open Secrets.org, Paul Nehlen had raised just $867,955 and spent $692,195, but Paul Ryan had raised an astounding $14,887,390 and spent $8,006,506. Perhaps even more significant, Ryan announced he would not schedule a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] managed trade deal even after the election [House Speaker Ryan: No point in lame duck vote on TPP deal, CNBC.com, August 4, 2016).

Significantly, Bruni omitted two strong Trump Republicans who have much better chances of a strong showing.

  • Kelli Ward
Ward is primarying the absolutely appalling John McCain for U.S. Senate in Arizona. She is running on a pure America First platform, repeatedly criticizing McCain for wanting to “Invade the World/Invite the World,” and calling for bringing to the Troops Home and focusing on our own borders [Immigration, Ward for US Senate]. Ward also rejects TPP. The Arizona primary is tomorrow (August 30), and she is facing an uphill battle. Yet she almost certainly will fare far better than Nehlen, and a strong showing against an Arizona institution will show that her message has real saliency.
  • Corey Stewart
Stewart, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Prince William County and Chairman of the Virginia Trump campaign, is running for governor in 2017. The Washington Post just profiled him as “Trump’s Virginia Mini-Me [by Paul Schwartzman, August 27, 2016]. In addition to a long record as a leading immigration patriot (VDARE.com has covered his courage for nearly a decade), Stewart has also taken a strong America First trade position [Donald Trump Offers a Better Deal on Trade, by Corey Stewart, Breitbart, July 6, 2016]

Beruff and Nehlen deserve credit for taking brave positions on immigration, but they were both businessmen with no political experience and (unlike Trump) no base or experience in the spotlight. In contrast, both Ward and Stewart are elected state politicians who are running serious campaigns. Regardless of whether they win, it shows that there is a growing Trump-style movement.

Of course, Bruni is quite correct that the vast majority of Republican Party politicians and institutions are openly hostile to Trump’s message, and that his nomination did not immediately convert them.

But Trump’s success show that Republican voters are on board. The fact that Ted Cruz ended up strengthening his position on immigration and completely reversing himself on trade shows that key Republicans recognize this.

Furthermore, the America First movement was growing by leaps and bounds even before Trump. Until a few years ago, Pat Buchanan was the only person of any public prominence arguing for immigration patriotism, non-interventionism, and trade protectionism. Now other major figures like Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, Jeff Sessions, and publications like the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and Daily Caller have all moved very strongly in this direction.

The lack of any Trump-oriented candidates winning (so far) is not evidence of his idea’s lack of appeal—but of the fact that the GOP has not caught up with his revolution.

Win or lose, Trump is only the beginning.

Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.