Clearly, the notion of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President, with all that he brings and doesn’t bring to the table, has sent the Republican party into a frenzy of soul-searching. We are truly in uncharted territory here and there is simply not yet an identified pathway. The only thing reasonably certain from my perspective is that the Reagan Revolution, which began with “the speech” in the 1964 Goldwater campaign, is over.
Some have commented that this necessary soul-searching will be broader than the future of the Republican Party, and I don’t disagree that the current disarray is not limited to the conservative movement. Bernie Sanders has produced almost as much frenzy for the left as Trump has for the right, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t have an answer there either.
Where I disagree with the commentary, primarily from the center-right so far, is with David Brooks and his comment that “we’ll probably need a new national story” because “that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged”. No, the national story is still valid, it’s the failed policies that have been advanced and the failure of our intellectual and political leadership in properly communicating the national story that has failed us.
As I have written before in connection with the birth of the Tea Party, as painful as it is to admit, conservatism has forfeited its reputation as a reform movement that was earned in the Reagan and Gingrich years and must regain its reformist heritage, a branding that was severely damaged by the profligacy of “compassionate conservatism” and led to the disaster of Obama’s “hope and change”. The result has been an undermining of the spirit of American exceptionalism, the basis on which Trump masterfully demagogued his way to the nomination for President.
Regardless of the outcome in November, severe damage has been done and the repair work will be painful.