Donald Trump and the GOP Part 2: Attracting Trump Voters

Writer’s Note: National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry tackled the question, how do we attract Trump supporters. They present a thesis on how to promote Conservative Populism and sell it beyond the 2016 elections.

The final part is how do we reach out to the Trump supporters? Coalitions changes and in 2016, we are seeing the battle for the definition of conservatism going into first half of the twenty first century. Trump is not a conservative but many of his supporters are and they using this election to force the leaders of the movement and the Republican establishment to listen to their own concerns whether it is stagnation of wealth or concerns over immigration. Trump has become a means to the voters’ ends but a flaw means as he managed to make radioactive many of the issues the voters are concerned.

In our data, we have seen a rejection of Keynesian economics on steroids and while many voters support the need of a safety net; there is an understanding that increasing government spending, debt and deficits will decrease the voters chance to succeed financially. In exit polls, Republican voters view dealing with government spending and increasing jobs plus growing the economy as their number one and two issues, followed by dealing with terrorism. Democrats prefer growth in jobs and the economy over dealing with inequality. Growing the private sector matters with voters in both parties.

Trumpism is not about restraining government spending or reforming the entitlement programs to make them fiscally sustainable and ensuring the safety net for future generations. Trump doesn’t talk freeing markets or even setting limits to government spending to its proper constitutional proportions. Trump loves talking about raising taxes on imports coming into the country and this undermines his sensible tax proposals. Trump's goals are to manage the bigger government with all the “best people” who will have all the best ideas.

While many Republicans along with Americans in general may want to restrain present government spending, the further reduction of government is harder to sell and free markets are a great idea in principle but even many capitalists don’t mind a little government intervention, and Trump is one of America’s biggest crony capitalists. Pat Buchanan’s conservatism of the heart and Bush’s compassionate conservatism was as much about making big government work for the middle class as opposed to actually slowing the growth of government.

The Tea Party was a unique movement for it was based on limiting government reach into our daily life and while limiting government is the hardest part of conservatism to sell, doesn’t mean we should abandon it but make the case that growing the private sector is the best way for the middle class to advance and as economic rights advance, other rights will be better protected. Ask any religious right today and their biggest fear is a government that will force them to act against their own beliefs; this occurring in a time in which government reach into the economic sphere is increased. Increasing protectionist tariffs to our present welfare state undermines Trump’s goal of making America Great while making the cost of basic goods more expensive. Jeans costing 40 dollars now will increase to 70 dollars. And our polls show that voters see the connection between our economic strength with our ability to defend our interests abroad. The goal is to make the case with Trump supporters that free markets and our view of government ideals benefit them.

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry noted, “Conservatives did not shun George Wallace supporters, for example, but they rejected his most noxious and least conservative views. (Wallace supported both segregation and an expansive welfare state.) Ross Perot’s supporters were an uneasy fit with conservatives but were welcomed into a conservatism that retained its support for free trade and moral traditionalism. We should take the same approach with Trump’s followers. The worst outcome of this political season would be for Trump to win the nomination — remolding conservatism in his image and weakening its attachment to limited government — and then lose the election.”

Present Republican ideas have overlapped with interest of big business and big business interest are not necessarily free market but protection from other competitors. The strength of Wall Street is dependent upon healthy economic Main Street, but only has Dodd-Frank codified too big to fail but many community banks are in trouble simply due to fulfilling the regulatory expenses. Community banks are hurting while the bigger banks actually increase their market share! Trump’s supporters are right about how many Republicans are too comfortable with big business, even while many big business interests are far more compatible with the Democratic game plan than Republicans.

Immigration is another area where many voters want at least a rethinking of our present immigration policies, beginning with enforcing the border and asking the question should we slow down the present level of immigration to allow a pause for assimilation of present immigrants to occur. There is a consensus including Donald Trump that immigration begins with border security and insist on assimilation before dealing with the remaining illegal population which according to Ponnuru and Lowry, most likely include a limited amnesty. It should be pointed out that while immigration has increase among voter concerns from 2012, it still runs behind the economy and terrorism. Only one out of ten voters view immigration reform as their top issues and when asked in 2016 primary exit polls, Republicans voters, by a 51% to 43% margin, support allowing illegals a legal status but legal status does not translate to citizenship. Even many Hispanics believe in border security first and while two out of three Hispanics support legal status for illegals, at least a quarter of those favor no path to citizenship.

The average American will like to see immigration level decrease as oppose to increasing and slowing down Visas since they view both increase immigration and VISAS as hurting their opportunity to succeed but they are not enthusiastic about massive deportations. Ponnuru and Lowry noted, “The general public, on the other hand, appears to want neither higher immigration nor mass deportation, and to be open to amnesty if it will not lead to more illegal immigration in the future. It’s a sensible set of views; perhaps Republicans should consider representing them.” One of the candidates who actually promote these goals is Donald Trump but his language and tone has offended many Hispanic voters and this will hurt his ability to be a spokesman for common sense reforms.

Ponnuru and Lowry note, “(Trump) could lose badly this year and yet give rise to a future GOP that takes enforcement of the immigration laws seriously, reduces low-skilled immigration, and does more to represent the less-schooled wage earner, while also rejecting fantasies of mass deportation. Those gains would, however, come at a fearful cost that conservatives should strive to avoid. It’s possible — and advisable — for the party to reject Trump as its nominee but learn from his rise.” Trump has opened the door to a conservative populism that defends free markets, cultural values, a stronger America and help the voters to a fair opportunity to succeed. Trump is not the spokesman for that agenda but he has opened the door to attract additional voters and eat into the Democratic base including minorities.

The average Trump voters are not racists and they draw from all views of the Republican Party from the very conservative to the more moderate and liberal Republicans. They are ready for a leader who takes their concerns seriously and does not mock their values. Trump's success is that he appears to take their concerns seriously. If the Republicans learn the right lessons, this election is salvageable since Hillary Clinton is a habitually lying politician, who along with her husband, garners a nine figures worth of wealth due to influence peddling. She is as weak as a candidate as one can hope for and Sanders has moved her to the left and will make it difficult to move her to the center. The door is open for the GOP to win.


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