President Trump: A Threat to International Diplomacy?

By: Julie Slama

This February, I had the opportunity to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Bogota, Colombia. The summit, which drew 26 Nobel Peace Prize recipients and thousands of participants covering six continents, discussed hurdles to peace present in the world today. American presidents have a history of receiving the prize, but it seems that our current president is viewed by the laureates, and the global community as a whole, as an impediment to peace.

A common line at the conference reiterated by workshop leaders and the Nobel laureates themselves was “We need to focus on building bridges, not walls.” This line is in reference to President Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along the Mexican border. In the peace, diversity, and inclusion session, panelists delivered their opening statements on President Trump’s policies, with a focus on his divisive stance on refugees and illegal immigration. Panelist Phil Lord went further, arguing that President Trump’s cabinet is illegitimate due to a lack of diversity and failure to reflect the American populace.

It was obvious that those at the conference see President Trump’s policies as a destabilizing and troubling force with regards to world peace, and I agree on some levels. President Trump’s executive order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” sparked the travel ban controversy, in part due to sloppy wording and overly broad application. The phrasing within the order presented enough ambiguity for the mainstream media to run reports around the clock about the president’s “Islamophobic” ban on immigration from the Middle East and Northern Africa. His comments to the media, including raising the possibility of using nuclear weapons against ISIS, have not been helpful to international stability. President Trump’s conduct on Twitter has been alarmingly informal. He has sparked controversy about everything from America’s “One China” policy to his response to comments about him by Meryl Streep DRA ‘75. His tone has been just as offhand over the phone to world leaders, who expressed shock at his ill-advised phone calls immediately after his election. He made headlines in February by getting into a heated exchange over the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, creating controversy with one of our strongest allies.

I hope that President Trump finds a way to weave some diplomacy into his rhetoric. For a person holding the most powerful position on the planet, President Trump has been disturbingly cavalier in his executive orders, social media usage, and communications with other leaders. President Trump, and only President Trump, can make the decision to pursue more stable and well-thought out policies, and he’d better do it quickly- the world is watching.

Julie Slama is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. 

Religious Freedom and the Benedict Option

The following essay drew inspiration from the Buckley Program’s dinner seminar and discussion on religious freedom with Mary Eberstadt on 1.25.17

By: Noah Daponte-Smith

The past eight years have been something of a disaster for religious conservatives. President Obama may have campaigned in 2008 on an anti-gay marriage platform, but by the time he left office last week, gay marriage had become the law of the land, the Affordable Care Act was forcing ecclesiastical orders to provide contraception and abortion to their employees, and the weight of governmental authority and public acrimony were pressuring bakers who still maintained traditionalist conceptions of marriage into providing cakes for gay weddings in violation of their consciences.

It comes as no surprise, then, that so many traditionalist Christians — those who do not belong to those churches that have largely succumbed to the tide of the modern secularist revolution — believe their world is facing an existential threat. It is this threat which Mary Eberstadt’s new book, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, seeks to bring to light, and which Eberstadt discussed with the student fellows of the Buckley Program on her recent visit to New Haven. Eberstadt’s book, short but powerful, is a testament to the weight of discrimination and social animus faced by traditionalist religious conservatives in an increasingly secular world. That discrimination, though often scoffed at by many liberals, is real, and surely one of the issues most pressing on the Christian mind in the summer and fall of 2016. The question is one of almost existential importance: At stake seems to be the matter of whether one can truly, freely be a Christian in today’s America.

Many thinkers, surveying this landscape, have thrown up their hands in despair and advocated for a sort of tactical retreat from what they see as an increasingly noxious culture. The most prominent of these thinkers is Rod Dreher, a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy and writer for The American Conservative who often tags his many blog posts with the moniker “Weimar America” and views the Left’s gender ideology as perhaps the most threatening development of recent times. Following in the footsteps of the Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, Dreher is a proponent of the Benedict Option, a proposition that urges traditionalist Christians to withdraw from the decadence and depravity of modern society and instead create and nurture their own faith-based communities. In Dreher’s words:

The “Benedict Option” refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents.

The Benedict Option may seem utopian, almost arcadian in its visions of self-sufficient religious communities maintaining themselves across the nation, but it’s not an entirely outlandish suggestion. Indeed, as Dreher is keen to note, many Christian communities have already embarked on something similar to the Benedict Option, and many more will likely do so over the coming decades. Its central premise is that the culture is lost, and with it the war; to remain in the fight would taint the purity of believers and waste precious energy better spent on organizing and cultivating nascent spiritual communities. When the choice is between Christianity on one hand and America on the other, Christianity wins out.

The Benedict Option was the subject of considerable interest during Eberstadt’s dinner discussion with Buckley student fellows. Eberstadt admires Dreher — “a beautiful mind,” she described him. But while she understands the merits and attraction of the Benedict Option, she rejects it as a self-preservation strategy for religious traditionalists. Indeed, she questions its premise that the battle is lost: Rather, in her understanding, religion waxes and wanes across the decades, and though it may seem in a forced retreat at the moment, religious traditionalists should not overlook the possibility of a revival in a decade or two. From this perspective, the Benedict Option seems like a premature laying down of arms, seeking an existential settlement when one could, in fact, receive far better.

This is a compelling perspective. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States lends a point in its favor — personal qualms with President Trump aside, his presidency does provide a crucial lifeline for religious traditionalists on the Supreme Court. Eberstadt makes clear that she is not a constitutional lawyer, to whom she defers on matters of constitutional law, but she is a small-c constitutionalist. And, in her mind, control over the Supreme Court contains one of the keys to a renewal of religiosity in the United States — the overruling of Roe v. Wade.

But before discussing what impact the overruling of that 1972 decision might have on the politics and culture of this country, it’s worth considering what exactly religion is today. Eberstadt pushed an important point — namely, that religion on the Left isn’t dead; it’s just shifting into something else. That something else is a sort of evangelical devotion to the tenets of the Sexual Revolution; in her understanding, this is a coherent faith unto itself, with its own catechisms, sacraments (see, for instance, the way Lena Dunham talks about abortion), and even last rites. The Left adheres to the doctrine of the Sexual Revolution with all the intransigence as religious conservatives do to their own faiths: It is the foundation of its worldview, the set of principles on which all other beliefs are based. Our national disputes over abortion and freedom of religion are thus religious in nature, not only on the Right but on the Left as well. Both sides find their motivation in a certain set of religious or quasi-religious principles. The Right often fails to understand this central factor in the abortion debate, but fully comprehending why the Left so fervently adheres to its doctrines would better inform our debate. We are faced, then, with a war of religion.

Perhaps we can draw a lesson from the history of the early modern age. The Peace of Augsburg, signed in 1555, formally established religious pluralism in the Holy Roman Empire. Princes of the various German principalities could choose whether their lands would be Protestant or Catholic, thus legitimizing the religious divisions stemming from the Reformation. To a certain extent the American Constitution was, in its original form, based on the Peace of Augsburg and the later Treaty of Westphalia, in that it denied Congress the power to establish an official religion while implicitly permitting the states to maintain their established churches.

If we accept both sides of the current debate as fundamentally religious in nature, the Peace of Augsburg provides a reasonable roadmap for the United States to follow in the coming decades. In a country exhibiting both a deep socio-cultural divide and an accordant mutual vitriol, an Augsburg-style deal might be a viable settlement. Yes, it would involve the repeal of Roe v. Wade, now a serious possibility with the Trump presidency. But this would, in a certain way, aid the cause of abortion rather than harm it: With control over abortion laws and religious-freedom acts returned to the states, states like Connecticut and California could liberalize their laws further, while states like Kansas and Alabama could institute a more conservative order.

The solution, as it appears here, is federalism: In a country as pluralistic and geographically vast as the United States, a reclamation of the idea of federalism would be a boon to our politics. And it could go beyond federalism per se and instead become an even more radical form of localism, as the conservative thinker Yuval Levin proposed in his book The Fractured Republic. Because the reality is that the religious divide in this country is not entirely between blue states and red states, but rather between blue cities and red suburbs and rural areas. Delegating authority over abortion — and many other areas of public policy — to cities, counties, and other forms of local government would have two benefits: first, that local diversity would be allowed to flourish rather than being stifled under the heavy unifying hand of the federal government; and second, that we could once again see the development of true “laboratories of democracy,” wherein public policies are tested and results compared to see what works.

The question, then, is how far this sort of localism, regarded as a solution to our predominantly religious divide, can be taken. Proponents of this solution will at some point have to grapple with the political scientist Arend Lijphart’s proposition that majoritarian forms of government, like that currently used in the United States, work best in relatively homogenous, nonpluralist societies; in pluralist societies like Switzerland or Belgium, governance typically occurs through proportional representation and a complex set of arrangements meant to distribute power between diverse interests. If the sort of radical localism proposed here is to meet success, it will likely involve the adoption of some sort of system of proportional representation at the national level — Germany could provide a fruitful model — even though the concept seems to run counter to the Anglo-Saxon notion of representation.

Is this a solution likely to garner much political support? Probably not. It would involve reversing the trend of increasing centralization, something many politicians have tried and failed to do. And it would inflame both Left and Right — the Left, concerned about the fate of gay couples and abortion in the red states; the Right, concerned about religious minorities in the blue states. So the debates would continue. But that is the natural order in a democratic society, which holds as a fundamental principle that no question is ever truly resolved so long as the process of politics goes on.

Still, a return to federalist principles could offer a valuable framework on which conservatives might be able to model the debate over religious freedom. Doing so would allow conservatives to return to the thought of the Founders and place their own efforts within a hallowed American tradition. Most importantly, it would allow both sides to calm down, take stock of their own causes, and simply let the other side live. That alone might do more to soothe our national divisions than any outright victory for either side would.

Noah Daponte-Smith is a junior in Berkeley College and Vice-President of the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale. 

Fall 2016 Yale College Essay Contest 3rd Place: “Where is the American Political System Heading After 2016 and why?”by William Merrill ES ’19

The tension between populist and establishment politics has been a recurrent theme in the 2016 election. During the primaries, both Democratic and Republican candidates gained a following by arguing that the mainstream parties’ positions of the last decade do not coherently represent the interests and values of most Americans. After highlighting rising socioeconomic inequality, Bernie Sanders took a firm position against center-left neoliberals and called for the resurgence of radical leftist economic policies. Appealing to existing Tea Party sentiment within the Republican Party, Donald Trump challenged the ideological hegemony of party elites, claiming that free trade and interventionist foreign policy negatively impact everyday Americans. A similar dynamic persists in the general election: Trump has visibly defined himself as an alternative to Clinton’s status quo in an effort to attract Sanders supporters and minorities who feel abandoned by mainstream Democrats. It is clear that the rise of populism as a major political force has significantly impacted this election, but how will it shape the evolution of America’s political parties? Although America’s electoral system and the legacy of two parties make it unlikely that a new populist party can exist alongside the Democrats and Republicans, history suggests that a two party system in which both parties represent the elite is unsustainable in the long term. Therefore, a new movement aligning itself with populist interests and values will arise to replace the Republican party within the two party paradigm.

 

The failure of the People’s Party of the 1890s illustrates why a small third party cannot grow out of a populist movement in American national politics. As is evident in its 1892 platform, the People’s Party was a left-wing populist group devoted to bringing the interests of the “producing class”. Specifically, it sought out the support of disenfranchised rural Americans by claiming that mainstream politicians only represented industrial capitalists. This message was compelling among rural communities at the time, but the party never gained the same traction among the urban working class. Because of this, it could never form a suitably large coalition to challenge the Democrats or Republicans, and therefore it remained a small leftist third party. This position was not stable within an American two party landscape: without preferential voting, People’s Party voters continuously allied themselves with Democrats, and by 1896, they became just another voting bloc within the Democratic coalition. Such a dilemma would face any populist party which could not reach the critical mass of support necessary to beat one of the major parties on the national level. Therefore, the success of a populist movement relies on its ability to gain enough support to replace an existing party: the new movement will either grow big enough to become one of the two major parties, or it will vanish back into an establishment-dominated coalition.

 

The rise of Labor in the United Kingdom during the early 20th century shows how a populist movement with enough support can supplant an internally conflicted major party. Since the early 19th century, the Conservatives and Liberals had been the dominant forces in British politics. The Liberal Party had originally represented classical liberalism and the interests of British capitalists, but, during the late 19th century, it began to advocate for labor unions and increased social benefits. Thus, by the 1920s it could no longer claim a clear ideological vision: to some it was the party of workers, while to others it represented an old-school laissez-faire approach to the economy. This contradiction in interests allowed Labor to reach the critical mass of support that it needed to supplant the Liberals as the dominant political party among the working class; by the second half of the 20th century, the Liberal Party was no longer relevant.

 

Like the Liberal Party of the 1920s, today’s Republican Party is an artificial union of groups with conflicting interests and values. While strict conservatives might find no problem supporting the full Republican platform, two of the other important groups within the coalition are fundamentally opposed: to neoliberals, the Republican Party is the party of big business, but to the Tea Party, it represents small-town America. Thus, a new party rooted in populism could attract many Tea Party Republicans and some anti-establishment Democrats in the same way that Labor attracted the support of those who were dissatisfied with the Liberal Party. According to RealClearPolitics, well over 60% of Americans disapprove of Congress; clearly, the potential is there for an anti-establishment coalition to achieve the necessary threshold of support. Therefore, while it is unlikely that a third party will arise alongside the Democrats and Republicans, it is entirely possible that a populist movement might replace or entirely take over the existing Republican Party, and in so doing reframe American political allegiance in terms of populist and establishment interests.

 

Fall 2016 Yale College Essay Contest 2nd Place: “Populism: the Tsunami that Crashed the Party (System)” by Cameron Koffman DC ’19

The 2016 Election has thrown a wrench in the American political party system like no other election of our generation. The election has been the expression of a movement that most threatens the stability of our political landscape: the movement of anti-establishment populism. On the right, a Donald Trump insurgency has exploded the previous Republican coalition between its Wall Street and its Christian conservative wing. On the left, a Bernie Sanders insurgency has severely weakened the grip of the liberal elite over the Progressive wing of the party. Ultimately, Mr. Trump won out and managed to achieve his party’s nomination while Senator Sanders did not, however, the implications of both of these tumultuous primaries are the same. The party system that existed in this country since the late 1960s will realign after 2016 as the main political divide of conservatism vs. liberalism/progressivism will become populism vs. establishmentarianism

The populist revolutions on both sides of the political spectrum have created a rising tide of anger directed towards the political class, but this movement is stronger and more foundational than any of the ones before it.There have been populist waves since 1964 that have threatened to crash down on our modern party, but none have built up like this one. Candidates like John Anderson in 1980,  Jesse Jackson in 1984, and Ross Perot in 1992 all made an anti-Washington and anti-political class run for President, but none of them came very close to succeeding. Part of the reason for this lack of success stems from the fact that these populist movements did not receive the same kind of build-up that Trump’s and Sanders’s candidacies did. The grassroots of the current movements date all the way back to 2008 when voters on both sides of the aisle blamed the political elites for the Great Recession. Populist Democrats ostensibly pinned some of the blame for the Recession on Republican leaders such as Former President Bush, but they also took aim at the Corporate Democrats who had close ties to Wall Street and who were planning to “let the banks off easy”. This populist fervor manifested itself in the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 and the election of Progressive, anti-establishment Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin in the subsequent election. On the far Right, a similar phenomena occurred. Naturally, these populist conservatives laid some blame of the financial crisis on Democratic leaders, but they also looked to establishment leaders of their own party and blamed them for their bureaucratic incompetence and ties to Wall Street. This group formed the Tea Party soon after the 2008 election, unseated key Establishment leaders like Eric Cantor and John Boehner, and began the vitriolic rhetoric of the Obama birther movement that is still prevalent in the Trump campaign today. Thus, the Sanders and Trump candidacies and the dormant electorate that they have now galvanized have been building up populist contempt for the political system that is too strong and has been too successful to just fizzle out. Both parties will face serious problems no matter which candidate wins the election.

For the Republican party, many members of the business wing have migrated away and will cast a vote for Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson, members of the Socially Conservative wing will reluctantly cast their ballots for Trump, and the the only people left who really love Trump are the working-class college-uneducated whites. A coalition between these 3 groups cannot and will not sustain any more tension and a Trump presidency or a 2020 primary to choose a candidate to defeat a weak Clinton will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A Trump defeat would definitely not put an end to the populist movement as after the Democrats likely gain some seats in the House in this election cycle, the Freedom Caucus will wield even more influence than before.

For the Democratic party, members of the corporate wing will vote for Hillary Clinton with varying levels of enthusiasm, but members of the more radical progressive wings will stay home in much larger numbers than in 2008 and 2012 and a larger number than ever before will vote for Jill Stein. Furthermore, rust-belt manufacturing workers (economic populists) who found resonance with Bernie’s free trade and Wall Street message, but not with Hillary’s economic flip-flopping, have moved rightward to support Donald Trump. The populists have already ousted DNC establishment icon Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and it’s clear that they have no intentions of just stopping there. If Hillary wins, they will demand sweeping reforms that corporate Democrats are uncomfortable with and if Hillary loses, they will send a candidate even stronger than Bernie Sanders to fight the Establishment in 2020.

We have likely not yet reached the apogee of this populist tide sweeping the nation. Each party sees divisions at its cores over the same fundamental issue of populism vs. establishmentarianism. In 1964, the year of the last partisan realignment, both the Democrat and Republican parties had fissures along the lines of liberalism/progressivism vs. Conservatism. The more conservative elements of both parties coalesced to form the Republicans of this era and the more Progressive/liberal elements of both coalesced to form the Democrats. It’s currently uncertain which party would harbor the establishment and which party would harbor the populists under the new system, but it is clear that as our dinosauric party system coalitions fray, the populist and establishment elements on both sides will soon find more in common with their other party counterparts, than with their unsympathetic coalition partners.

Fall 2016 Yale College Essay Contest Winner: “Politics Moves Out to the Suburbs” by Graham Ambrose JE ’18

“You always seemed so sure / that one day we’d be fighting / in a suburban war”                                  –Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (2010)

The 2016 Presidential election has become a prizefight for the ages. Of the many lenses through which the contest has been viewed – a clash between the educated and uneducated, between minorities and whites, the white collar and the blue collar – no framework better captures the true rift at the heart of the body politic than the urban-rural divide.

The data tell the story: urban areas rich with demographic diversity foster support for Clinton, whose platform largely plays to the interests of communities well-established in cities—millennials, African-Americans, immigrants, and Hispanics. Polls show Clinton clobbering Trump within city limits by as much as twenty-five points.

By contrast, Trump dominates the countryside, a long-neglected land where generations of poverty, depression, and substance abuse have decimated traditional ways of life with astounding clip. Outside metropolises, Trump consistently trounces Clinton, beating the former First Lady by some twenty points according to recent surveys.

Yet a dichotomy between Clinton’s urbanism and Trump’s rural appeal misses an element to the current election and the long-term fate of the nation: the suburbs, where a statistical majority of likely voters live.

In the suburbs, both political parties find the last frontier of American political life, the yet-unclaimed terrain of social liberalism and economic conservatism, of typically well-educated middle class voters not rigidly partial to pro-business Republicans or socially conscientious Democrats. Like Americans of the post-War era, into the suburbs the national political parties will inevitably move. At stake is more than a mere voter bloc central to the outcome of federal elections—up for grabs is the very republic itself.

Like rural America, the suburbs are, demographically, a shrinking province, albeit less perceptibly than commonly recognized. In most American cities, from Boston to Portland, Tampa to Minneapolis, demand for housing continues to climb, propping up real estate prices virtually everywhere. Eager for “walkability,” convenience, and accessible culture, Americans young and old are flocking to cities in droves. Most significantly, young Americans have abandoned their parents’ sprawling fantasies of white picket fences and lush manicured lawns for sidewalks and more manageably sized apartments, the portals unto urban life.

In the wake of exodus, a reversal of migratory patterns extending back six decades, the suburbs sit ripe for the taking. Unlike ever before, this middle ground between cityscape and country presents prime real estate for both political parties to set up shop with aim of crafting platforms that speak to the unique hopes, fears, anxieties, and preferences of suburban voters.

For Republicans, who traditionally and in 2016 have found vigorous backing outside cities, suburbs could shade red as a product of urban growth. Receptive to the GOP’s pro-business, low-tax fiscal policy, suburbanites who stick around the hinterland will constitute increasingly conservative communities neglected by Democrats who strategically pivot toward urban bases.

Republican suburban success will have to resemble the Romney strategy four years earlier: economic industriousness checkered with moderate social policy. Just as the 2012 Republican nominee won key suburban counties outside D.C., Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, viable GOP nominees of the future will need to play to the basic conservatism of the exurbs. Founded upon well-defined borders and a sense of security from external threats, the suburban soil nourishes status quo. In such an environment, anti-radical, clear-headed Republicans have ample room to take root and blossom.

On the other end, the Dems will have compelling reason to contest the suburbs. The exodus to cities has not, nor will be, a parade of equal opportunity. Suburbanites who choose to pack up and move will be those able to bear the sustaining swell of urban living expenses and those who have the social and fiscal capital to navigate, or altogether avoid, byzantine social services like public housing and education. Poor adults and families and individuals living on the outskirts of a metro may not have the resources to make such a move possible.

Thus mirroring the demographic shifts advantageous to Republicans, the Democratic hope for suburban triumph will depend upon opposite yet not incompatible population changes in which the immobile are stuck outside the city limits. In the suburbs of Atlanta, where nearly nine-in-ten impoverished persons across the metropolitan area dwell in suburbs, Democrats have already begun efforts to woo these disaffected, disconnected voters.

So both parties will eye opposite yet not incompatible migrations trends that will increasingly come to affect the composition of metropolitan areas across the United States. In the process, the suburbs will transform into the new political battleground, the arena of suburban war.

The significance of the suburbs is due, in large part, to the fragmentary nature of municipal organization in America. Because local policy can affect the demography of one metro area while hardly or disproportionately affecting that of another, similar cities, even within a single state, can support or hinder widely divergent patterns of in-migration from suburbs. The effect will be to render each metropolitan area different and distinct, forcing politicians to target campaign stops and messaging toward the specific trends impacting a given metro.

Trump and Clinton have, largely, failed to identify the shifting terrain. Their relative strengths have been deployed along the rural-urban chasm. This chasm, though, has a bridge, teetering on the edge of unprecedented historical importance. On its fragile rails hangs the future of American power.

Fall 2016 HS Essay Contest 3rd Place: “Where is the American Political System Heading After 2016 and why?” By Ben Rosenfeld

After an extremely contentious presidential election in 2016, I believe that significant changes will come to the American political party system, specifically with regards to press coverage of future campaigns, and party politics. More specifically, these changes will reflect the controversial nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican party’s candidate for president.

First of all, in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the media has occupied a significant role which has been incomparable to that of almost any other election year. Many political scientists credit Trump’s nomination as the Republican party’s general election candidate to the immense amount of free press and media attention he has gained since he first launched his campaign. According to The New York Times, by the middle of March, Trump had received 1.9 billion dollars in free media attention; this has led many to believe that perhaps the media played a bigger role in Trump’s success than his own policy and platform did.

Traditionally, candidates have had to rely on money from their party committees, yet the amount of press attention Trump has received over the course of his campaign has caused nearly all of his comments and new proposals to be circulated on national television. While the media will continue to discuss controversial candidates in the future, Republicans may take measures to ensure that more establishment candidates will be nominated, so as to maintain control over their nominees. However, because Trump self-funded his primary campaign, the party establishment had minimal control over his actions as a politician.  

Secondly, America has seen the growth of a major split within the Republican party.  Thus far, we have seen the abandonment of the GOP’s nominee by the party’s leaders, calls by other party leaders to intervene in the nominating process, and the defection of Republican voters to independent parties, which could ultimately cause an effect similar to that of Ralph Nader of the Green Party in 2000. Traditionally conservative leaders like George H.W. Bush have pledged their votes to Hillary Clinton, while a “never Trump” movement has created internecine conflict within the Republican establishment.

Many observers have questioned whether Donald Trump’s policies have similarities to those of the conservative establishment. One example is free trade. The Republican party has traditionally backed free trade, believing it to advance the dynamics of the free market.  However, Trump has made opposition to trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP one of the core planks of his candidacy. According to New York Magazine, “As the GOP nominee has encouraged voters to associate “free trade” with “bad deals” negotiated by the Clintons, Red America has taken a dimmer view of the term.” This is just one of several policy deviations which Trump has demonstrated as leader of the Republican party. These shifts in party values could eventually increase should Republicans gain control of the White House.

Other differences between Trump’s ideas and those of the Republican party have led many to distrust party leadership. On the one hand, Trump has brought in new supporters to the Republican party.  However, he has also alienated mainline conservatives and fundamentally changed some core values of the party that nominated him. Due to this, I believe it is not unreasonable to expect considerable changes to the policies of the Republican party — especially the procedures of its nominating process– in the wake of the November election. Political elites still have a disproportionate amount of say in who is nominated from their party, but it is entirely possible that the Republican party may amend their nomination process to include the role of something like that of superdelegates in the Democratic primary process. This addition would allow RNC leaders to have more of a say in who their party nominates.

Although it has not been decided, the 2016 election will become one of the most historically significant presidential contests in recent memory. Because of the growing split within the Republican party and the increased role of the media in our politics, this election could prove to be a turning point in modern American politics. Ultimately, I believe it will result in a fundamental change in the relationship of both the press and political elites to the democratic process.

Fall 2016 HS Essay Contest 2nd Place: “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right in Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts” By Gordon Kamer

Charles Krauthammer, in a speech to the Buckley Program at Yale on September 28th, 2015, said “The summer of Trump ended, meteorologically speaking, last Monday, and I think we can already see that the decline has begun.” Evidently, the storm has lasted longer than expected. Krauthammer misunderstood that Trump represented something much more than a seasonal fling. He demonstrated that the partisan divide is due for a shakeup. Donald Trump’s primary opponents lambasted him on that grounds that he was not a “true conservative.” The electorate responded resoundingly: “We don’t care!” The Republican base favored Trump’s nationalist message over the Buckleyan conservatives’. Meanwhile, the globalist elite consolidated around the Democratic Party’s nominee. Fears that the 2016 election will destroy the American two party system are overblown; however, the major ideological split that defines the parties is changing. The 2016 election will redivide the nation between liberal multiculturalists and conservative nationalists.

2016 has precedent. Before the conservatives were the ones getting ousted, they once conducted their own takeover of the GOP. In 1964, the Republicans begrudgingly handed over the nomination to conservative champion Barry Goldwater. The attacks Lyndon Johnson used against Goldwater in the general were remarkably similar to what Hillary is using against Trump now. The “Confessions of a Republican” ad showed a Republican who had voted for Nixon and Eisenhower but who expressed some doubt about Goldwater: “When the Ku Klux Klan, all of these weird groups, come out in favor of my party, either they’re not Republicans or I’m not.” The famous attack ad, “Daisy,” targeted voters’ reluctance to put Goldwater’s finger on the nuclear button. Goldwater was portrayed as rash – someone without the right temperament, someone who lacked proper judgement. When the nominee of a party targets the old guard, he opens himself up to these lines of attack because in order to disrupt the status quo, he has to be combative. Someone who fights the safety, security, and predictability of the establishment is necessarily recalcitrant and rash. Trump has all of the hallmarks of a change agent.

So what exactly is taking over the GOP this time? Trump has courted voters who are upset with the new left in America, full of PC culture and people who would rather apologize for America than defend it. Trump support is definitively nationalist. Today’s progressives occupy themselves with radical racial equality in the form of the Black Lives Matter movement and the corruption of American history on college campuses. The Republican establishment too easily kowtowed to liberals’ outrage culture – too scared to be controversial, too sensitive to being seen as racist or xenophobic. While Rubio and Cruz yelled at each other in Spanish on the debate stage, Trump just smiled. Safe spaces exemplify what modern progressives hope to achieve: a sanitized world. For that same reason, activists like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ben Shapiro, who fight for the right to be “mischievous” in their speech, have become incredibly popular. A vote for Donald Trump is a vote against political correctness. Supporters also want, as Mr. Trump puts it, “America first.” Buckleyan conservatives were open to bringing in skilled migrants and trading with other countries, but the new wave in the Republican party is extraordinarily tough on immigration and trade. The new Republican voter is working class and does not want to see his/her job taken away by illegal immigrants or foreign countries (Trump leads with high school graduates and under as of October 2016 while Romney lost that demographic in 2012). The Republican establishment failed to concern itself with what concerned voters, so it lost, and Trump won. The major ideological divide in America is between conservative nationalism and liberal globalism, and the parties are changing to reflect that shift.

Whether Trump wins or loses is inconsequential. He has merely exploited sentiments among the American people that have already taken root. Every so often in politics, it becomes necessary for a figure to whip the ruling class into line with the populous at large. Trump has undertaken the process of redefining the partisan divide. He has brought the cause of the masses to the insiders’ front doorstep.