A response to Michael Anton.
The Future of the GOP
The new Right has a plan, and the courage to execute.
J.D. Vance’s victory in last night’s Ohio Republican Senate primary is an important and hopeful sign for the future of the GOP. After Trump’s loss in 2020, some were eager for a reversion to the comfortable platitudes of the pre-Trump days. “We can’t let [Trump] define us for the future,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, “because that would just further divide our country, and it would hurt our Republican Party.” Trumpism frightened members of the Old Guard who saw it as their duty to protect the “principled conservative” brand: mild-mannered, respectable, and unwilling to rock the boat in pursuit of “needlessly divisive” “culture war” issues.
The Old Guard and the Never Trumpers hoped that all that talk of immigration, trade protectionism, and America First would go away. But it hasn’t gone away, and for good reason: the problems Trump identified, the crises he was willing to name when few others would, haven’t gone away either. They have gotten worse, because the Old Guard doesn’t have solutions to them.
It makes no sense to recite old Reagan-era slogans about the “free market” when Chinese oligarchs have colluded with tech billionaires to drain the marrow out of America’s working class. Invocations of “private enterprise” ring hollow when Disney, a vast corporation with its own county government, declares allegiance to a new sexual theology.
And when that theology is preached in elementary school classrooms against parents’ objections, encoded into TikTok algorithms and first-grade lessons alike, it won’t do to “build your own social media platform”—for the simple reason that the U.S. government has already built its own social media platforms, funding Google to keep tabs on Americans and overseeing online thought via the Department of Homeland Security’s new ministry of truth. It’s not that the fundamental principles of natural law or natural right are any less essential: it’s that the challenges against them are new challenges, and the Right’s defense of them must take new forms.
Trump understood that. So does J.D. Vance, which is why Trump endorsed him. Much has been made of Vance’s supposed “pivot” from Never Trumper to Trumpian darling. But when he made his name with the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy, Vance gave voice to the justified anger of the rural poor—concerns which he believes can find their best political expression in Trump and Trumpism. Initially, like many people, he was concerned that Trump might be drumming up populist energy only to manipulate it for his own cynical ends. Today, though, he sees that Trump spoke to and for the same despised and ignored segment of the population that Vance wrote about in his book.
Vance acknowledged this when he said: “The question presented in this primary was, ‘Do we want a border that protects our citizens? Do we want to ship our jobs to China or keep them right here in America for American workers? Do we want a Republican Party who stands for the donors who write checks to the Club for Growth or do we want the Republican Party for the people right here in Ohio?” That is the heart of the matter. Reasonable conservatives can argue, and will continue to argue, over whether Trump is the most effective spokesman for this message going forward. But that does not compromise the essential clarity of the new Right’s message.
It is a winning message. Like Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia, Vance’s win indicates that people of every race and both sexes are justly incensed when they learn about the divisive poison of the new Left’s racial tribalism, and when they see the ravages of transhumanist ideology in their communities. The new Right’s message is simply that Americans will not stand to see their productive capacities eroded, the wealth of their nation leeched away in foreign lands, and their children’s psyches compromised by invasive digital and ideological catechesis. That is the way forward for this country, and that is the path the GOP will chart if it wants to win.
Other candidates and politicians—Blake Masters, Joe Kent, Josh Hawley, Ron DeSantis—are emerging to take the reins of this new future and seize the opportunities of the Left’s disastrous extremism. All these politicians have some differences, and not all are agreed on what Trump’s personal role should be. But those differences, which detractors will continue to cite as evidence of political disarray, are in fact immaterial in light of the convictions which the new Right shares. In the face of the unique challenges of the digital age and the woke revolution, these young leaders—unlike the greybeards trying desperately to put Trumpism back in the bottle—have a plan, and they have the courage to execute on it. That is something the GOP, and the country, desperately needs.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.