Rise of Trump Should Prompt GOP Soul-Searching

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

As you know, I have not endorsed anyone for president in 2016. I am giving all the candidates advice, and there are several I like, including Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. But I have to admit, it is entertaining to watch the political establishment panicking at the rise of Donald Trump.

The GOP establishment sees Trump as a party wrecker, and he could wreck the party if he goes on a kamikaze mission as a third party candidate. But that worry doesn’t explain why he has jumped into such prominence in the GOP primary.

Two columns by serious thinkers devoted to explaining Trump caught my attention over the weekend, because they both hit the same theme.

Bill Kristol writes at The Weekly Standard that like Richard Nixon’s “silent majority,” Trump has tapped into a sense of American nationalism — a dirty word to many elites.

Cultural elites despise traditional American values and reject the idea of American exceptionalism. Business elites, with their multinational corporations, often brag about the number of workers they employ in China or Mexico, rather than Pittsburgh or Detroit.

Many Americans want our country to be great again, to be respected around the world. But both parties have largely failed to address stagnating wages, falling standards of living and America’s declining influence.

Bill Kristol hopes that Trump’s movement can be refined into “a neo-Reaganite victory, one that builds on what is best in the Tea Party and what is healthy in Trumpism to create a politically viable governing conservatism.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan writes that Trump is flourishing because he has seized on the “deepening estrangement between the elites and the non-elites in America.” Noonan adds that contrary to the conventional wisdom, Trump’s tough talk on illegal immigration is resonating with many legal immigrants who followed the rules to come here.

After the 2012 loss, GOP elites commissioned its famous “autopsy” report to find out what went wrong and what it needed to do to win in the future. The autopsy only further alienated the conservative base by echoing the left with suggestions that it downplay social issues and concerns about illegal immigration.

Heading into the 2016 election and what may be our last chance to save America, I believe the RNC should establish an emergency commission made up of the Tea Party movement, social conservatives, balanced budget conservatives, defense and foreign policy conservatives.

Ask them why Trump is gaining traction. I guarantee the response won’t be that the GOP is “too conservative,” but that it too often does the same thing as the Democrat Party, just in slow motion. Conservatives are looking for their Obama — someone who will fight for conservative values as aggressively as Obama has fought for the left’s agenda.

To many Americans, Trump is synonymous with success. His supporters believe that perhaps the unapologetic, brash billionaire, beholden to no one, really can make America great again.

Gary L. Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration for eight years, as Under Secretary of Education and as President Reagan’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor.