In 1988, Oldsmobile tried to reach escape velocity and leave behind the gravitational pull of the idea that the brand was moribund – that it actually was hot and hip and not simply curmudgeonly enough to have a broken hip. America was assured (to hip Bryan Adams/Patti Smyth/Breakfast Club syle music) that “This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile; it is a new generation of Olds.” Unfortunately for the future Government Motors, it turned out that the brand was just a new generation of old and wasn’t your father’s Oldsmobile, it was your grandfather’s. The Oldsmobile brand never recovered from the broken hip it suffered in 1988 and died quietly in its sleep in 2004.
Watching ongoing the job fair at Trump Towers, I am reminded of the 1988 Oldsmobile advertising campaign. To steal and paraphrase from the 1988 Oldsmobile campaign, this GOP isn’t your father’s GOP. I don’t know if it, like Oldsmobile, is a just new generation of olds (people, not the car) or something different altogether.
America is not a finite concept; it is a continuum. It lives on and elections are but points on that continuum, so it is natural that the nation follows a changing evolutionary path. So, as they say the only constant is change. We should expect the political parties will change as well.
I think this may be the first time I have ever started a discussion with an allusion to Karl Marx that wasn’t specifically about Marx – I try not to think about Tovarish Marx – but in an interesting similarity to today’s Trumpian GOP, there seems to be at least a procedural/process relationship. In the Marxian continuum, it is believed that capitalism will inexorably give way to socialism and that Marxism was the bridge between socialism and communism. Marx saw his ideology as the bottle of wine that takes a date from making out to getting pregnant – from infatuation to full commitment.
Given that many, including your intrepid correspondent, saw (see) Trump’s history of maverick progressive populism and are wondering what the Trumpian GOP is, where it fits and where it is going. Is it destined to be Bushian Compassionate Conservatism on steroids? Will it become a Nelson Rockefeller Country Club party? Will it become a pragmatic populist party or a clone of the European Nationalist parties?
I think the jury is out…but there is another possibility – it, like Marxism, could be the bridge between the fractured partisanship we have today and a true party of conservatism.
Imagine a Venn diagram of all the sets of the variants of capitalism and one with all the variants of communism. Plotted out, these would be two distinct circles with nothing in common and therefore never intersecting. Now imagine that Marxism is inserted as another set of beliefs consisting of some aspects of capitalism and some of communism but enough different ideology to be an independent system. Then imagine that the express purpose of the Marxism bubble is to suck up all the members of the capitalism bubble and then to be absorbed by, and to absorb, the communist bubble until there is only one bubble left.
Now apply this same thought to the progressive/conservative paradigm and substitute progressivism for the capitalism bubble, conservatism for the communism bubble and Trumpism for the Marxism bubble with the express purpose of seducing the members of the progressivism bubble over to it and then to be absorbed by, and to absorb, the conservative bubble until there is only one bubble left.
Trumpism could be a useful tool if it presents a palatable option to conservatism for right leaning progressives who have heard the siren call of populism. It could be a bridge across the partisan void. If conservatives can accept what Trumpism does well and find ways to incorporate the conservative message, Trump’s populism might be a net benefit to a future conservative resurgence.