Trump-brand populism isn’t new, writes David Brooks. Expect business to be targeted more in the future.
The only time I saw Sam Francis face-to-face — in the Washington Times cafeteria sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s — I thought he was a crank, but it’s clear now that he was at that moment becoming one of the most prescient writers of the past 50 years. There’s very little Donald Trump has done or said that Francis didn’t champion a quarter century ago.
In a series of essays for conservative magazines like Chronicles, Francis hammered home three key insights. The first was that globalization was screwing Middle America. The Cold War had just ended, capitalism seemed triumphant, and the Clinton years seemed to be an era of broad prosperity. But Francis stressed that the service economy was ruining small farms and taking jobs from the working class.
His second insight was that the Republican and conservative establishment did not understand what was happening. He railed against the pro-business “Economic Men” who thought GDP growth could solve the nation’s problems, and the Washington Republicans, who he thought were infected with the values of the educated elites.
In 1991, when his political mentor, Pat Buchanan, was contemplating a presidential bid, Francis told him to break with the conservative movement. “These people are defunct,” Francis told Buchanan. “Go to New Hampshire and call yourself a patriot, a nationalist, an America Firster, but don’t even use the word ‘conservative.’ It doesn’t mean anything anymore.”
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His third insight was that politics was no longer about left versus right. Instead, a series of smaller conflicts — religious versus secular, nationalist versus globalist, white versus nonwhite — were all merging into a larger polarity, ruling class versus Middle America.
“Middle American groups are more and more coming to perceive their exploitation at the hands of the dominant elites. The exploitation works on several fronts — economically, by hypertaxation and the design of a globalized economy dependent on exports and services in place of manufacturing; culturally, by the managed destruction of Middle American norms and institutions; and politically, by the regimentation of Middle Americans under the federal leviathan.”
Middle American voters, he wrote, were stuck without a party,…