Donald Trump, Open Primaries, and the Rise of the Xenophobic Democrat

Donald Trump[Someone commented rightly that “xenophobic” refers to unreasonable fears, and we conservatives agree that illegal immigration and unchecked Muslim immigration are a problem. I’m using the term “xenophobic” in the context of other Democrats who see the “Trump traitors” as unreasonably fearful. See, e.g., Robert Reich saying anyone who supports Trump is xenophobic.]

I was not surprised to learn that Donald Trump swept those states with open primaries. I have vociferously opposed open primaries from the moment a proposition to turn California into an open primary state first appeared on the ballot.  Indeed, writing on the subject almost two months ago, I predicted exactly the outcome we’re seeing now.

My core argument is that primaries are not meant to be pre-election elections, winnowing the total number of candidates from all parties down to two. They are instead meant to be the time during which people allied with a specific political ideology select the candidate they wish to have represent them before the American people in November. If that party’s candidate is shut out of the election process long before the nation starts paying serious attention to the messages, that party’s free speech is effectively stifled when it matters most. I continue to believe that I am correct.

I met one of the driving forces behind California’s open primary law, a bright, charming, fairly moderate Democrat. Back then, I wrote that he and other open primary supporters claimed open primary laws would end extremist candidates and, instead, drive voters towards a moderate middle:

As he saw it, under the old system, parties would use the primaries to elect purist candidates who represented the extremes of their position. Come the election, there were no moderate candidates on the ballot. He saw this as the reason that California was such a fiscal disaster: Because Democrats are the majority, nothing tempered them. He believed that, open primaries, when financial moderates from either party were on the ballot, ordinary people would be drawn to these candidates, and would even cross party lines to vote for them. Only moderate and fiscally sound candidates who appeal to the masses in the middle would win the top two spots on the November ballot.

I was less sanguine. Writing in January about our discussion, I stated that, in addition to my core concern — which is that open primaries stifle political speech when it matters most — I worried about it giving rise, not to moderation, but to extremism. Because I have no shame when my crystal ball works accurately, I’m going to quote my prediction at length:

Were I to speak to that man now, I would add something to my objection to open primaries:  They may help extremists candidates who have an issue that appeals to members of both political parties.  Case in point:  The Donald Trump phenomenon.

Despite a lifetime as a Democrat, and strong support for Democrat candidates and positions, Donald Trump rose to fame in the last months espousing a single extreme view:  bar all Muslims from America.  I’ve said before that I think his view his actually more nuanced than that (I assume he wants a temporary hold on immigration while we put into place systems that can help distinguish the delightful Indian fashion designer who wants to go into business in Los Angeles from the Syrian 30-year-old who just happens to have ISIS literature on his person and is heading to Dearborn to see his “friends.”)

Whether Trump’s immigration ban is nuanced or not is actually irrelevant, though.  What matters for purposes of this post is that the media is marketing it as an extremist view on immigration.  Extremist it may be, but not only are a lot of conservatives support it, even more Democrats are doing so.

This support might be because, like Trump, his Democrat fans are single-issue people:  They like welfare, Obamacare, détente with Iran, universal free college, eminent domain, government unions, etc., but they’re getting scared of Muslim immigrants and they’re not so thrilled about all the other immigrants taking their jobs.  Some of them might even like owning guns, so they’re a little unsure about the Democrats’ push to disarm Americans.  But really, they’re not conservatives.  They like Big Government — they just want it done their way.

In states without open primaries, these Democrats will not be able to vote for Trump.  They’ll be limited to deciding between Hillary, Bernie, or that other guy no one remembers.  This means that the Republican primary will proceed without these people canceling the votes of genuine conservatives.  The latter (like me) appreciate how Trump has obliterated political correctness, but feel that his fundamental politics are on the side of Big Government.  It’s likely that in closed primary states, Ted Cruz will win because he’s the most consistent constitutional conservative running this year.

In states with open primaries, though, the door is open for Donald Trump.  A coalition of Leftist Republicans and Rightist Democrats may provide just enough heft to get Trump into first place on the ballot.  Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants if a Republican candidate the media has dubbed an “extremist” because of his views on immigration ends up winning in open primary states because the vast middle ended up being populated by Democrats who are worried about open borders?

Now that things are shaking out exactly as I predicted, I want to embroider on the theme of American politics — where we are now, and what we need to do to end up in a better place.

Let me start by saying what is not happening here:  This is not 1980 and these crossover Democrats are not Reagan Democrats, ready to place us at the dawn of a new American golden decade.  Instead, they and Donald Trump are symptoms of a profoundly different and very damaged America that may take decades to recover, provided that we start working on fixing her now.

Reagan!  For conservatives, what bliss it was in that dawn to be alive.  Reagan had for decades before his election been refining a uniquely American conservative philosophy, one based on free markets, individual liberty, and strong national security, all infused with his unique, sunny optimism. (I highly recommend his 1964 convention speech, “A Time For Choosing,” one of the best political speeches ever made.)  Significantly, Reagan profoundly distrusted government, although one of the ironies of his administration was that the government continued its unchecked bureaucratic growth under his aegis.

Those Democrats who crossed over to Reagan in 1980, agreed for the most part with those conservative values.  They were a generation that had grown up during the Depression, lived through WWII, and enjoyed the post-War boom.  They were the last generation educated to believe that America was a great, exceptional, and unique country, the genius of which was predicated on the United States Constitution and, especially, the Bill of Rights.

By the time the malaise-ridden 1970s were coming to an end, the Reagan generation, both Republicans and older Democrats, were very clear about everything that was wrong in their country:  They disliked a nation in which the government took money from wage earners to distribute, not to those who couldn’t work, but to those who didn’t feel they ought to work.  They disliked the creeping, burdensome regulatory agencies that grew under Johnson, Nixon, and Carter.  They seriously hated the rise of the welfare state, which had changed from humane and appropriate care for widows and orphans, to a growth industry intended to punish the white middle class.  They, the victorious WWII generation, were horrified by Democrat-led failures in Vietnam and by Jimmy Carter’s collapse before the Iranian mullahs.  And as much as anything, they were drawn to Reagan’s sunny optimism.

Significantly, the Reagan Democrats, like Reagan himself, were not people who had left the Democrat Party. Instead, thanks to the Democrat Party’s shift to the hard Left when it backed George McGovern, these Reagan Democrats understood that the party had left them.

What we’re seeing in 2016 is something quite different, because the Trump Democrats did not grow up in the same way as those Depression era, World War II, and post-War generation Reagan Democrats.  The Trump Democrats, instead, are a generation that has grown up in the shadow of the Left’s decades’-long march through American institutions.  Their expectations are different than the disenchanted Reagan generation’s expectations.

To give some context, let me quick march you through the Left’s long march through institutions.  During the 1920s, America was swept by “Red Scare” hysteria.  Despite the vastly different situation between pre-WWI Russia (an essentially feudal monarchy despite the ostensible outlawing of feudalism) and post-WWI America (a dynamic, free market democracy), Americans were so spooked by the Russian Revolution that they were certain it could happen here.  Every Italian immigrant was an anarchist and every Russian immigrant a Bolshevik.

In fact, nervous Americans were looking in the wrong places.  The real subversives weren’t marching down the streets under red flags.  They were, instead, going to three places:  Hollywood, which was a transformative means of communicating abstract ideas to vast numbers of people; print media (Walter Duranty, anybody?); and academia, a place statists have always understood is the way to co-opt the up-and-coming generation.  Were it not for WWII — and, even more importantly, for Hitler’s disastrous decision to invade the Soviet Union — the 1940s through the 1960s might have looked remarkably like the 1990s through to today, with a growing Leftist influence on America’s core values.

With WWII, however, a few things happened:

  • America came down heavily on the side of old-fashioned all-American patriotism.
  • Americans got a good look at statism run amok, and didn’t like what they saw.
  • Hitler did invade the Soviet Union, so the order came down on high for American Communists to stop agitating for pacifism and the Soviet Union and, instead, to pin on the American flag and support the war effort.
  • Stalin’s gloves came off after the War when he actively invaded and “communized” nations outside of the Soviet Union’s borders.  With a highly militarized post-war USSR, the “Red Scare” became a possibility rather than just an inchoate fear.
  • With America as the last economy standing, capitalism was spectacularly successful, which is why it survived periodic bouts of insanely high taxation.  The rest of the world simply couldn’t compete.

Even as Americans settled into post-war prosperity, which seemed to cement forever America’s allegiance to free-market capitalism and a focus on individual rights consistent with the Bill of Rights, American communists never gave up.  In universities and, eventually, public schools, all but the STEM classes became Marxist indoctrination centers.  Media outlets became increasingly Leftist.  After all, it was that old soft Leftist Walter Cronkite who may have single-handled lost the Vietnam War when, just our military was gaining real victories on the ground, the “most trusted man in America” took off his glasses, turned to the American public, and announced that we’d lost the war.

The Vietnam era, at time during which we fought the Chinese Communists in Vietnam, was also the time when the Russian Communists actively, but covertly, fought America on American soil.  Those who suspected what was happening were castigated and reviled as paranoid anti-Communist McCarthyites.  Hindsight, though, shows that these silly old fools (as the media made sure everyone labeled the anti-Communists)  were right:  The Venona documents and other revelations from the former Soviet bloc prove that, by smuggling illegal drugs into America and promoting their use, along with promoting the whole hard Left “youth culture,” and by disseminating Leftist values through American institutions, the Left was fighting the long war.

Keep in mind that, today, Howard Zinn’s hard Left A People’s History of the United States is the single most read American history book in America.  Zinn hated America.  (For other examples of the Leftism that infuses American education, I suggest this post.)

And the media . . . oh, my God!  The media.  The brilliant thing about the media was its subtlety.  There were no heavy-handed Communist propaganda shows, which Americans would never have tolerated.  Instead, Americans were fed a heavily Leftist diet through their light comedy.  If you haven’t yet read Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, you must. Ben Shapiro, a conservative, Orthodox Jew, put a baseball cap over his yarmulke and then, waving his Harvard credentials (“See? I’m one of you!”) interviewed some of the biggest movers and shakers behind some of the most popular shows in the late 1960s through the early 1980s.

All of these people proudly boasted to Shapiro that their shows were intended to sell Progressive ideology, everything ranging from abortion, to gay rights, to feminism, to (laudably) the end of racism against blacks. They all cheerfully explained to him how they went about covertly selling their messages in the early years so that sponsors, concerned about losing business in conservative markets, wouldn’t shut them down.

It wasn’t just in TV that this was happening.  The movies were in on it too and, more significantly than most people realize, so were the women’s magazines.  In that regard, another book I highly recommend is Myrna Blyth’s Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Nothing has changed since the book’s publication some years ago. Just last month, I looked at a Teen Vogue, and saw a magazine, not obsessed with fashion, but obsessed with promoting amongst teenage girls a hard Left social justice agenda.

Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics flows downstream from culture. He wasn’t just talking about this or that day’s trendy issue or candidate. He was talking about the fact that Leftists have for decades manipulated American values.

The dominant values in America today are an inversion of traditional American values. Americans no longer believe that government’s role should be limited to providing basic services (roads, disease control, fair trade, etc), basic safety (police services, minimum building standards, etc.), and national security. They have completely absorbed FDR’s new Rights, which posit a government obligated to provide Americans with food, shelter, education, medical care, unlimited abortions, and (for those who see children as a means to larger welfare checks) child support — all at no cost to any single individual.

The rule of law is irrelevant to this generation.  The notion that there is an intangible law, applicable to all human beings, and one that is higher than any given individual or government is gone.  Obama blatantly violated Obamacare and did so multiple times, but there was no outcry.  Obama’s IRS violated the law multiple times, but there was no outcry.  Hillary Clinton violated the law and handed the heartbeat of our National Security — the State Department — over to every bad actor in the world, but there was no outcry.

While older conservatives still believe in the rule of law and are offended at a core level by this banana-republic level of disrespect for laws and legal process, every one else, especially Democrats, just shrug.  What can you expect, they ask?  That’s just government, they say?  They cannot conceive of a small, duty-bound government that respects, rather than uses, the law.

Americans are so invested in these New Deal freedoms that they will willingly part with most of their true freedoms, with the most obvious being the freedom from a government seizing and redistributing their money (including redistributing it to government bureaucrats and cronies), the freedom to practice their faith unhindered by government (including government acting as the punitive arm for social justice warriors), and the freedom to defend themselves by force of arms if necessary.

But despite having ingested the Leftist Kool-Aid for the past eighty years and county, Americans — or at least slightly older middle class, and often white, Americans — still have some common sense remaining.  They are still loath to part with two core freedoms: the freedom to state the obvious and the freedom from importing terrorists.

During the Obama administration, a few things have becoming obvious to these middle-of-the-road Americans: They’re not racist, but the media, the education system, and the entertainment world keep saying they are. They’re not homophobic, but the same voices keep calling them that. They’re not sexist (if they’re male), although no one would know that from the insults hurled at them.  There is no rape epidemic on American campuses of the type that would make them more dangerous than a South African slum but, again, these middle-of-the-road Americans are constantly told that to state the obvious means that they support a rape culture.

Most of all, they’re not crazy to worry about the the United States becoming Central America north, complete with all the economic, criminal, and public health repercussions that flow from an abandoned border.  Nor are they paranoid or racist to worry about inviting in a religious group that totals 1.6 billion around the world, with a solid 10% (that’s 160,000,000) of that group deeply committed to waging murderous jihad against us.  That paranoia is especially reasonable when their own government admits that these people who would flood our nations come from places without records, making it impossible for our border control (which already does nothing about the Southern Border) to have any idea whether they place Americans at risk or not.

Donald Trump speaks to the anger these older middle-of-the-roaders feel when they’re constantly called vile names, and to the frustration and fear they experience when their government pooh-poohs their legitimate concerns about border security.

Indeed, it was because of this last issue that Trump initially came to national prominence.  Eschewing stifling political correctness, he spoke directly to the average American, the same one who buys into Big Government and socially liberal policies, but who is scared of unlimited illegal immigration from Latin America and really scared of Muslim immigration. He mirrored their anger and their fear and promised to assuage both.

I call these people — the Leftists whose fears Trump recognized — Xenophobic Democrats.  These are the people I warned about two months ago.

It’s because of his Xenophobic Democrats supporters that Trump is unconcerned about the things he’s said and done that bother true conservatives. Take Israel, for example.  The fact that he doesn’t really support Israel (he’ll be “neutral” he says) doesn’t bother Xenophobic Democrats, who support Palestinians in their fight against Israeli imperialism.

Or look at limiting abortion, something important to conservatives.  Trump gets this, but he still trumpets his continued support for Planned Parenthood, even while making mush-mouthed claims that he’s really, kind of, sort of pro-Life.  His love for PP is precisely the dog whistle the Xenophobic Democrats need to hear: to them, abortion is (as Nancy Pelosi said) sacred ground, and Trump’s PP support assures them that Trump gets this.

And on and on it goes: Trump supports the second Amendment, except he’s said for years that, while he should have a gun, he’s really not sure about other people, which is a typical Democrat-elite statement. His promise that Trumpcare will be even better than Obamacare (the government will pay for everything in Trump world) is Xenophobic Democrat crack. They know Obamacare has been a dismal failure. They always wanted socialized medicine. Trump just promised it to them.

As for the Rule of Law?  Heck, Trump doesn’t believe it any more than they do.  Laws are for the little people.  Trump’s going to break the laws too, for the public good of course, but they’ll like it, because he’ll do so in a way that assuages their fears.  Banana republic, here we come.

Basically, the only thing Trump is really saying is “Dear Xenophobic Democrats:  I feel your pain about being called bad names, and I respect your worries about the costs of illegal immigration and importing terrorists.  I’ll speak really loudly about those things, and may even do something about them.  As for every thing else in your Democrat platform, the one that America’s core institutions have been inculcating in your for the last 50+ years, don’t worry — you’ll still get your socialized medicine; your welfare checks; your support for Palestinians; your free, unlimited abortions; your social justice warrior military; and everything else you’ve been trained to love.  I’ve got your back.”

Here’s the bottom line:  the only difference between Trump and Hillary, should they end up being the last candidates standing, is that Trump might take more proactive steps to seal the American border.  Otherwise, they are two political peas in a pod.

So what’s the answer?  Write in your candidate of choice?  Stay away from the polls?

Well, the answer isn’t pretty.  Whatever you do in November won’t matter.  What we as conservatives need to do is precisely what the Left started in the 1930s:  We need to begin our own long march through institutions.  This doesn’t mean going in guns blazing.  It means infiltrating the entertainment world, the news media, women’s magazines, and education, and slowly, softly, gently, undermining Leftist ideas and promoting conservative thought.  Humor, homespun wisdom, empathy, emotions . . . all the things we’ve seen for so long are the things we need to do.

I strongly believe that, like the Jews who escaped from Egypt and were denied entry into the promised land until the last of the slaves had died, we have to purify ourselves and our nation before we reach the promised land.  This is the beginning of the battle, not the end.  We’ll do whatever we can do, need to do, or want to do this November, but don’t sweat it too much if the Trump juggernaut is unstoppable or if Hillary wins.  We have so much work left to do.