There has been of late much speculation as to the provenance of Trump’s supporters. Some see Trump’s irredentist caucasian nationalism as de-facto proof that he is a conservative, if not a nascent fascist. But others, including Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s Chief Political Correspondent, point to Trump’s rejection of movement conservatism and exclaim that he is a moderate.
With respect to Bouie, that’s a misdiagnosis, and one that suggests that Bouie doesn’t understand what a moderate (I prefer “centrist”) Republican is or believes. As a centrist Republican myself, I see nothing appealing in Trump or his policies. Pat Buchanan, on the other hand, who is either a “paleocon” or an outright reactionary, adores Trump. All of this suggests that trying to frame all of this as a “conservative” vs. “moderate” issue misses the point.
In truth, Trump’s supporters seem to cut a wide swath across the spectrum, suggesting that his appeal is less ideological than it is a visceral reaction to the perceived political and economic sidelining of white middle-and working-class America. It’s the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” bloc, those left behind by globalization and the information revolution who face dimming economic prospects for themselves and probably their children and grandchildren and lay the blame on the White House lawn and at the steps of the Capitol building.
That’s important. The group at fault here is not the moderates or the conservatives. The problem is with the elites in the party (and, arguably, with both parties.) The nation will only evolve beyond Trumpism when the Democrats and Republicans begin framing a path to a better future for Trump’s supporters that is more convincing than angry nationalism.