Liberty Expose: Working Class Republicans
After the 2012 election, the future of the GOP looked dire. After taking the House in 2010, the GOP was hoping – and to an extent expecting – to take the presidency with the candidacy of Mitt Romney. That proved to be a spectacular failure, and the Republicans were in a weaker position than they were before the election. It became something of a joke: commentators, when speculating on future Republican ambitions, doubted the GOP could ever take control of the government again.
But as any good social scientist knows, trends are not infinite and in 2014 the GOP took the Senate and in 2016 the presidency. Most historic but overlooked of the victories was the Republican blitz of state legislatures. Now, the GOP is at its most powerful since the Civil War.
With all this success, in theory everyone would be getting on the Republican bandwagon. But American politics, depending on one’s worldview, can be tragedy and comedy, and of all the people chosen to lead what could be the dawn of a GOP era, the American voters selected longtime Democrat Donald Trump. What followed would make excellent clickbait in an alternate universe: “America elects a reality TV star as its leader, and YOU WON’T BELIEVE what happens next.” Except the 45th presidency has thus far been predictably unpredictable.
As of this writing, President Donald Trump holds an approval rating in the low 30’s. White House inner politics had come to resemble the reality TV show that President Trump used to star in: in the first eight months of the new administration, everyone from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to Chief Strategist Steve Bannon have been axed. Both the establishment and nationalist influences have been eliminated. In the White House Hunger Games, nobody truly wins.
As recent events have perfectly depicted, the public relations of the administration have been an utter disaster. From Sean Spicer’s gaff-ridden press conferences, to the world-renown Twitter oratory of the esteemed President, the administration has almost gone out of its way to add fuel to the media flame.
The rhetorical failure could almost be forgiven if the administration had success in the legislative arena. But aside from the ascendency of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the administration has failed on every piece of major legislation ad policy. If Sophocles could design a presidency, this would be it.
With the way things are going, the GOP label has become increasingly toxic, and the bandwagon has beginning to empty – with one notable exception: West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. While many or distancing themselves from the GOP due to the President, Governor Justice has recently joined the party. When elected Governor of West Virginia, Justice was a Democrat. He has since joined the GOP.
In an announcement held with President Trump, Governor Justice announced that he “will be changing his registration to Republican.” In the announcement, he stated that he could “no longer help West Virginians” as a Democrat, while also stating the party walked away from him.
In reality, Governor Justice rejoined the Republican party. The Governor was a Republican up until 2015, when he became a Democrat to run in the gubernatorial race, which he subsequently won in 2016 by defeating Republican candidate Bill Cole. But his divorce from the GOP was short-lived, and just months after winning the gubernatorial election as a Democrat, Justice rekindled his relationship with the Republicans – to the unbeknownst surprise of his staff members.
Not long after making the announcement, Governor Justice started asking for federal money. Perhaps there was some truth in Justice’s claim that he could no longer help his residents as a Democrat. Justice is lobbying the Trump administration to help subsidize the coal industry in West Virginia, which had been vital there for generations. The coal industry in that state has been the subject of much misfortune; during the Obama administration, the coal industry became heavily regulated and taxed, making the coal industry significantly costlier than it had to be.
With these new increased costs, West Virginia coal had to compete with alternative sources of energy and coal mining from other states such as Wyoming. Much in the same way that fracking has forced OPEC nations to lower their costs of oil, so too has West Virginia’s coal industry fallen victim to cheaper sources of energy.
Blue-collar voters such as coal miners are beginning to face a new electoral dichotomy. Traditionally, such voters were Democrats. The Democratic party has, up until recently, built much of its support on unionized labor. But has the Democrats have begun to shift their focus from protecting workers in unionized industries to environmentalism. In this effort, industries such as the coal industry have been damaged, and miners are now politically stranded.
Many GOP leaders have sought to capitalize on the power vacuum. In a movement sometimes referred to as “blue-collar conservatives,” some leaders of the GOP believe that by adjusting the focus of the Republicans to cater to stranded union workers such as miners, the GOP can hold power in states that are radiantly Democrat strongholds; West Virginia being a notable example.
Blue-collar conservatism would have to undercut traditional conservative principles, such as support for energy subsidies, which Governor Justice wants for his state. In this regard, the GOP would have to abandon their free market orientation for a degree of protectionism. Traditional conservative writers and commentators are not pleased with that specter.
The last election proved there may be some truth to the strategy advocated by blue-collar conservative proponents; rust belt states that typically fell to the Democrats went for Trump in the last election. Put aside his celebrity and persona, President Trump has come close to what blue-collar conservative advocated had in mind.
The President has repeatedly shown that he wants to support the coal industry, and his relentless criticism of free trade and advocacy of protectionism has scored him points with workers whose jobs are threatened by foreign markets. Those points, combined with his lack of social justice advocacy that will isolate voters in Kentucky, makes him the ideal “new” Republican, much like Governor Justice.