Trump is a billionaire, but his base of support rests among the people once identified by the sociologist Donald Warren as “middle American radicals.” Nearly 40 years ago, Warren’s idea was adapted by the hard-right political thinker Sam Francis as the basis for paleoconservatism—a conservatism very unlike that of the postwar conservative movement, one that would champion the class interests and cultural attitudes of middle- and lower-income whites.
.. What is more remarkable is the weakness of the bipartisan establishment, whose conventional wisdom is no longer meekly accepted by the rank and file of either party. Every Republican except Trump has tried, to one degree or another, to present himself as a champion of conservative orthodoxy.
.. A void is opening in American politics, and Trump and Sanders are only the first to try to fill it. Neither of them may succeed. Yet it is hard to see any source of renewal for the crumbling establishment they are fighting to replace. Just as the end of the Cold War marked the passing of an era, and partially or wholly transformed the left and right alike, so another era is drawing to a close now, with further political mutations to come. Trump and Sanders need not be the future, but what Bush and Clinton represent is already past—no matter who wins in November.
What if a bunch of eras are ending all at once?
.. What if we’re at the end of the 30-plus-year era of high growth in China ..
.. What if the $100-a-barrel oil price era is over and all these countries whose economies were directly or indirectly propped up by those prices will have to learn to grow the old-fashioned way ..
.. But what if the E.U. era is over?
.. What if the era of Iranian isolation is over, just as the Arab system is collapsing and the two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians is history?
.. And what if all of this is happening at a time when our government’s ability to stimulate the economy through either monetary or fiscal policy is constrained?
.. Bernie Sanders’s platform is that we can solve our most onerous economic problems if we just tax “The Man” more. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are running on the theme that they are “The Man” — the strongman — who can magically fix everything.
.. What if our 2016 election ends up being between a socialist and a borderline fascist — ideas that died in 1989 and 1945 respectively?