Trump and the GOP: the Silent Majority versus the establishment
Posted by admin on 27th January 2016

While Donald Trump continues to hold a commanding lead among Republicans in the race for the 2016 presidential nomination, National Review, the country’s leading conservative magazine, thinks otherwise.

In a special issue titled “Against Trump” last week, a strongly worded editorial denounced Trump as a “political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.” This was followed by 22 pieces by prominent conservative writers who elaborated this message.

With the popular real estate magnate polling at 46 percent among Republican voters, however, this signals a crisis for the GOP and the conservative movement more broadly.

Here’s why.

National Review makes the case for conservatism

Founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley, the aim of National Review (NR) was to “stand athwart history” by opposing New Deal liberalism in all of its forms and making a vigorous intellectual and political case for a rejuvenated right.

NR brought together free market ideologues with conservatives committed to traditional social hierarchies. Both groups shared a hostility to intrusions into the family, community or market by the federal government.

By the early 1960s, it was clear to editors at NR and its conservative milieu that the best way to seize the Republican Party from moderates was to oppose civil rights both in the South and nationally.

NR’s candidate in 1964: Barry Goldwater.
US News and World Report, Library of Congress

NR publisher William Rusher spearheaded the movement to draft the arch-conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for 1964, and NR editor Brent Bozell ghostwrote Goldwater’s campaign book, “Conscience of a Conservative.”

Goldwater openly denounced the Brown v. Board of Education decision and opposed the civil rights bill of 1964. Winning the GOP nomination for conservatives in 1964, the Goldwater campaign began to make the case that the party system should realign along racial instead of class lines.

1968 and the emergence of the ‘Silent Majority’

In 1968, Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips observed the surprising success of Alabama governor George Wallace’s third-party presidential campaign, which directed populist rage at liberal elites, bureaucrats, African Americans, and anti-Vietnam war protesters.

Based on the patterns of Wallace’s electoral support nationally, Phillips outlined a strategy for moving working and middle-class whites out of the New Deal Democratic Party, based on a knowledge, he said, of “who hates whom.”

Nixon began using the terms “Silent Majority,” “Forgotten Americans,” and “Middle America” to describe an aggrieved white majority harried by busing, crime and moral permissiveness.

These were, Nixon said in his GOP nomination speech in 1968,

the good people. They work hard and they save and they pay their taxes.