The hex is being broken: A memo to never-Trumpers
By Daniel M. Ryan
Our age of specialization certainly has its frustrations. One of the most glaring ones is the split between inside-baseball politics and the outside-baseball variety. If you're an outsider, the Republican insiders appear clubbish, compromised or just plain weak. If you're an insider, the outsides appear to be reckless hotheads who don't know what they're doing. Donald Trump, of course, won the primary by galvanizing the outsiders. If you're a Never-Trumper, you likely think that he did so through the worst kind of pandering: he won through brute demagogy. Are you a Conservative who can't stand Trump? I suggest that his candidacy, over the longer term, is going to be a real blessing for you. In order to see this, you have to look beyond the issues – beyond the specific platform items that make you worry that the Conservative brand is being subverted from within – and look at what Trump is doing. Donald Trump, in real time and in front of your eyes, is breaking the Goldwater Hex.
The Goldwater Hex…
From a distance, the 1964 election campaign was an odd one. That year, America was clearly #1 in the free world. It had been only nineteen years since the Allies had exterminated the evil of Nazi Germany and the largely-American forces had crushed Imperial Japan. Imported cars were exotic. America was full of factories humming along at full speed. Imports from the reconstructed Japan, like cameras and transistor radios, were still the subjects of jokes. Some Japanese exporters had paper-located their companies in a small Japanese town called Usa just so they could adorn their products with "MADE IN USA." Wages were rising. The folks at General Motors were still telling themselves that the Corvair was the import-killer.
Yet, despite all those obvious signs of predominance and good-times, the 1964 campaign saw a nation bubbling over with fear. The landslide winner had run a campaign whose leitmotif was fearmongering.
True, this year of fear makes sense when you add in the then-widespread worry about nuclear war and the ghost of the recently-assassinated John F. Kennedy. Nevertheless, it presented a picture of an American populace that was strikingly inconsistent with America's objective geopolitical strength. Had I been a Communist at the time, the 1964 campaign would have jacked up my self-confidence a quantal level. I would have imagined that the fear year was "proof" that Americans really feared the inevitable victory of Communism. I'm sure Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro thought along these lines, that they drew real strength from seeing the braver man crushed by a landslide defeat after a campaign of fear.
On the domestic front, that defeat was the start of the Goldwater Hex. You may not have noticed it, but you yourself are enthralled by it:
True: if you focus on the issues, it does look like Donald Trump is reviving me-too Republicanism. But if you step back and focus on how he's doing it, you'll see another side to his demagogy. He's managed to harness enough raw energy to outright break the Hex. No, Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan. But you're about to see why that's a benefit.
…How Reagan Finessed It…
The secret to Ronald Reagan's success was that he was a nice guy. Even when he was at his most stern, there was something about him that said he was nice. He was most himself when he was saying how great America was, and what a bright future we had in store for us. Remember the 1984 debate against Walter Mondale? Reagan "crushed" Mondale with a remark so lighthearted – "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience" – that Mondale himself chuckled appreciatively. Even Reagan's '84 knock-out punch was nice.
That's how Ronald Reagan finessed the Goldwater Hex without destroying it. Wisely knowing that Joe Average gauges Presidential candidates by their temperament as well as by their ideas, he presented himself as a man without the inner toughness of Barry Goldwater. Goldwater himself was a nice man, but he was a red-blooded combo of nice and tough that he wore on his sleeve. Reagan concealed his tough side, which is why the liberal media's smear campaign of 1980 fizzled. You can imagine enough Joe Averages saying, "A warmonger? That guy? Fer Gossakes, the guy's a lamb!"
Yes, Ronald Reagan was a nice guy. The kind of nice guy that would sign into law California's no-fault divorce act after confronting UCal New Lefties. The kind of nice guy who would sternly call the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire" and, five years later, go to Reykjavik and hit it off with the Evil Emperor's successor plus one. The kind of nice guy who would crack down on the PATCO union and then sign off on some modestly protectionist measures to help save union jobs. The kind of nice guy who would okay the 1986 amnesty deal and expect that the Dems would be nice guys too. (As we know, they welched on their side of the deal.)
Please bear in mind that I'm not detracting from Reagan's legacy; far from it. Had he not finessed the Goldwater Hex by being such a nice guy, he never would have gotten elected President! Certainly, nice-guy Ronnie was better for Conservatism than Richard Nixon's revival of me-too-Republicanism under the guise of law-and-order. Nixon not only started the War on Drugs, but he also signed into law the OSHA and EPA. You'll never hear this from the Dems, but "Southern Strategy" Nixon was the first President to enact the first affirmative-action program for blacks – less than a year after he won his first term with the Southern Strategy. (Don't believe me? Ask Mitt Romney about it: it was headed up by his father.) True: Reagan's nice-guy success was not perfect, but it was better than Richard Nixon's bending with the Hex.
The trouble with Reagan's masterful finesse, though, is that it only works for a guy like Ronald Reagan. It's too personality-dependant. Unless you're a nice guy, or are a good enough performer to fake it, the Hex still does its thing.
Until this year.
…And How Trump Is Crushing It
Remember when the Dems were licking their chops about a recapitulation of the 1964 campaign with Trump as the new Goldwater? Chances are, you yourself have prepared a bug-out plan on that basis. You're ready to explain why Trump is nothing like Goldwater or Reagan, aren't you? To explain why Trump was the anti-Goldwater based upon his protectionist nationalism and march-through-the-centre platform? To proclaim that a landslide victory for Hillary only proves that marching through the centre Perot-style doesn't work?
It's unsurprising that you would. The Dems themselves - along with their affiliates not only in the mainstream media but also in the academy and pop-cult - have been gunning for a Hillary landslide. The smears against Donald "I'm Such A Nice Guy" Trump have not reached the 1980 level; they've exceeded it. They're at the 1964 level. The Dems have not only rebooted "A Republican Looks At His Party" but also the infamous "Bomb" ad. Yet another ad re-used yet another anti-Goldwater smear by associating Trump with David Duke. This last one got a lot of free reinforcement thanks to the usual suspects. Hillary even pulled out all the stops with her notorious alt-right speech.
And Donald Trump is now ahead in the polls. He's met the full force of the Goldwater Hex – and he's crushing it.
"Think About The Future!"
Granted, the Trump Train has slammed some hard lessons into Never-Trump Conservatism. We've had to learn that there are no squatter's rights in politics. Joe Republican does not care that you were fighting against amnesty years before The Donald's Trump-Tower speech. What he does care about is that you did not jump on the Trump Train like Jeff Sessions did. Your refusal gave him the idea that you were either insincere or too much of a shrinking violet to be counted on. That's why you were turned on.
We also learned the hard way that Joe Republican does not actively support free trade, globalization and entitlement reform. He just abided by them. Now that Donald Trump is openly fighting the first two and has thrown the third off the table, Joe Republican is ecstatic. Ecstatic enough to peg you as the truant-law teacher that only apple-polishers like. Issues-wise, 2016 has certainly been disillusioning.
But the larger picture – the culturo-political picture – is going to be the best it's been in decades. If Donald Trump wins the Presidency, the Goldwater Hex will be broken. You'll no longer have to pull your punches. You'll no longer have to modulate in order to bend to "political reality" You'll no longer have to confine yourself to the "Great Speech" level. That kernel of fear – you know it's there – will be gone.
You're in the position of someone who went all-into the stock market in the 1983 run-up. Right now, you're feeling the same frustration that came with the 1984 pullback. True, the near-term does suck. But over the longer-term, the fix is in for you. Once this year's campaign ends: that will be the time to make the most of it.
Daniel M. Ryan, as Nxtblg, is shepherding the independently-run Open Audi Initiative Prediction Market Shadowing Project. He has stubbornly assumed all the responsibility and blame for the workings and outcome of the project.