Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election was greeted with shock and disbelief in many quarters. My favorite example of this occurred at my law-school alma mater, where students traumatized by the thought that ideas regularly denounced by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post had triumphed in a national election were offered the solace of coloring books and Play-Doh by the school’s resident therapist. One person who would not have been shocked, though, had he lived to see it, is Sam Francis, who used column after column in this magazine to predict the Middle American Revolution that so unnerved the actual and aspiring members of our elite in November.
Sam argued that the major oppositional force to the elite consensus governing American politics since the end of the Cold War was found among the voters the late sociologist Donald Warren had dubbed “Middle American Radicals,” voters who were both dubious of the free-market orthodoxies offered by conventional Republicans and disdainful of the leftist cultural and social policies advocated by most Democrats. Warren found these views concentrated among white lower-middle-class voters. To counter the disastrous policies on offer from our elites, Sam argued that any politician who actually wanted to strike a blow against leftism should identify with the Middle American Radicals and advocate policies that advanced their interests. Sam’s advice was taken up by his friend Pat Buchanan, who ran three presidential campaigns arguing against the elites’ globalist ideology, which favored trade deals like NAFTA, military interventions to spread “democracy” and “human rights,” and de facto open borders. Buchanan failed, mostly because the surface prosperity of the Clinton years made it hard for many voters to see the dangers ahead. And in the years following Buchanan’s candidacies, the need for candidates to raise vast amounts of money—money that was largely controlled by the elites—meant that no candidate willing to challenge globalism got very far in the primaries.
But many voters’ disenchantment with trade policies that gutted the greatest manufacturing economy the world had ever known, costly and unwinnable wars in the Middle East, and mass immigration that was radically transforming America while bringing no economic benefit to the country as a whole and great economic harm to many ordinary Americans only grew in the years after Buchanan ran. Then came Donald Trump, who had the money and notoriety necessary to bypass conventional campaign fundraising, descending the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for the presidency, a candidacy centered on the issues identified by Francis and championed by Buchanan. Trump’s reward for championing the Middle American Radicals: a reshaping of the Republican Party and, ultimately, the White House.
The contours of Trump’s victory were along the general lines envisioned by Sam Francis, with Trump wining a crushing 67-28 percent advantage among whites without college degrees, the biggest margin ever for that demographic. And the power of the ideas Trump championed was confirmed by the campaign waged against him. Even though Hillary Clinton told Brazilian bankers in 2013 that she had a “dream” of a “common market” for the entire Western Hemisphere, a “dream” that would feature “open borders” and “open trade,” Clinton was shrewd enough to realize that most voters did not share her dream and seldom challenged the substance of Trump’s nationalist and populist positions. Instead, Clinton and her allies in the media (including such “mainstream” conservative publications as National Review and The Weekly Standard) argued that Trump’s personality and demeanor made him unfit to be president, and that his ideas somehow represented racism.
That charge was false. Not only did Trump win a greater percentage of black, Hispanic, and Asian votes than Romney had won, but his victory was the result of winning dozens of counties that had voted for Barack Obama twice in what used to be the industrial heart of the country, stretching from Pennsylvania through Ohio to Michigan and Wisconsin, states last carried by Republican presidential candidates in 1988, 2004, 1988, and 1984, respectively. The fact that voters were not intimidated by the charge of “racism” is a hopeful sign for the future, as is the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, conceded shortly after Trump’s win by congressional Republicans who had pushed for the TPP but recognized that Trump won only because he had distanced himself from free trade. Trump’s Middle American Revolution may end up failing for a whole host of reasons, and much more will need to happen before this fragile victory can become the means for displacing the globalist elite, the goal Sam Francis set for the Middle American Revolution. But there is no doubt that Americans who do not want to see their country defined by the left have more reason to be optimistic than we did before November 8.