Overall, President Donald Trump has disappointed patriots but he’s still set in motion a Republican transformation that can’t be stopped. The top concerns for GOP voters now: building the wall and limiting legal and illegal immigration. Serious Republican candidates for office now have to talk about immigration to maintain grassroots credibility—or else, like Justin Amash, quit before they are fired [Justin Amash Officially Quits House Republicans and Steps Down From Committee Seat, by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, July 9, 2019]. Rather than being a revolutionary candidate, President Trump may have just been a transitional one, between the old conservative Republicans of the past and the New National Conservatism (nothing to do with the neutered version now frantically peddled by Yoram Hazony et al) of the future. New leaders are emerging to take up the MAGA mantle—and old leaders are adapting.
Here, in order of least promising to most promising, are my predictions of the heirs to MAGA.
Senator Tom Cotton looked like the early favorite to me. His resumé is essentially perfect. He’s young, a combat vet, a Harvard graduate, and a favorite of the Beltway Right. You may scoff but that matters—without Beltway Right intransigence, Trump would have won Minnesota because you wouldn’t have had Evan McMullin.
Cotton is more disciplined than Trump and won’t pick the stupid, distracting, and unnecessary fights that could still cost the president re-election. [What to Know in Washington: Low Approval Holding Trump Back, by Zachary Sherhood and Brandon Lee, Bloomberg, June 18, 2019]
Tom Cotton has also shown real leadership on immigration and related issues. He called for the IRS to investigate the patriot-persecuting Southern Poverty Law Center. He re-introduced the RAISE Act, which would reform the immigration system and slash legal immigration. He shows awareness of the dangers automation poses to American workers. He understands that mass immigration undermines the sense of community any country relies on. He blasts elites who think citizenship is “meaningless” and says immigration is not “just another issue.”[Immigration in the National Interest, by Senator Tom Cotton, Imprimis, October 2017] In short, he gets it—at least part of it.
What’s the problem? Cotton doesn’t get it on foreign policy. (Perhaps this is why the Beltway likes him). He wants to go back to the bad old Bush days of foreign wars in the Middle East. He has already called for direct military action against Iran, which could start a war the U.S. can ill-afford financially and morally. Republicans can’t credibly argue against Democrat “socialism” on the grounds of expenditure if they are willing to blow trillions on wars for dubious interests.
This is disqualifying.
Ted Cruz often said the right things during the 2016 campaign, including highlighting immigration’s negative effects on wages. He even backed then-Senator Jeff Sessions in calling for a minimum wage for H1-B workers of $110,000, which would dry up the market instantly. He won the endorsements of Steve King and Tom Tancredo and portrayed himself as an anti-Amnesty leader.
But there was something about Ted Cruz in 2016 that made your skin crawl. Pat Buchanan blasted the “self-righteousness and smugness” of Cruz at the 2016 Republican National Convention, where Cruz foolishly failed to endorse Trump. Cruz wanted to restore the “old Reagan coalition,” which, frankly, wouldn’t have worked. His newfound immigration patriotism was a flip-flop away from his corporate, pro-cheap labor past. “Lyin’ Ted” or “El Rato” as he was known in some quarters, came off as the consummate Conservatism Inc. scumbag. When he called a basketball hoop a “ring” while pandering in Indiana, it seemed to confirm that he was just an out-of-touch Republican politician.
Well, as the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket said, Ted Cruz has been born again hard since 2016. (Maybe it’s the beard?) He patched things up with President Trump, beat Beto O’Rourke, and even beat Jimmy Kimmel in basketball.
Since 2016, Cruz occasionally looks, well, cool, roasting liberals on Twitter. [Cruz hits back after Kimmel sketch: ‘Jimmy’s feelings are still hurt that I kicked his ass at hoops,’ by Judy Kurtz, The Hill, December 19, 2018] Unlike Donald Trump (sometimes), Ted Cruz does not care what the Leftist media says about him. He seems more self-confident and to have truly learned from 2016. “Lyin’ Ted” is now “Lion Ted.”
Thus Ted Cruz blamed Trump for antifa violence during the 2016 campaign, but today he is campaigning for a federal investigation into antifa. It might be personal for him—antifa chased him out of a restaurant. (President Trump remains silent.)
During his campaign against Beto O’Rourke, Cruz stated he wanted to end birthright citizenship [Cruz Backs Trump’s Call to Restrict Birthright Citizenship: It ‘Incentivizes’ Illegal Immigration, Fox News, November 1, 2018]. (Trump has done nothing).
Cruz also introduced the “El Chapo Act” that would make seized drug cartel money pay for the wall. (Trump didn’t take it up.)
Finally, Ted Cruz has aggressively pressed tech companies on censorship, even to the point of endorsing Elizabeth Warren’s plan to possibly break up Big Tech. (President Trump has done nothing.)
In short, Cruz shows promise. His next term ends in 2024, which opens the possibility he could run for president that year.
Yet we shouldn’t expect too much. As Faith Goldy noted, Cruz said good things at CPAC, but ultimately spent more time talking about Israel. He may still just be too much of a Beltway-oriented “movement conservative.”
Kris Kobach needs no introduction to VDARE.com readers. He endorsed Donald Trump early in the primary campaign and, in Editor Peter Brimelow’s words, “is the acknowledged national expert on state and local enforcement of immigration law.” It may have been a poor staffing choice by Trump or a poor choice by Kobach to decline a reportedly offered position. Whatever the reason, the lack of Kobach at the Department of Homeland Security has been a catastrophe for the Administration, leading to the repeated enforcement failures that created the ongoing border crisis.
Kobach’s campaign for Kansas governor in 2018 failed, but that was partially because of local issues. Previous governor Sam Brownback undertook an “experiment” of tax cuts that backfired spectacularly [Failed tax-cut experiment in Kansas should guide national leaders, by Heather Boushey, The Hill, November 29, 2018]. Kobach unwisely tried to defend Brownback’s legacy and paid for it [In Wichita, Kobach blasts funding for illegal immigrants, by Daniel Salazar, The Witchita Eagle, June 9, 2017].
Kris Kobach recently announced he will be running for the open Senate seat in Kansas [Kobach to run for Senate in Kansas, by Reid Wilson, The Hill, July 8, 2019]. The response from the Main Stream Media and the Republican Establishment has been apocalyptic, with a spokesthing from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, one Joanna Rodriguez [Tweet her] actually condemning his candidacy [Republicans torch Kobach for Senate run, by James Arkin, Politico, July 8, 2019]. There is an ongoing campaign by the Republican National Committee to attack Kobach, incredibly citing smears from the Southern Poverty Law Center. This defamation is arguably what dissuaded Trump from appointing him.
Yet if Kobach can win the primary, he has a better shot at winning a “national” seat than a state position, because he won’t be tied down by Brownback and local issues. And he would be an incredibly effective America First champion. What’s needed is for President Trump to show some loyalty, and to bring the Beltway GOP to heel.
Freshman Senator Josh Hawley was one of the few bright spots in 2018 when he defeated incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. He ran on—and won on—immigration patriotism and opposing Big Tech. He’s already introduced a bill that would strip Big Tech of Section 230 Protection from publisher liabilities unless they provide a real “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”
Hawley’s bill would require all large platforms to submit to a government audit to ensure they operate neutrally. (President Trump is simply “monitoring” the situation, instead of acting or voicing support.) Hawley also supports legislation that would stop YouTube from recommending videos featuring children or face a $10,000 fine [The Technology 202: Facial recognition debate expected to turn toward immigration, by Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, July 9, 2019]
Hawley is strong on immigration, saying the U.S. must “hold Mexico’s feet to the fire,” where asylum seekers must stay in Mexico until they are processed [Sen. Josh Hawley: US Must hold Mexico’s ‘feet to the fire’ on immigration, by Julia Musto, Fox News, June 10, 2019]. He supports the RAISE act, which would limit legal immigration [GOP senators introduce bill to reduce legal immigration, by Alexander Bolton, The Hill, April 10, 2019]. (One downside—he’s been less than energetic in opposing birthright citizenship.)
Hawley also senses that the old conservative clichés are failing. In his remarkable inaugural speech in the Senate, Hawley called for defending the “great American middle” against an “arrogant aristocracy.” Even better, he suggested there’s something “deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy” [Sen. Hawley Delivers Inaugural Floor Speech on ‘Great American Middle,’ by Charlie Hoffman, Washington Free Beacon, May 15, 2019]. Referencing rising suicide and overdose rates, the speech defied conservative orthodoxy that everything will just work out fine under the free market [Josh Hawley, the Senator From Main Street, by James Pinkerton, The American Conservative, May 22, 2019].
No wonder New York’s Ed Kilgore worries that “Josh Hawley Could Be the Face of the Post-Trump Right,” a political force that won’t be so easy to steamroll like the David French-style “liberal conservatives” who exist to lose and want to appease Leftists, not defeat them [June 5, 2019]
The real leader of the American Right today is not President Donald Trump. It’s Tucker Carlson.
He’s the best communicator in the country, he’s talking about the most important issues, and he has a platform the Left hasn’t been able to take away (yet). And they’re getting desperate, even to the point of doxxing his home address and attacking his house.
Meanwhile, journalists/ enforcers have launched repeated campaigns to get him fired—but he keeps dominating the ratings. [Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson enjoy ratings surge, by Lynn Elber, Washington Times, June 25, 2019]
Tucker recognizes Mexico is a hostile foreign power. He may have single-handedly saved Trump from ruining his Administration by launching a war on Iran. He also defended VDARE.com—by name—from Big Tech censorship, and warned about the danger to democracy from Big Tech. He’s directly attacked the Koch Brothers and explained to his viewers “why the Republican Party often seems completely out of sync with its own voters.”
Tucker is preaching unwanted truths from within Conservatism Inc. I’m sure the top executives of the nonprofits clustered in Northern Virginia are furious he’s on the air. Certainly, any lowly staffer at any Conservatism Inc. organization who raised his arguments would be fired.
Perhaps the most revealing exchange of the last year came a few months ago when Carlson spoke at the Turning Point USA conference [Betrayal: American Conservatives and Capitalism, by Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, January 28, 2019]. While Charlie Kirk desperately tried to convince the young crowd to support tax cuts for Big Tech, Carlson had them laughing at conservatism’s “inflexible theories.”
He’s speaking to those “Market Skeptical Republicans” who constitute a huge part of the GOP base. He’s the voice of Americans who think there’s nothing wrong with defending our civic national identity. That’s the path forward for the American Right.
Tucker Carlson is sparking the intellectual renaissance the GOP desperately needs.
Could he run for office? Some Leftists are afraid he will—Jeet Heer suggested he might be the “competent & effective Trump” that could come after the current president. But Carlson might be stronger where he is.
The pessimist in me says the journofa will get his scalp eventually over some stupid thing. The Beltway Right wants him gone, so it can get back to the same old slogans [The Right Should Reject Tucker Carlson’s Victimhood Populism, by (of course!!) David French, National Review, January 4, 2019].
Perhaps then Carlson should take his case to the people. [Tucker Carlson for president, by Damon Linker, The Week, June 7, 2019] He’s certainly a better spokesperson for Trump than Trump himself.
There’s one final name to conjure with—and that’s the literal heir, Donald Trump Jr. He’s an extraordinarily effective campaigner and helped stem the bleeding in the 2018 elections. [‘A natural’: Donald Trump Jr. emerges as a campaign star, despite Russia baggage, by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, Washington Post, August 12, 2018] Journos hate him and fear he’s mainstreaming the “Far Right”–always a good sign. [Trump Jr.: Dad’s ambassador to the fringe, by Cristiano Lima, Politico, April 8, 2018]
His talking points remain basic and he doesn’t have much to say besides the usual clichés. He’s obviously limited by his role as the President’s son.
Yet if there comes a time when Donald Trump Jr. runs for office in his own right, he’s someone patriots should watch closely.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.