The One Book You Must Read to Understand American Politics in 2018

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According to F.H. Buckley — Foundation Professor at George Mason University’s Scalia School of Law and frequent guest on the show of ideas — the surprise result of the 2016 election was a product of political paradox. An establishment candidate of a counterrevolutionary and aristocratic “New Class” was defeated by a revolutionary capitalist offering a path to social mobility. Forget labels like conservative and liberal — the real divide in American politics is between this New Class of privileged elites and the rest of America. In short, it was all about economic opportunity and jobs for Americans. Donald Trump saw this, while Hillary Clinton and the Republican establishment did not.

Buckley, a Trump speechwriter and key transition advisor, introduced the idea of the New Class in his last book, The Republic of Virtue: How We Tried to Ban Corruption, Failed, and What we Can Do About It (2017)He explained this class as an outgrowth of the Hamiltonian vision of American greatness, which defended hereditary aristocracy against the Jeffersonian ideal of a “natural aristocracy,” in which anyone with talent and motivation could become successful.

Thankfully, the Jeffersonian aristocracy has been the norm for much of U.S. history. American’s risk-loving attitude, combined with low taxes and regulation, has created the most economically-mobile nation ever. However, a creeping “administrative state” and growing risk aversion among professionals, academics, opinion leaders, and the politically-connected have replaced American dynamism with an entrenched economic elite shielded from competition.

Buckley’s latest book, The Republican Workers Party: How the Trump Victory Drove Everyone Crazy, and Why It Was Just What We Needed (Encounter Books, 2018), takes up where his last book left off — discussing the implications of the growing gulf between the average voter and the New Class. He argues that conservatives and libertarians should embrace a truth about inequality championed (poorly) by modern liberals and socialists like Bernie Sanders. The book is about how Trump bulldozed the tone-deaf republican establishment and created a new movement that he called the Republican Workers Party:

Frank joined Bob on Sunday (9/16) with his inside view on what “Make America Great Again” means. This includes a defense of nationalism rooted in a sense of fraternity with all fellow Americans. Whether you are riding the Trump train, remain a steadfast NeverTrumper, or are waiting to see what the President does next, The Republican Workers Party is required reading (or listening) for any student of politics. Sign up for weekly emails to get early access to the transcript when it is available.

Pre-empting a charge of hypocrisy, Professor Buckley is forthright in admitting to being a member of the New Class. However, he is not looking to defend his economic and social privilege. This privilege, he says, stems from a regulatory briar patch too thick for small businesses to navigate, a broken educational system that keeps the lower class trapped in poverty, and an immigration system that blocks out high-skilled competitors while allowing large influxes of low-skilled labor to undercut middle-class wages.

Some libertarians will find the book difficult to read. Buckley marshals survey data indicating that the political “sweet spot” in 2018 America is not socially liberal and economically conservative, but rather moderately socially conservative and economically liberal with respect to a social safety net. For example, Social Security and Medicare remain some of the most popular government programs on the book. In other words, we’re not all libertarians now.

The silver lining is that Trump’s vision of a workers party includes slashing regulations by as much as 70 percent, nominating judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia, and introducing greater choice and competition into our school system.

On trade, Trump looks particularly bad to libertarians. Buckley admits that Trump’s tariffs, and the worst-case scenario of a trade war with China, harm American workers. We can pray for the removal of Trump’s protectionist economic advisor Peter Navarro, who is the “source of all chaos” in the White House according to Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear.

Finally, Trump’s goal of immigration reform is often viewed as bigoted — a return to nationalism that offends those with New Class cosmopolitan sensibilities. Here, Professor Buckley’s Canadian-America citizenship gives him a particularly nuanced perspective. In short, he advocates something closer to the Canadian system of merit-based immigration. Carefully distinguishing between a healthy nationalism and unhealthy populism, he goes on to explain that solidarity with one’s fellow Americans can never be racist, given our diverse citizenry.

“National governments can demand too much and turn oppressive. So too can families. But that’s not an argument against the affection one naturally feels for one’s nation or one’s family.”

— Frank Buckley, *The Republican Workers Party*

While warning against the dangers of both excessive and ethnic nationalism, Buckley takes a bold stand for American cultural nationalism, which is ultimately a liberal nationalism. The Democrats, he says, have lost their commitment to the liberalism of the Founding fathers, which has always been about economic opportunity for all who are willing to work for it.

Tune in for a longer summary of Buckley’s book The Republican Workers Party.

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