Editor’s Note: Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, is the founder of Purple Strategies and NewRepublican.org. You can follow him on Twitter @alexcast. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Alex Castellanos: Our country is sliding "rapidly down a gravelly slope"
Electorate believes our ruling elite are all of the same washed-out palette, he says
Donald Trump does not make mistakes, as he is unafraid to tell you: “Every time they say I make a mistake, my poll numbers go up,” he told reporters in Iowa. Trump informs us he does not ask God for forgiveness. After all, God hasn’t asked Trump for the same.
Desperate people do desperate things, however, and the American people despair their country is failing. Many Republican primary voters and caucus goers, meanwhile, believe they need a manly disciplinarian more than another pliable GOP leader. They are tired of their party’s flaccid incrementalism and think only bold action can save their country, teetering on a ledge.
That bold action comes in the person of Trump, whose New Hampshire town hall Wednesday night was a masterful piece of performance art, unduplicated by any Republican since Ronald Reagan.
Trump’s increasingly successful campaign, which must now be taken seriously by a stunned Republican establishment, is a loud alternative to the look-alike leadership offered by both parties. Indeed, an angry electorate believes our ruling elite are all of the same washed-out palette, like a painting left too long in the sun – no match for the urgency of the moment. They suspect their leaders, like corrupt cops, have blended into the ruling class that swindles us, fading into the self-serving establishment they were sent to Washington to change.
Yet as our country slides rapidly down a gravelly slope, picking up speed, approaching a breathtakingly sheer drop, our standard politicians are getting no traction with their Ten Point Plans and tired promises. This year, words mean nothing. Republicans want somebody to do something – anything – to rescue and renew our nation.
But rescue it from what, exactly?
The failure of Republican leadership to do more than say “no” and actually act upon their principles, instead of just talking about them, opened the door to Donald Trump’s ascension. But Trump is more than a legacy of Republican inaction. He is the inevitable result of decades of progressive failure. He is where frustrated nations turn when top-down, industrial age government fails to deliver what it promised and presents chaos instead.
When a government that has pledged to do everything can’t do anything, otherwise sensible people turn to the strongman. This is how the autocrat, the popular dictator, gains power. We are seduced by his success and strength.
The reality is that Americans have paid both political parties for the utopia of European-lite government. We have the largest government we’ve ever had, and yet it governs nearly nothing. Not our economy, which is stagnant. Not our place in the world, where we have lost respect. Not our fiscal affairs, where we have been rendered destitute. Not our borders, made of smoke. Not our health care, rendered increasingly unaffordable by a cynically named “Affordable Care Act.” The list of big, old, factory-like government’s broken promises is unending. Everything Washington’s elite said they would deliver, from better race relations and peace in our inner cities, to stability abroad, ends up both a larger challenge and more expensive.
We have been scammed – and we know it.
Our ruling class cannot see that their forest of quixotic promises has been stripped bare, but the American people can see nothing else. These woods are leafless now, barren of accomplishment. The debris from America’s expansive experiment in socialism, candy-coated as “progressivism,” litters our lives, frustrating us everywhere.
History tells us what to expect on the path we have been treading. In “The Road to Serfdom,” Friedrich Hayek wrote that the inevitable failure of the expanding “cradle to grave” state carries within it the seeds of oppression.
As our old, inflexible government grows beyond its capacity to service a complex and adaptive society, and its failures deface our landscape, it creates demand for efficiency. Who can bring order to this chaos? Who has the guts and the strength to make the mess we have made work?
Then, the call goes out for the strongman. Who cares what he believes or promises? And with the voice of the common man, though he is anything but, the strongman comes and pledges to make America great again.
But this strongman is a wolf in custom clothing. His smile masks a hunger he cannot contain.
He does not believe federal power is too removed from our lives to control our lives. He does not believe our factory-like government fails because it is trying to do too much, not too little. Instead, he appears to believe this: Lesser people than he are running things. And power should rest not with the people, but with him.
He believes “the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.” It is not a Democrat but the power-hungry Mr. Trump who says Washington should set the wages U.S. businesses pay H1B visa employees.
Trump has suggested Canadian-style, single-payer, socialized medicine would be better for us, if only smart, successful and really rich people like him would manage it. We should not be surprised if his “fantastic” health care plan emerges left of Obamacare.
He believes we should deport 11 million people and their children, even if those children have been born in America and are birthright citizens. That alone would require a new army of armed federal agents roaming our streets, in one of the biggest expansions of federal power in history.
Donald Trump does not believe the old leviathan has grown too powerful. Instead, he believes he should have the reins. All we have to do is give the strongman the power to make everything work.
But this is not the time to concentrate power in our nation’s capital. This is not the time to concentrate power in one man.
This is the time when conservative principle is most needed to take money and power out of Washington’s hands and return them to the American people. This is the time to open up our economy and open up education, health care and energy to fresh solutions, outside our exhausted public sector. This is the time for a new generation conservative to give Americans a choice between the top-down dictates of the past and the bottom-up opportunities of the future so we may open up America to prosperity.
Donald Trump is a strongman. But he is not the man for this moment.
He is not a Republican or a conservative. If we want to keep our future in our hands, we shouldn’t put it in his.