MCCOTTER: Has the GOP Rediscovered Its Roots and Reagan-Democrats?

As we head into the midterm elections, the past beckons with omens of opportunity. Whether they augur well or ill remains to be seen…

Having represented a suburban swing seat in Metro Detroit from 2003-2012, I vividly recall trying to explain to our house leadership how the GOP had to make a concerted effort to earn blue collar workers’ (i.e., the “Reagan Democrats’”) votes. The typical response from the leadership was “those voters are now Republicans.”

I also recall the rank-and-file members’ pervasive wariness regarding corporations, especially among the swing seats, who experience had taught the fickle, cynical nature of big business’ campaign contributions and support. The consensus among us back benchers was that corporations were the “P” word (no not that one; I mean “pragmatic” and decidedly unprincipled).

Unfortunately, the leadership – who reaped corporation contributions whether they were in the majority or the minority, tended to either disagree, dismiss such objections, and/or blame the member for not sufficiently toeing the corporatist party line. 

Reality is a painful teacher, however. After several Democratic waves, such as in 2006 and 2008, the vast majority of GOP base and its Congressional backbenchers (notably the ones who lost their seats) well understood the dangers of ignoring blue collar, Reagan-Democrat voters; and of being pawns doing the bidding of the corporatist, “business-government” behemoth. The Republican establishment understood it, too. However, their goal was not to sever their corporatist ties and serve blue collar and, indeed, all Americans. It was to try bridge the abyss to retain their powerbase. They spectacularly failed.

By 2016, Mr. Trump had blown up their bridge by crossing the corporatist Rubicon and actively courting – and receiving – blue collar votes, most importantly in the Midwest, which led to his electoral college victory. Still, the lesson of President Trump’s 2016 victory fell upon the barren ground of the GOP establishment that remained addicted to the ready cash and comforting, antiquated ideological confines of corporatism.

But, once more, reality ruined the party. After the 2018 Democratic wave and, in 2020, the party’s extra-legal collusion with corporations and the media to rig the rules and defeat the incumbent Trump the writing was on the wall. After the continuing collusion between corporate America and the Democrats to infringe upon Americans’ liberty, prosperity, parental rights, freedom of conscience, push the “DIE Cult” of “diversity, inclusion, and equity,” et. al., the vast majority of the GOP and large swaths of independents joined blue collar workers in rejecting the Left and its colluding corporate allies.

As the Washington Examiner’s astute political observer David Drucker succinctly records:
“Accelerating House Republicans' divorce from corporate America is an eagerness among party officials to sign the papers, believing the dissolution of this decades-old political marriage will consummate their budding relationship with working-class voters and ensure dominance over the Democrats… Multiple factors are driving this astonishing political separation, including the inroads former President Donald Trump made with blue-collar voters now spilling over into gains with Hispanics, and the rise of politically active corporations siding with Democrats on cultural issues… ‘The Republican Party is so much healthier now that we’ve divorced ourselves from corporate America,’ Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) told the Washington Examiner.”

Crucially, as Drucker notes, “the friction between Republicans and corporate America does not mean the party is now anti-business.” He relates this observation from a Senate staffer, which encapsulates much of the GOP’s sentiments: “While most small- and medium-sized businesses continue to be run by people with common sense and patriotism, that is largely untrue of our large corporations.”

What is certainly true is that we shall soon get a good indication of whether the new, populist, anti-corporatist alliance of the GOP, blue collar workers of all races and ethnicities, populists, and independents will be permanent and prevail. While the early signs are propitious, it is best not to leap to any final conclusions in the wake of one election or session of Congress.

This is a new populist alliance among citizens not well accustomed to politically aligning with each other. Time and understanding will be required to cement the alliance into a political force capable of securing Americans’ liberty, prosperity, and security.

Doubtless, there will be many disappointments along the way. Nevertheless, for our free republic, the new, populist GOP’s return to its roots to reject corporatism and reach out to blue collar “Reagan-Democrats” is as promising as it is long overdue.  

A Human Events contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Radio Show," among sundry media appearances.
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