By Dennis Saffran
Earlier this month Tucker Carlson delivered an incredible monologue on his show that has been the shot heard round the conservative world – a declaration of independence from the stale economic orthodoxy of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” Republican Party establishment that has never represented the views of the millions of “Archie Bunker Democrats” who over the last 50 years have transformed the GOP from a permanent minority of the country club/Wall Street elite to a functional majority party of the working and lower-middle classes. Carlson’s populist manifesto offers the one hope for the GOP to regain any relevance in Queens, Archie Bunker’s borough that is now home to so many new arrivals from around the world who share his devotion to family, faith and the American Dream.
Responding to an anti-Trump op-ed by Mitt Romney, Carlson blasted plutocrats like Romney in both parties who, whether in the name of capitalism or “Lean In” feminism, place the interests of corporate finance above the dignity of human beings and families. It’s well worth watching or reading in full, but his conclusion sums it up. After noting that only Republicans can give us a “country that actually cares about families” and “where normal people with an average education who grew up in no place special can get married and have happy kids,” since the Democrats are too in thrall to the urban cultural elite to do so, he cautions:
“But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having.
“Internalizing all this will not be easy for Republican leaders. They’ll have to unlearn decades of bumper sticker-talking points and corporate propaganda. They’ll likely lose donors. Libertarians are sure to call any deviation from market fundamentalism a form of socialism.
“That’s a lie. … But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get…unless [we] reform the American economy in a way that protects normal people.”
Carlson’s plea to Republicans to reject market absolutism recalls an earlier form of conservatism focused on traditional institutions like religion and the family, before the right allied with corporate interests. It also reflects the “blue collar conservatism” of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and especially Donald Trump that has accommodated the economic interests of the party’s increasingly working-class voters. Nixon reached out to his “hard-hat” supporters like Archie by appointing the building trades union president as Secretary of Labor; Bush expanded Medicare to include prescription drugs; and Trump, alone among GOP candidates, pledged to preserve Social Security in its present form.
But the party moved away from this approach in the decade prior to Trump’s election. Even as it edged left, at the behest of its elites, on social issues that appealed to the blue collar base, it turned sharply to the right on economics – culminating in the obscene glorification of wealth at the 2012 convention that nominated Romney and his vile dismissal of “47 percent” of the electorate as “takers.” The GOP went from the party that celebrated hard work even if it didn’t lead to financial success to the party that celebrated only successful businessmen.
But it was unrequited love. For while Republicans were groveling to the corporate class, the corporate class was moving away from us at a dizzying rate as the wealthy embraced trendy cultural liberalism. The business community has become the most powerful force for political correctness, bullying legislators to repeal religious freedom laws and firing dissenters from liberal orthodoxy.
The rich are never going to vote for us again no matter how many babies we abort, transgenders we let into the ladies room and illegal aliens we shelter. Carlson is proposing that instead we start looking out for the interests of the people who actually support us. It’s a good idea, and it just might win us some new supporters among the new hardworking Archies in Queens.
Dennis Saffran is the VP of the Whitestone Republican Club, a two-time City Council candidate, and a sometime appellate lawyer and writer who has appeared in “City Journal,” “American Greatness” and other conservative publications.