WASHINGTON, May 16, 2016 — The Indiana primary, when Indiana voters solidified front runner Donald Trump’s lock on the presidential nomination was not just decision day for the GOP; it was also an historic turning point in national political history.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz and billionaire businessman Donald Trump gave birth to a new American movement. They torched conventional political practices, pundits and the Republican establishment, awakening millions of voters from establishment paralysis.
May 3 was the day that Capitol Hill lost its grip on the American voting public. Despite his Indiana loss, Cruz will emerge from the ashes of this year as a potential conservative standard bearer, as did Ronald Reagan.
Forty years ago, in 1976, Reagan stood on the precipice of becoming the Republican Party standard bearer. But President Gerald Ford won the nomination. Reagan graciously backed out of the battle, looked past the 1976 presidential election, and called out to millions of followers watching the convention to imagine a time a century from then and what people will be thinking.
“Will they look back with appreciation and say, ‘Thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom, who kept us now 100 years later free, who kept our world from nuclear destruction’?
“And if we failed, they probably won’t get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom, and they won’t be allowed to talk of that or read of it.
“This is our challenge; and this is why here in this hall tonight, better than we have ever done before, we have got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry the message they are waiting for.
“We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory.”
Four decades later, Reagan’s challenge remains true. The Trump-Cruz phenomenon is the battle to preserve that future.
Examine the landscape of the battle which began in the Midwest in Iowa and effectively ended in the Midwest, in Indiana. The anger in Iowa was a launching pad for an upheaval that was not created or directed by multi-million-dollar ad campaigns. It wasn’t channeled by endorsements from establishment insiders.
The anger in the heart of the American spirit had its genesis in distrust, fed by unkept political promises and years of disappointment by politicians who promised greatly, delivered nothing, and treated heartland voters as mindless serfs.
Cruz and Trump waged campaigns based in political populism. This movement reached out to constitutionalists who saw America breaking from the founding fathers’ vision. It recruited blue-collar families from the nation’s rust belt, who saw their jobs vaporized by trade deals that empowered Mexico and the Pacific rim, deals that threatened to wipe out their incomes and life savings with a congressional handshake and presidential signature.
Trump’s May 3 victory in Indiana is a populist rejection of the GOP. Cruz and Trump stoked the flames of discontent, emboldening their followers to seize the day. The party elites who expected to dig the political graves of Trump and Cruz got a rude awakening when their candidates, Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio, were buried instead.
This populist movement, fueled by working class anger, first appeared in 1828. The newly created Democratic Party’s candidate, Andrew Jackson, was swept into the oval office with over 70 percent of the electoral vote. His platform was simple: He was the champion of the common man.
Jackson, like Trump, was vague on policies but strong in his stand against Washington’s privileged class, whose aggressive economic policies hurt workers and farmers. Voters wanted leadership and solutions, while Washington insiders wanted to create new forms of dependence. The voters revolted in 1828, and the rest is history.
That history is about to be repeated.
Trump and Cruz have shown that the relevance of a political party depends on the ability of its leaders to deliver the goods. The GOP’s Washington leadership and its inside-the-Beltway punditry class have treated the voters as serfs waiting to receive marching orders from their rulers. The voters have rejected those orders.
Both Trump and Cruz have tapped into a force that will continue to be defined by the rank-and-file. Wealthy donors, establishment media pundits and political party establishments will be left on the sidelines, powerless and irrelevant.
The political darkness imposed by party interests is being pierced by flames kindled across the nation’s heartland. The false dawn promised by the political establishment has been abandoned.
The American political landscape of 2016 will be dominated by new leadership. Trump and Cruz have opened the door. There is nothing more startling than a movement whose time has arrived.