WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 — After 18 years as a Republican state official in Michigan, it is not difficult for me to understand the revolt of the GOP working class in 2016. The hard reality is that political promises were made and discarded after 2010, 2012 and 2014. Elected GOP leadership in Washington has nearly always been isolated from the heartland states as if the consequences of their failed leadership were of little or no consequence.
2016 is proving otherwise.
The political tsunami that has swept across America is more than simple typical voter disenchantment. Millions of new voters demonstrate that 2016 is an outright revolt.
In Michigan, The Detroit Free Press reported, “As of earlier Tuesday, nearly 556,000 absentee ballots had been issued: 311,407 Republican ballots and 239,197 Democratic ones.” This was 162,000 more than were issued four years earlier. The 2.4 million voters who turned out for the Michigan’s presidential primary shattered the 1972 record, when 1.9 million people cast ballots.
The millions of new GOP voters are real. Whether swept in by billionaire businessman Trump with his commitment to build a wall at the border, or by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with his firm stand as a shield against assaults on the U.S. Constitution, religious freedoms and the Second Amendment, new voters are flocking to the GOP. They are angry and have set their sights on the Washington establishment and its controlling donor class.
As the campaign pace has quickened, the establishment has raised voter ire with its attempts to marginalize Trump, first by ignoring him, then by treating him as a reality show joke. Cruz has been called out of touch and unwilling to compromise. He wears that second accusation proudly, as do his supporters.
The media story is that the revolt is based upon fear. The real story is that it’s based on genuine disgust with the erosion of America’s founding principles, values, jobs, security and constitutional rights.
Working class rage and political populism are not new phenomena in America, but our elites never learn from them. President Andrew Jackson was catapulted into the oval office by populist anger, with over 70 percent of the electoral vote. His platform was simple: He was the campion of the common man.
Jackson had been vague on policies but strong on standing against Washington’s privileged class who favored aggressive economic policies that 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.
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.
For working class voters who are the base of the GOP, the current political war is an open rejection of this feudal approach to governance. They have decided to make this election cycle their battlefield, and they will choose the candidates who will be their warriors.
The GOP leadership has lost the trust of the GOP heartland. GOP promises—the end of Obamacare, emphasis on the constitutional rights of the unborn, stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into America—are lies. Once it gets its selected candidates into office, the GOP doesn’t care what its voters want.
“Just give us control of the House, then we’ll act.” “We can’t act without the Senate; give us control of the Senate.” We can’t do anything without the White House.”
GOP voters feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy’s football. It’s always been, just one more time, maybe next time. Could the GOP pull the wool over voters’ eyes yet again? Yes, until this explosion of voter rage in the heartland.
Trump’s win in Michigan and his ability to connect with Reagan Democrats underscores the reality of the political revolt. Cruz’s second-place finish in Michigan and his Idaho win leave the establishment GOP with nothing to salvage.
The reality that the Washington establishment must now accept is that GOP voters will reject establishment candidates like Jeb Bush was and Marco Rubio. There is a new GOP voter base consisting of angry evangelicals, dissatisfied Democrats, disappointed independents and families hit hard by lower wages and home foreclosures. They’re worried about illegal immigration, job loss, Muslim extremism and jihad in America. That is the new reality.
So when the opening gavel sounds at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, the establishment should not be surprised if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz receives the nod as the GOP nominee. For the first time in more than a generation, the people, not political insiders, are making the selection. The people will choose the man they believe cares about their interests, their families and the nation’s future. The revolt of the Republican base has arrived.