In marketing positioning is everything. If you cannot be #1 or #2 you need a niche focus, an appeal to a part of the market that may be neglected by the leaders. The alternative is to create an entirely new category and then dominate it. Apple has created several new categories which it dominates to its customers’ and shareholders’ delight.
In politics it is rare that a third party can muster the power to surpass the dominant two players. But a few times we have seen someone create a third category that redefines the leaders. The progressives of 1900 came from the Republicans, but the movement crossed party lines. The established institutions were not serving the public and the voters revolted. The party mattered less. A spirit against the elites dominated and the voters did not care if they were represented by the patrician Roosevelts; Teddy the Republican or Franklin the Democrat. The spirit of progressivism became the spirit of the Democratic party. The progressive movement marked a seismic shift in course of our politics.
We are witnessing a similar shift under Trump. The divide is not Democrat or Republican; they are merely marketing organizations for similar interests. The parties have become addicted to their power not their ideology. As Nancy Pelosi admonishes her candidates, “Just win.”
On one hand Trump is moving towards greater central control in his trade and regulatory policies; on another hand he is moving more power to the legislature and picking judges more committed to constitutional restraints.
Progressives champion pragmatism over ideology. We have never had a president less defined by any ideology. Perhaps ideology should matter.
The voters are not playing the same game as the two dominant parties. For them it is the party of the elites and the party of Trump. Just as in the first Progressive Era of 1900-1920 they feel failed by their institutions and seek someone to correct it.
In the New York Post Selene Zito writes Why Trump’s supporters won’t care about Cohen and Manafort’s convictions:
This new conservative populist coalition is not the fluke the political class hoped it was. Donald Trump did not cause it, he is just the result of it, so no matter what he does, it continues. It is predicated on them, not him.
The coalition is a strike at not just tone deafness in both Congress and the White House but also high levels of incompetence, negligence and shoddy performance at agencies, as well as inept social services, a bloated and incompetent bureaucracy, endless wars and multinational agreements and treaties that don’t benefit average people.
These voters knew who Trump was going in, they knew he was a thrice-married, Playmate-dating, Howard Stern regular who had the morals of an alley cat. They were willing to look past all of that because of how institutions had failed their communities for three consecutive presidencies.
Right now the value of Trump to the Trump voter is he is all that stands between them and handing the keys to Washington back over to the people inside Washington. That’s it. He’s their only option. You’ve got to pick the insiders or him.
The shift to socialism from the Democratic party leaders is a shift to more government power. This appeals poorly to the voters who feel those institutions that have served them so poorly deserve more power. The left wants more central power and yet finds that power in the hands of their worst nightmare unacceptable. The only way to have it both ways is with a tyranny that few would accept.