Republikanernes svigt og Trumps succes

Af Christian Egander Skov

Trump er stadig med i spillet og kan meget vel nå at vinde præsidentvalget til november – selvom det stadigvæk er noget usandsynligt. Det er i sig selv overraskende for mange af os, der fra begyndelsen har været kritiske over for Trump. Han har naturligvis været godt hjulpet på vej af, at Hillary Clinton er næsten lige så upopulær som ham. Og det har næppe skadet, at hun tilsyneladende opsat på at forstærke billedet af sig som en utroværdig elitær skikkelse, der ser på den jævne amerikaner med en blanding af foragt og medlidenhed.

Men hendes svaghed er næppe forklaringen på Trumps relative succes. For selvom alle Trumps løsninger er forfejlede, så er det lykkedes ham at pege på relevante problemer, som optager mange almindelige amerikanere, først og fremmest globalisering, indvandring og hele den enorme kulturelle, økonomiske og demografiske forandring USA gennemlever i disse tider.

Da konservatismen blev (for) liberal

Trumps succes stiller Det republikanske parti og den konservative bevægelse i et uheldigt lys. For det er disse institutionersmanglende evne til at tage almindelige arbejderklasse-menneskers problemer alvorligt, der er årsagen til, at der er blevet plads til Trump. Partiet og de konservative har begået den store fejl, at de har glemt at formulere en meningsfyldt konservatisme. Det har betydet, at partiet nu er blevet overtaget af en kandidat, der ikke har rod i en konstitutionel konservativ tradition, men derimod i amerikansk populisme.

Man kan ikke hævde, at Republikanerne og de konservative ikke har været advaret. Tilbage i 2012 – efter Romneys uventet store nederlag til Obama – skrev Senior fellog ved the Ethics and Public Policy Center Henry Olsen således en længere artikel i det reformkonservative tidsskrift National Affairs, der indeholdt en meget klar analyse af problemet. Med udgangspunkt i debatten mellem Romney og Obama skrev han:

“The fundamental debate, then, was not over whether America stood for individual freedom and opportunity. Both candidates agreed that it did. The debate was over whether government had a legitimate role to play in directly helping all people exercise their freedom and opportunity or whether government’s role was to get out of the way of the few so that they could directly help the many. Romney’s Republican Party argued for the latter; the president and the Democrats argued for the former.

Republicans and conservatives never seriously considered they could lose that debate. One could see this throughout the campaign. When polls suggested that Romney was behind, Republicans disputed the accuracy of the polls. “Too many Democrats,” they said. “Don’t believe those pollsters behind the curtain. Believe in America.”

Nevertheless, the president’s view won, 51% to 47%. This is rightfully distressing to conservatives. It is distressing because they believe the president seeks to fundamentally remake the idea of American citizenship into something that no longer uniquely encourages personal freedom and self-reliance. Conservatives believe, with much justification, that the president places a higher moral value on collective decision-making and requirements than on individual judgment and preferences. That may indeed be the case. But by choosing to define America as a land primarily for hardy strivers, Republicans have strayed from the center of American politics, a center that has held for all of our history.

Some conservatives may think American principles require hands-off government, but most Americans have consistently rejected that idea. One could date this rejection to the election of 1912, when two progressives and a socialist got 75% of the vote against the constitutionalist incumbent, William Howard Taft. But one could also date it back to 1860, when the party of Lincoln stood for government action on behalf of ordinary Americans through protective tariffs, subsidization of intercontinental railroads, creating land-grant colleges to extend learning, and giving federal land out for free to western settlers.

If American principles simply require hands-off government, then American principles have not been part of our politics for a very long time. A hands-off approach is not what American politics and principles require; it is a parody of what America and American conservatism mean”

De konservative har misforstået Reagan

Den liberale konservatisme, der har domineret Republikanerne siden 1980’erne og som har betydet, at partiet har tabt den politiske kamp mod venstrefløjen (og i dag har tabt kampen om sin egen sjæl til højrepopulismen) skyldes ifølge Olsen bl.a. en misforståelse af, hvad arven efter Reagan var. Konservatisme er andet en kampen mod venstrefløjen og kampen mod statsmagten.

Den har positive værdier at byde på, bl.a. en respekt for det almindelige menneske i hans stræben efter at forbedre sin tilværelse. Det handlede grundlæggende om værdier ikke om for enhver pris at hegne statens magt ind.

“The reason conservatives embraced Reagan was that he expressed their most deeply held values. He did not speak about government power; he spoke about justice. He spoke about how government could help average people do things that they could not be expected to do for themselves — and how it should expect average people to do those things that they could. The American government would neither keep its hands off nor heavily place its hands on; it would offer everyone a hand up.

The painful truth is that President Obama’s rhetoric was closer to Reagan’s than was the rhetoric of Romney and many other leading Republicans in 2012. Obama’s policies will not deliver what he promised, but conservatives will not be given an opportunity to implement their vision until they show they understand and respect the average person’s life. Conservatives must channel their inner Reagan and rediscover the sources of his connection with the heart of the American electorate.”

Er der en fremtid for det konservative USA?

Afslutningsvis gav Olsen Republikanerne dette råd:

“Republicans and conservatives can succeed only if they come home to Reagan’s vision of America. That vision sees government as a danger but not an enemy, and looks for ways to make it useful rather than harmful to the advancement of a free society. It is a vision in line with the spiritual heritage of Lincoln’s Republican Party — one that gives average people a hand up, not a hand out.

[…]

If conservatives can understand that they are the party of government by and for the people as opposed to the party that wants to repeal all government entirely — that they are the party of a hand up rather than the party of the handout or of hands-off government — then, and only then, can they continue to lead America further on what Ronald Reagan called mankind’s journey from the swamp to the stars.”

Som sagerne står er det klart – og ærgerlig – at hverken Republikanerne eller den konservative bevægelse har fulgt rådet.

Hvilken fremtid konservatismen har i USA har nu meget at gøre med, hvordan man reagerer på Trump. Vælger de konservative at grave sig ned i liberalistiske minimalsstatsprincipper, er det sandsynligt, at de vil blive marginaliseret i det Republikanske parti. Der er simpelthen ikke vælgeropbakning til denne kurs i partiets base.

Vælger de at hoppe med på den højrepopulistiske bølge, så er der ikke mere tilbage af det konservative projekt, og vi vil i øvrigt højst sandsynlig se en markant splittelse i bevægelsen, hvis dette skulle blive hovedretningen.

Vælger de derimod at opfatte Trumps succes som et varsel om nye tider og en advarsel mod at glemme, at konservatisme altid må være andet og mere end kampen mod staten, og at den altid må være netop en kamp for almindelige menneskers livsvilkår og de samfundskonstituerende værdier, og forstår de, at omhyggelig reform er en mere frugtbar vej end gold reaktion eller nihilistisk destruktion, så er det endnu for tidlig at dømme den ude.