Trump has an ancestor

“Hell, we get too much dignity in government now, what we need is some meanness. You elect one of those steelworkers guvnuh, you talk about a revolution — damn, there’d be a shootin’ and tearin’ down and burnin’ up and killing and bloodlettin’, sho nuff,” intoned Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1966. With the exception of the “sho nuff” part, it could as easily come from Donald Trump in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, in 2018.

For some reason, no one compares Trump to Wallace, especially in campaign style. Like Wallace, Trump makes a special effort to praise the police and he regularly attacks the media — another staple of the former Alabama governor’s repertoire. And last, but certainly not least, is the use of the rally.

Wallace is generally forgotten but his style is very much alive. For those who love dignity in office, Trump is a nightmare, but his pitch is anything but original. Wallace would mock hecklers, challenge those booing him to come out on stage to settle accounts physically and he would make fun of his opponents. Trump is a New York version but the script is not his, it is Wallace’s. It would be tempting to throw Louisiana’s Huey Long into the mix but he imbibed alcohol — not so with Wallace or Trump.

For the Republican party it seems poetic justice that Wallace finally conquered the GOP through the Donald. Years of playing the race card in local campaigns and winking and nudging to old Democratic constituencies finally led to the triumph of populism. The tariff stance, even if it is not completely adhered to, brings the lie to the GOP argument that is all about untrammeled capitalism.

Again, comparisons to Wallace are apt. He never liked Republicans and said that the only thing they wanted to “conserve was money.” He endorsed much of the New Deal and a good part of the Great Society that did not specifically relate to civil rights. Wallace tried to appeal to unions, but was limited by Labor’s Committee on Political Education, or COPE. But he held conservative ideology in contempt. Trump has played along with the GOP but his tariff moves signal that those days may be coming to an end.

Trump benefited from the collapse of the conservative wing within the Democratic party. Bill Clinton tried to receive the leadership council or so-called “blue dog” Democrats but fell short. Trump inherited the last remnants of that part of the Democratic party. This wing, despite their harsh social positions, nevertheless believe in Social Security and Medicare. The libertarian branch of the GOP is eager to dismantle such programs.

But if the Republicans are somehow shocked they forged this bond –mostly out of opportunism. Barry Goldwater’s abrupt about face on civil rights in 1964 was all about “going hunting where the ducks are” and those “ducks” were in the south. They might have felt kinship with segragationists like Strom Thurmond but it was the Wallace voters they had to absorb.

Trump is a Democrat of sorts, mainly of the stripe that no one would recognize. Trump brought Wallaceism into the fold and his “party” will have to accept the result.


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