20 years ago, Sam Francis foresaw something akin to The Trumpening in America’s political future:
What if you dropped all this leftover 19th-century piety about the free market and promised to fight the elites who were selling out American jobs? What if you just stopped talking about reforming Medicare and Social Security and instead said that the elites were failing to deliver better health care at a reasonable price? What if, instead of vainly talking about restoring the place of religion in society — something that appeals only to a narrow slice of Middle America — you simply promised to restore the Middle American core — the economic and cultural losers of globalization — to their rightful place in America? What if you said you would restore them as the chief clients of the American state under your watch, being mindful of their interests when regulating the economy or negotiating trade deals?
That’s pretty much the advice that columnist Samuel Francis gave to Pat Buchanan in a 1996 essay, “From Household to Nation,” in Chronicles magazine. Samuel Francis was a paleo-conservative intellectual who died in 2005. Earlier in his career he helped Senator East of North Carolina oppose the Martin Luther King holiday. He wrote a white paper recommending the Reagan White House use its law enforcement powers to break up and harass left-wing groups. He was an intellectual disciple of James Burnham’s political realism, and Francis’ political analysis always had a residue of Burnham’s Marxist sociology about it. He argued that the political right needed to stop playing defense — the globalist left won the political and cultural war a long time ago — and should instead adopt the insurgent strategy of communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci. Francis eventually turned into a something resembling an all-out white nationalist, penning his most racist material under a pen name. Buchanan didn’t take Francis’ advice in 1996, not entirely. But 20 years later, “From Household to Nation,” reads like a political manifesto from which the Trump campaign springs.
To simplify Francis’ theory: There are a number of Americans who are losers from a process of economic globalization that enriches a transnational global elite. These Middle Americans see jobs disappearing to Asia and increased competition from immigrants. Most of them feel threatened by cultural liberalism, at least the type that sees Middle Americans as loathsome white bigots. But they are also threatened by conservatives who would take away their Medicare, hand their Social Security earnings to fund-managers in Connecticut, and cut off their unemployment too.
I myself have been writing about America’s bi-factional ruling party for more than twelve years, but only recently has it seemed that people are beginning to wake up to the fact that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are genuinely on the side of the average white Americans who comprise the genuine American nation.
Sooner or later, all politics inevitably becomes tribal, because the only scenario in which so-called post-tribal politics is possible is in a formerly homogeneous nation that is in the early stages of becoming heterogeneous. In other words, there is no such thing as “post-tribal” politics, there is only pre-tribal politics.
And tribal politics is the larval form of war.