Politicians are always the last to get it when the status quo crumbles because they have so much at stake in it. But citizens get it, as they did last year when they used Trump as a blunt instrument to pummel the Republicans’ status quo leaders. . . . The voters got it also when they used Vermont’s Bernie Sanders to bludgeon Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. These weren’t idle actions on the part of the electorate. They represented a stark statement that the old ways weren’t working and they wanted politicians willing to lead the country in new directions, capable of addressing the polity’s festering problems—the hollowing out of the working class, the lack of sufficient economic growth, expanding economic inequality, the lingering immigration problems, the infrastructure crisis, the debt crisis.Second, the old Democratic Party is finished, too, and we can expect the new version to turn hard toward the left:
Many Republicans seem to think that, as soon as Trump is out of the way, Republicans can go back to being Republicans, and the party of Reagan will rise again. It isn’t going to happen. The era of Reagan is long gone, as Trump proved, and whatever happens to Trump, the GOP will have to craft something new for a new era. Politics is always about the future, not the past.
The Democratic Party is in serious trouble, largely because it clung too long to the status quo politics of Hillary Clinton and her enablers in the party establishment. Now with four post-November congressional election defeats, and with nary a victory of any kind to tout, the party is headed for a raucous time of reassessment and redefinition. It seems inevitable that the party will fall back on the time-tested rubric of liberal populism.So in Merry's view, either Trump is somehow successful in leading America from his weird but generally conservative perspective, or he fails – possibly spectacularly – handing the country to a Democratic Party that has been taken over by its left-wing activists. Plus in a broader sense, if Republicans can't make at least some progress fighting the economic problems of middle America, they open the field for a much more left-wing approach.
The central cry of the populist is the need to smash institutions of entrenched power that, in the populist view, distort the American system to benefit themselves at the expense of the broad mass of citizens. The central target of liberal populism is the wealthy—in today’s political lexicon, the so-called 1 percent. Large financial institutions and big corporations also are found in the crosshairs of these populists. Their main goal is to redistribute wealth, which means they must enlist government as their ally. And they evince few concerns about powerful labor unions. They want to enlarge federal transfer payments, increase income taxes on the wealthy, make payroll taxes progressive, increase estate taxes, and bolster business regulation. All this would lead the nation, under Democratic leadership, toward European-style socialism.
This seems to me to be a clear explanation of how many Trump-dubious conservatives see the national situation. They may not like Trump, but he's all that's standing between them and Bernie Sanders.