The GOP’s ‘Pitchfork’ Rebellion

Exclusive: As Democrats show signs of falling in line behind the party’s establishment candidate (Hillary Clinton), the Republicans remain in rebellion casting aside one establishment favorite after another and making populist-billionaire Donald Trump the frontrunner, writes James W Carden.

By James W Carden

In spring 2003, the journalist and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum published a controversial essay in the pages of the conservative house organ, National Review. In the frenzied run-up to the Iraq War, Frum, branded a number of antiwar conservatives like Patrick Buchanan, the columnist Robert Novak and the libertarian journalist Justin Raimondo as “unpatriotic conservatives.”

Indeed, Frum went so far as to write that, “They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.”

Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The venue in which Frum’s hit piece appeared was fitting. Under the stewardship of William F Buckley, Jr. NR had long functioned as a kind of ideological referee for the conservative movement. Buckley (eventually) earned the respect of both the Republican and Liberal establishments for – in effect – purging the movement of anti-Semitic cranks, Birchers, and even some of the more doctrinaire libertarians in its ranks.

NR even took on Ayn Rand, publishing a blistering review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers in which the ex-Soviet agent turned evangelical anti-communist denounced the novel as a “remarkably silly book” that could only be called a novel “by devaluing the term.”

Nevertheless, Frum’s rant was more than simply (yet another) instance of a youngish neocon on the make, seeking renown by pandering to the prejudices of those in power – though it certainly was that as well. Frum’s essay served a similar function to Buckley’s purges of years past and in effect expelled conservatives of an antiwar (in foreign policy) and autarkic (in trade policy) bent from the larger conservative movement, thereby helping to solidify neocon control over the Republican Party. That is, until now. [See’s “How Neocons Banished Realism.”]

With his lopsided victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina Republican primaries, it is inarguable that Donald J Trump will be the likely Republican presidential nominee, and it is starting to dawn on a panicked GOP establishment that the old order is about to be swept away.

Some impute Trump’s astonishing success to the fact that he, unlike his opponents, has been famous for close to 40 years and his take-no-prisoners, quasi-authoritarian pronouncements on immigration and torture speak to an electorate that – because it is largely jobless – is rather more than a little fed up with “business as usual” in Washington.

Consider the following: while Obama partisans have endlessly touted the fact that the unemployment rate has fallen during the course of the President’s term, the labor force participation rate is still near the lowest it has been in over three decades at 62.7 percent and it is this number that explains, more than anything else, Trump’s success thus far.

Yet it should be noted that Trump’s victories owe more than a little to the two Republican primary campaigns which were waged by the journalist (and former Nixon speechwriter and Reagan communications director) Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996. In the latter campaign Buchanan finished a close second in Iowa and emerged victorious in New Hampshire, Missouri, Alaska and Louisiana collecting over one-fifth of the Republican primary votes overall.

“Pitchfork” Pat’s signature issue was the North American Free Trade agreement. His prescient prediction that American jobs and industry would “be sacrificed on the altar of NAFTA” went unheeded, and now the voter’s revolt which his campaigns anticipated has materialized and will, in short order, tear the GOP asunder. Trump owes his rise largely to the fact that the Republican Party has, for 25 years and counting, embraced neoliberal economic policies that have impoverish the American people.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for the Democrats, who shouldn’t feel too smug over the GOP’s declining fortunes: pitchfork wielders may emerge in their own camp if the Democratic establishment continues its tight embrace of free trade policies which do little but beggar their own most impassioned constituencies.

So while it seems likely that in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s convincing win in Nevada that Sanders is more or less finished, the Democratic Party’s pursuit of neoliberal trade policies may soon give rise to a populist movement from within the ranks. Trump’s success shows that the days of Rubinomics are numbered. Will a responsible statesman like Sen. Elizabeth Warren capitalize on this down the road, or is the Trump boom a harbinger of worse to come?

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department. 

14 comments for “The GOP’s ‘Pitchfork’ Rebellion

  1. Akecch
    February 24, 2016 at 13:20

    While team Clinton, the Democratic establishment and the corporate elites on their side are desperately trying everything to fend off, protect or shield the “wounded cat” they have in their bag (Hillary) from the angry voters, the Republican establishment is having horrific time trying figure out how to apprehend the cat they thought they could be tamed which has escaped from their bag!

    What these two groups fail to understand is that voting public is at the boilng point of broken promises and rogue policies these two elites camps have inflicted on the Americans and the world at large.
    Any informed voter should be happy that the public is openly watching the bird’s eye view of what/who the ruling elites are working for!

  2. Airbrush2020
    February 23, 2016 at 21:22

    Like him or not, Donald Trump is popular because he has taken populist positions that resonate with everyday Americans. They have watched illegal immigration skyrocket, and Trump says he’ll build a wall. They’re sick of losing out to foreign competition, and Trump says we’ll win again. The American people want a president who will cut through the crap and “make America great again”. Other candidates are not playing those same strings.

  3. John P. Teschke
    February 22, 2016 at 19:16

    While I wouldn’t count Sanders out just yet, since the Nevada thing was quite close, I agree with the general tenor of the posting that Trump is definitely the lesser evil in comparison to Hillary, whose foreign policy debacles including Honduras, Libya and Syria lead one to believe that should she get in, survival can’t even be assured since her position appears to favor nuclear war on behalf of el qaeda elements described as “Assad must go”.
    Though Trump makes absurd statements, his foreign policy appears more realistic and his trade policy seems more in the interests of the US population. The Clintons, like Tony Blair, constituted a hostile takeover of the supposedly more progressive party and as such they constite a sort of treason to the public interest. The 10s of millions in disguised bribes (the speaking fees) should be enough to disqualify the Clintons. Their policy of regime change makes war crimes the central element of their foreign policy.

    • Abbybwood
      February 23, 2016 at 01:45

      Let’s not leave Hillary’s stamp of approval on the Ukraine “regime change”.

      After all, it was her little acolyte, Mrs. Robert “PNAC” Kagan’s (Victoria Nuland) handing out of cookies in Maidan Square that put Hillary’s fingerprints all over that bloodbath.

      And on Russia’s doorstep.

      For some strange reason Hillary Clinton seems to have a particular fight to pick with Mr. Putin.

      Hillary Clinton scares me waaaay more than Mr. Trump.

  4. J'hon Doe II
    February 22, 2016 at 16:37

    addendum – perhaps we should all vote with our middle finger this election year.

    could it be/do we all have More in common now than we can idealy recognize right now/
    or is the animosity &amped anger too great to overcome in these volatile times…?

  5. J'hon Doe II
    February 22, 2016 at 16:21

    In spring 2003, the journalist and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum published a controversial essay in the pages of the conservative house organ, National Review. In the frenzied run-up to the Iraq War, Frum, branded a number of antiwar conservatives like Patrick Buchanan, the columnist Robert Novak and the libertarian journalist Justin Raimondo as “unpatriotic conservatives.”

    Indeed, Frum went so far as to write that, “They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.” >> James W Carden


    Mr Trump continues to correctly criticize Bush on Iraq Policy while posturing to be more aggressive against the Caliphate Terrorists. — He isn’t speaking out of both sides of his mouth with this posture. He nudges Americans that know Bush/Cheney-Lied, but also those whose thoughts align with “Nuke-Em” style policies.

    The GOP strategist Kevin Madden, in the below LA Times excerpt, is misreading his tealeaves, in my estimation. Trump accurately describes Saddam’s (like Kahdaffi and Assad) position staunchly against Islamic Radicalism gaining footholds in their nations. — Their removal through “regime change” is a wholly Created political/imperial/military problem thrust upon us by Game Theory ideologues and freak’n fools.

    (headline)-Donald Trump supporter in South Carolina: ‘We’re voting with our middle finger’

    Noah Bierman and Lisa Mascar

    excerpt —

    Robert Bowers, a 50-year-old debt collector, conceded that Donald Trump may have gone “overboard just a little bit” when he attacked President George W. Bush, saying he lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks.

    But that did not stop Bowers, of Fountain Inn, S.C., from putting on a cap with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and walking through an icy cold parking lot so he could crowd into a raucous Trump rally Monday night.

    GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a former Mitt Romney spokesman, said he believes Trump may yet suffer in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, noting that attitudes here often shift in the final days of the campaign.

    “These are views that are outside the mainstream of Republican thought,” Madden said. “His views in that debate were more associate with Code Pink and the liberal left and that might give people pause, rather than reinforce what they liked about some of his debate performances.”

    Monday night’s rally was typical of Trump’s performances, which feel like arena rock concerts as much as political events. Thousands packed into the TD Convention Center. Many stood along the sides of the cavernous convention hall when the seats ran out. Others were sent to an overflow room or turned away. Giant screens lit up Trump’s face; spotlights vacillated in front of the stage; Van Halen music blared.

    “Didn’t you love this last debate?” Trump said to cheers. “They came at me from every angle.”

    Trump, as he often does, riffed from topic to topic. He mocked Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his debate performance and claimed the audience was stacked with his special-interest supporters.

    He repeated his criticism of President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, but did not mention Bush, who is popular among the state’s Republicans, by name during that portion of the speech.

    GOP brawl in South Carolina may have repercussions in the general election

    “We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. That was a big mistake because it destabilized the whole Middle East,” Trump said. “Some people say ‘Oh, don’t say that.’”

    “Everything you see right now is an offshoot of that decision,” he added, before launching into criticism of President Obama’s handling of the withdrawal from Iraq.

    Later, he returned to the topic, even offering praise for Saddam Hussein, as a bad guy who nonetheless kept Iraq from disintegrating into sectarian violence and spawning terrorist groups attacking the West.

    “Saddam Hussein killed terrorists,” Trump said. “He didn’t do it politically correct. He found a terrorist, they were gone within five seconds, OK. With us, we find a terrorist, it’s going to be 25 years and a trial.”

    The crowd laughed, hollered and waved signs.

    Bierman reported from Greenville and Mascaro from Columbia and North Augusta, S.C.

    • Joe Tedesky
      February 22, 2016 at 17:07

      Do you think that by Trump criticizing the Bush Doctrine, that the average Republican voter feels vindicated for the Bush Administrations self inflicted tragedies of senseless wars?

      • J'hon Doe II
        February 22, 2016 at 19:28

        Vindicated? Not vindicated, Only uncaring.

        Conservatives are primitively uncaring of “others”

        While being protective of their superior status.

        (1st rule of law?)

  6. Joe Tedesky
    February 22, 2016 at 15:10

    Hillary’s run for president will end in ruin. Her voters will be outnumbered without the young Bernie voters showing up on Election Day to vote for her. The Republicans will swamp the polls in favor of Trump. Hillary’s defeat will give great cause for the rise of a Bernie Sanders inspired generation of progressives to take over the Democratic Party. If Trump fails to get young Americans employed, 2020 will be the year to tear down this wall that Mexico refuses to pay for, and then America will feel the Bern.

    • Abbybwood
      February 23, 2016 at 01:35

      I believe that if Sanders continues and amasses a profound number of delegates (yet short of Hillary’s plus her Super Delegate tally) that at the big Democrat Convention Party at the Wells Fargo! (Ha!) Convention Center in Philadelphia, if the DNC INSISTS Hillary must be the nominee, that the Sanders delegates will WALK OUT IN MASS and will either stay home on Election Day or will brazenly vote for Trump just to make Her Royal Highness (should have been indicted) Hillary Clinton make “the call” to Trump.

      One way or the other, my prediction is, that Hillary Clinton will either be INDICTED by The Justice Department or she will be INDICTED by the Democrat electorate this November.

      Hillary Clinton has three choices at this point:

      1.) Bow out for medical reasons/personal reasons (she wants to spend more time with her family/new grandchild and her current granddaughter and continue her work for the Clinton Foundation) or

      2.) She will have to bow out due to a federal indictment over having sent top secret emails over an unsecured “private” server or

      3.) She will have to make “the congratulatory call to Donald Trump”.

      Even if, under VERY SHADY RIGGED circumstances the DNC makes sure she is their nominee, in the end, she will still face one of the choices listed above.

      This is my prediction.

      Personally, I hope it is #2.

      • Joe Tedesky
        February 24, 2016 at 13:20

        Bernie is too nice, and because of his niceness Hillary is getting left off the hook. Trump, and the GOP will trash her in the general election. Wouldn’t surprise me to see some hardworking Republican senator or legislator bring Hillary down during the 2016 presidential election run. I’m sure the best stuff about Hillary and Bill is awaiting to be released upon the American public when the primaries are over. Then America will enter it’s Reality TV phase for sure.

  7. dahoit
    February 22, 2016 at 13:23

    Sanders is ahead in the popular vote,150,000 to the hell bitch’s 92,000,so this guys take is unreal as to the dem race.And those caucuses most definitely have the smell of fish about them.
    Trump has no neolibcon past to smear him,although the Zionists,who hate him,keep digging.
    He is a true blue American,as I am,I love my country,I just hate what has happened to it from the corruption of the Zionists.

    • Abbybwood
      February 23, 2016 at 01:20


      The “Zionists” don’t hate Trump as much as you might think:

      To be perfectly clear.

      There is not ONE person currently running for president (save perhaps Jill Stein) who would NOT be best friends with Bibi.

      Very, profoundly sad, but true.

    • Brad Owen
      February 23, 2016 at 13:14

      Nobody can make billion$ in an honest way. Trump’s as filthy as any other billionaire, and if he “threatens” the billionaires’ “Agenda” for World Empire, refusing to “play ball” with them, they’ll simply show his “dirty laundry” to the World. If that doesn’t work, there’s plenty of Perkins-types “economic hitmen”, and “jackals” (hit squads) at the beck-and-call of the Billionaires’ Club. But since he’s gone bankrupt and been bailed out four times-and-counting, I’m fairly certain his Billionaires’ Club credentials are in order…he’ll “play ball” with ’em.

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