Win or lose this election, the Republican mandate for the future is to be the party of working families. This future is both morally right and politically necessary. The task for conservatives is to preserve the little platoons of family and social life against the various “Bigs”: Big Government, Big Tech, Big Business, and so on, all of which are increasingly aligned with the left — even Oreo cookies have gone woke.
Democrats are now the party of Wall Street and Big Business. These corporate types fund the cultural left, which has abandoned the working class to focus on the race, sex, and gender obsessions of the educated elite. This shift has created a divide between the (mostly white) progressive elite and many minority voters who have traditionally supported Democrats. This split is exemplified by the linguistic colonization of Spanish to make it more politically correct via neologisms such as “Latinx,” which Latinos and Latinas overwhelming reject.
Republicans, therefore, have an opportunity to build a multiracial coalition of working families. The potential is clear, as President Trump seems to be doing well (for a Republican) with minority voters, despite his often crude outreach efforts and propensity for inflammatory comments. The interests and outlooks of many working- and middle-class voters of all races do not align with those of the white, professional-class progressives who dominate the Democratic Party and America’s elite institutions.
Republicans Must Build a Coalition of Workers
Many minority voters notice that while the left loves minorities in the abstract, it disdains them in particulars — despising their religion, gender roles, rootedness, fecundity, and more. These voters might not have identified as political conservatives, but they live conservatively and are increasingly voting that way as well.
However, the GOP cannot rely on realignment to happen by default. Republicans must work to build their new coalition. Fortunately, the political outlines are visible, and in many cases, this shift would recover conservative principles that too many Republicans have forgotten or ignored. For example, conservatives are not free-market fundamentalists, and even if we were, it does not betray free-market principles to curtail trade with communist China, because free trade with a totalitarian slave state is impossible. The interests of (some) businesses do not define conservative principles.
Rather, the fundamental task of conservatism today is to protect, preserve, and promote what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” of life — family, church, voluntary associations, and community — that enable human flourishing. We are persons, and our greatest happiness is personal, which is to say it is relational.
The good life does not consist of individual pleasures, possessions, or achievements (enjoyable, lovely, and even noble as they might be). The good life exists in one of love, friendship, and respect in family and community, working honestly and at peace with God and man. This is the real American dream, which conservatives must work to make available to all.
The ‘Bigs’ Destroy the Good Things in Life
The preconditions for this ordinary good life have been weakened in many ways. Conservatives have long noted the dangers Big Government poses to family, faith, and community, but other Bigs, from Big Tech to Big Business, also threaten them. The culture that the Bigs promote is devoted to the destruction of life’s little platoons, which define us by our relationships. We find fulfillment and identity through our relationships with others, including those who have gone before us and those who are to come.
In contrast, the Bigs promote and glamorize an ideal of self-creation and self-sufficient independence. The Bigs teach us to define ourselves by our desires and experiences, rather than by relationships and our responsibilities within them. They teach us that freedom to do what we want is our greatest good, and that we must therefore avoid commitments that constrain us.
Instead of making promises that bind and define us, we have contracts with escape clauses. Instead of putting down roots, we are taught to be untethered and always ready for the next opportunity or experience, willing to walk away from even our most fundamental commitments in order to chase our dreams and desires.
This perspective fits naturally with consumerism and hence woke capital, which profits off the isolation and atomization it encourages. Indeed, the Bigs expand and profit as the little platoons fall apart. Big Government handouts replace the jobs that could once support a family. Big Tech and Big Business sell distractions from the decline of real relationships, communities, and identities. Big Pharma pushed opioids that dulled the pain of decline and meaninglessness.
The Bigs that direct our culture, economy, and politics have made it harder for many Americans to live the good life of family, faith, and community. Trump’s election in 2016 should have been a call to repentance for those who have had stewardship of our country and culture, but instead, it solidified their opinion of their superiority.
Embrace a Politics that Preserves the ‘Little Platoons’
Of course, we are responsible for the choices we make, but our elites have used their power to encourage bad choices, discourage good ones, and solidify more power. They have made the education system and economy college-or-bust while outsourcing working-class jobs. They have promoted sexual self-expression over family stability. They mock the religious beliefs and communities that bring order and meaning into many people’s lives.
At the same time, many among the elites and their professional-class allies have avoided the pitfalls they push others into. They might intellectually sign on to all sorts of radicalism, but they have personally settled down to live like mid-century American bourgeoise: working hard, being financially responsible, getting married before having children, taking care of their families, and being involved in their communities.
Influence and affluence might not suffice to forever avoid the collapse of marriage and childbearing that has overcome our culture. Even before the pandemic, young men and women of all classes were increasingly anxious, isolated, and struggling to form stable relationships and families. They are also increasingly irreligious. These factors explain many of our political and cultural pathologies, which are a result of people looking for substitutes for the identity, meaning, and fulfillment that life within the little platoons of family, faith, and community provides.
Thus, conservatives must embrace a politics that protects and nurtures these institutions and relationships, which are essential to human flourishing. In doing so, we must welcome as allies the working and middle classes of all races, rather than seeking the approval of the Bigs and the elite who control them.