Republican Voters Sour on the “Free Market”

A new poll offers an important data point in the GOP’s ongoing transformation from the sunny and optimistic party of Reagan into a more populist and nationalistic coalition of the left behind. New York magazine reports:

In the wake of Trump’s deal to keep Carrier from relocating one of its Indiana-based plants to Mexico, YouGov decided to take the temperature of voters’ sentiments toward the free market. The pollster asked respondents if they they agreed with the statement, “The free market has been sorting [the economy] out and America’s been losing.”

Fifty-seven percent of Republicans — and 55 percent of self-identified conservatives — said yes. By contrast, only 33 percent of Democrats — and 31 percent of liberals — said the same.

To an extent, these eye-catching numbers can be accounted for by structural changes. The GOP’s white working class base has grown more socially fragmented and pessimistic; the impact from globalization and trade has been unevenly distributed; the Democratic coalition is more upwardly mobile and satisfied with the status quo.

But they also highlight the fact that the Great Man theory of history is still operative. Donald Trump has personally reforged millions of Republican voters’ views on crucial questions about the economy and the state, to the point that Rush Limbaugh is now singing the praises of Keynesianism. (The statement in the survey was made by Mike Pence to defend Donald Trump’s economic philosophy.) Trump won because he intuitively grasped the mood of GOP voters, but it’s clear that he also reshaped the base in his image (is there any doubt that this poll would look different had Ted Cruz eked out the nomination?), and in so doing profoundly changed the direction of American politics.

More broadly, the numbers show that stale, decades-old orthodoxies of Left and Right are being called into question as the post-Cold War global order shows signs of strain. On both sides, the ideological iron is hot. It’s more important than ever that people with vision and understanding step forward to help shape it.

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