he Republican Party has been taken over by an unscrupulous populist demagogue. His loyalty is to himself, not to his party or any ideology. He glories in violating political norms. He trashes liberals and government bureaucrats but has no use for limiting the government’s powers—at least, not his own powers. He has no problem with deficit spending, provided he can direct it to his base. He plays on white grievance and inflames racial division, while bragging that many black Americans support him and complaining that liberal bullies play the race card to shut him up. He gleefully attacks intellectuals and experts as enemies of America and common sense. He is not above calling his opponents traitors and hinting that they should be dealt with violently. In a crisis, as at present, he is a genius at finding others to blame. And the more he shocks and blames, the more his supporters love him for speaking forbidden truths and standing up to condescending elites.
The politician I speak of is, of course, George Corley Wallace.
As I write these words, President Donald Trump is bungling the worst crisis of his presidency, and of our era. He is failing to promulgate any kind of coherent strategy to cope with the coronavirus; he is maundering senselessly about injecting disinfectants into people; firm majorities of the public disapprove of and distrust his handling of the pandemic. Yet despite all of that and more, he is solid with Republicans and is likely to get at least 45 percent of the two-party vote in November. Some of his supporters, of course, will back him because of who he is not (a Democrat), but many will back him because of who he is—or, rather, who he emulates.