The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
Social conservatives love the term “culture war.” Simply put, the culture war is a long-standing conflict between progressives and conservatives over the values, morals and ideals of American culture. Before, people argued their vision for America on traditional debate platforms: broadcast television, political debates and congressional hearings. Now, with the invention of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, any American can spread their ideas of what the country can and cannot stand for at any time.
However, a portion of Americans feels pushed out by mainstream society. There is a gaping chasm between how the right views society and how society actually exists. Due to this separation, conservatives have turned to a strong man to wage war against the mainstream. President Donald Trump has branded himself as the champion of the outsider. But Trump is nothing more than a con man, taking advantage of the public for his own gain.
For many social conservatives, American culture has gotten far too progressive. Openness concerning mental health, sexuality and addiction are normal when before, society discouraged these discussions. Television stopped using traditional archetypes, and, instead, began to challenge the beliefs and vantage points of the world. Godliness, specifically Christianity, is fading out of social conservatives’ everyday world to emphasize acceptance of all religions. Words, descriptions and phrases that were once commonplace, society deems “politically incorrect.”
In a world where everything is changing rather quickly, this group of people is slowly becoming outdated. Social conservatives see their vision of the country melting away before their very eyes. Ironically, their exclusionary behavior has excluded them from society. Once at the center of attention, they now find themselves on the outside looking in, nostalgic on what was and what could’ve been.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump also sees himself as an outsider. He portrays himself as an enemy trying to hold him back. In his presidential campaign, he blasted the GOP establishment for criticizing his attitude and demeanor. He constantly berates against the elites who “rigged the system” against him and his outsider supporters. Trump’s brash attitude has attacked every front of the culture war that this subsection has faced. His base sees him as a lone wolf, pushing back on advances in sexuality, race relations, religion and rhetoric.
Donald Trump isn’t a conventional Republican president. He isn’t much of a conservative socially or financially. Furthermore, he seemingly disagrees with many of his base’s policy positions. The president uses the fervor and support of his base to serve himself at their expense. He wavers on his position on gun control, seeming uncertain as to whether the present restrictions are either overzealous or inadequate. He is not concerned about the growing deficit, a stumping issue for many economic Republicans. Trump authorized a tax cut for the wealthy minority in the country, placing the weight of taxes on the middle and working class. His trade war with China has angered farmers, a major part of his base.
Trump is not the man leading them into the future. He is not innovating and creating new paths for the country. He is not fighting for their interests, but his own.
But for his base, it’s not about who Trump is, it’s about what Trump signifies. Trump is a victory against all the people who have locked them out of mainstream society in the last few decades. He’s a man leading them against the system that kept them out. He is waging a war against the coastal elites, the mainstream media, the politically correct and the swamp in Washington. He is ‘one last fight’ for a group searching for relevancy in a world that’s leaving them behind.
What they fail to realize is that as humanity progresses, our culture must adapt alongside it. What we as a society consider acceptable and appropriate must alter with our own evolution.
As the election looms, the question remains: Now that the country knows that Trump’s game is to play off the culture war, is a symbolic victory worth the economic, social and political decline of the nation? Will the GOP allow Trump to play off the emotions of the country? The nation decides in 2020.