Grab Both Ends Strategy
Both parties in the American two-party system are divided. Republicans split between the country club/establishment bootlicker and the Trumpers. The Democrats divided between the corporate or “moderate” bootlickers and the Berniacs. However, the vast majority of Americans, voters and non-voters, do not feel they have any firm affinity to any of these camps.
Objectively — and I’m not happy to say this — the most likely path to a realignment would be a dangerous sort of populous charismatic figure — the political actor Trump was too stupid to become. A celebrity or billionaire could stake out a position with anti-free trade economic nationalism, anti-immigrant policies but also Medicare for All, free college, higher minimum wage, and canceling all student debt. The leader can’t go all in for all of the Bernie Sander’s agenda without triggering an attack by the establishment in general. He or she should cherry pick a few, drop socialism as a word and idea, and somehow convince the ruling class that he or she is not a threat. Being a billionaire would help in this regard.
If this figure decided to be racist, he or she could only be racist against either Black or Hispanics but not both. Jews wouldn’t play well and Asians wouldn’t get you anywhere. But the leader would not have to be overtly racist to win with this “grab both ends” strategy. Alienating both Hispanic and Black voters is a losing strategy. So, you have to pick one to target.
Historically, immigrant groups have been less than white in our White supremacist caste system at some point: the Irish in the 1840s or Eastern and Southern Europeans in the 1890s, etc. If some clever demagogue could convince some racists that Mexicans were white, somehow, that might work as a strategy. But I don’t see it. Electorally, the only reason why racism is a loser is that you can’t be racist against only one of the two main non-white blocks.
But anti-racism is also a loser electorally. A huge mass of people simply will stop listening if they hear even a hint of anti-racism. They might not mind zero discussion of race, or maybe a meaningless series of useless platitudes that basically tide the candidate over until he or she can talk about trade, immigration, the flag, or free college.
I think it would be way easier not to be overtly racist. This job would be easier if the populous figure were Black or Hispanic. If the leader him or herself were Black, then the meaningless platitudes would be unassailable given the superficiality of our political dialogue. The ideal candidate would be an anti-free trade, anti-immigration, Black celebrity with some kind of anti-establishment credibility. He or she could have no known political beliefs until he or she declares his candidacy — in fact, that would be the strategy.
Regardless of the ethnicity of the leader, he or she would have to avoid topics like gun control, police reform, and abortion with meaningless platitudes while sounding very confident and clear when discussing trade, wealth redistribution, new immigration, and government intervention. Tough on crime and also for legal weed. For a higher minimum wage but avoiding any talk of workers getting a vote on corporate boards or any systematic changes to shareholder capitalism. Anything he or she offers — Medicare for All — would be his or her personal gift to the peasants.
He or she could go after the defense budget — I would say cutting defense is a winner — but the leader should absolutely be isolationist and against foreign wars and interventions. Somehow, this rhetoric has to be mingled with mindless and dangerous macho posturing. This sounds like a contradiction, and it is, but none of this military and foreign policy stuff really matters much, as the main thrust of the campaign is economic and domestic.
The leader would have to cry when he or she sings the national anthem and do other hyper-patriotic acts. The leader could be a veteran — that would help a little — but being a celebrity is 1000 times more important. He or she might want to have the American flag tattooed on his or her face or something.
Oprah Winfrey could do this job pretty well, for example. She’d be 70 in 2024. Like Trump, she’s not nearly as bright as she thinks she is but maybe she’ll listen to other people, or maybe not. After Trump, she would have to actually sound a bit smart when she talks about trade and redistribution and I’ve never heard her get remotely close to this goal- but she also never tried. Tulsi Gabbard is a politician and not an actor, so she’s out. It could be someone we don’t know yet. If you can get a hit show going quickly, then pivot like a champ, it could be you as the new strong leader.
I would never vote for Oprah, but she could pull it off.
This future of a populous with no allegiance to a party of ideology is not one I relish, but the opening for this figure is completely clear. Biden and company are not going to fix medical care or cancel debts. Economic insecurity will not get better. Life spans will continue to decline.
If no Ross Perot kind of the third party “grad both ends” figure emerges, and Oprah Winfrey is the clearest one who is currently famous, the struggle within the two parties will be more interesting than the fake partisanship between these awful monstrosities we call “Republican” and “Democratic.”
For the record, I approve of economic nationalism and am against free trade. Subsidizing and protecting key industries is good for the American worker (or any other country). I am against foreign interventions. I am in favor of every element of Bernie Sander’s agenda, leading to wealth redistribution. Those things are all fine. It’s the platitudes about racism and the concentration of power in the hands of a single individual that I fear.
The “grab both ends” strategy is a winner electorally. Oprah Winfrey could do it, if she went for this strategy and didn’t have any actual beliefs herself. If not her, someone like that. Can’t you picture it?