During the 2016 election, people would often ask me why I supported Trump. My response went something like this: Trump’s election will disrupt a corrupt and failing GOP. This will create a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build the future of the Right.
The script played out. The once-in-a-generation opportunity is now here. Indeed, the next 24 months or so will determine whether the Trump movement can seize control of the Right or if it will fizzle out. The choice is in our hands.
I believe we can become the leading force within the GOP if we are smart about it. And I don’t think it is over-statement to say that our success is existential to this country. If neocons and Paul Ryan types continue to dominate the party, where will that take us? We understand that our sovereignty, integrity, and identity as a nation is at stake. And it’s not just about us: There’s an amplification effect across other countries.
So where should we focus our time and energy to succeed? How do we play our cards over the next 18–24 months? Let me offer five strategic priorities.
1. Win 2018 elections.
Nothing else matters if we can’t win elections. These are our “shots on goal.” Winning elections must be our most critical objective.
We must demonstrate a show of force in 2018 elections through three lines of effort:
- Replacing “NeverTrump” Republicans with Trumpists. This means going after senators like Jeff Flake (AZ) and Ben Sasse (NE) and representatives such as Paul Ryan (WI), Justin Amash (MI), Charlie Dent (PA) and Barbara Comstock (VA).
- Promoting Trumpist candidates at all levels of government. This means getting our friends to run for office, and rallying around Trumpist candidates wherever they may be.
- Putting up a fight against prominent democrats. This means promoting people like V.A. Shiva against Elizabeth Warren (MA), Corey Stewart against Tim Kaine (VA), and yes, Kid Rock against Debbie Stabenow (MI).
2. Build organizations.
Speaking of elections, recall how close Corey Stewart came to winning the Virginia primary for governor. A MAGA3X-type operation (our pop-up get out the vote movement during the election) could’ve pushed him over the edge — but alas, nothing was in place.
Likewise, during the transition, I saw firsthand how much we suffered by the lack of a people and policy ecosystem for Trumpism in Washington. The Heritage Foundation has an $80m+ annual budget. There is no equivalent for Trumpism — nothing even close. Any wonder Heritage dominated the transition process?
To turn Trumpism into a sustainable movement, we have to get organized and build lasting institutions. Here are six types of organizations we need more of:
- Grassroots —like MAGA3X on an ongoing basis
- Think tank—to promote our policies and build intellectual capital
- Training & events — like a CPAC replacement, or a training school for citizen-journalists
- PACs and SuperPacs—to fund the movement, especially elections
- Single-issue interest groups—to add pressure on specific issues like building the wall or reforming student debt
- 4GW technologies & platforms—funding platforms, technologies, and businesses that accelerate the growth of the movement on a distributed basis
3. Raise money.
The MAGA movement has achieved a lot with few resources, and there is some David vs Goliath pride in this. But let’s be real: movements need money. We cannot win if we remain under-resourced.
Thus, raising money must be strategic priority. All six of the organizations described above require it, whether from donors, investors, or members. The good news is that the market of donors is rapidly growing. A year ago I would have been skeptical at any attempt to create a Trumpist organization with anything more than a $1 million annual budget, apart from the one or two entities funded by the Mercers. Not so today. Don’t get me wrong, the funding market is still nascent and fragmented. But with the right leadership and pitch, I believe major funding is achievable. And given the passion within the movement, there’s an opportunity for a healthy long tail effect, where we have a few mega-donors and thousands of small donors.
Raising money requires business skills, connections, know-how, and leadership. Getting the right people focused on this, and approaching it from many different vectors, could be a game-changer. I’d love to see at least $50 million promoting Trumpist candidates in the 2018 elections alone. Money, of course, can have a corrupting effect, but the upside opportunities vastly outweigh the drawbacks.
4. Build intellectual depth.
Today’s Nationalist Right seems to be where the so-called modern conservative movement was in the early 1950s — dynamic, innovative, and important to the country, but not very intellectually substantial or coherent. Contrast the conservative movement of the early ’50s with it a decade later, after National Review was founded, the Sharon Statement was signed, and “Up from Liberalism” hit the bookshelves.
Investing in intellectual work is critically important to any movement—to developing and selling our ideas. Imagine a bestselling manifesto for American Nationalism. Imagine a broader class of Trumpist intellectuals who could challenge establishment voices and win. Imagine having deeper well of policy ideas that we could meme into reality.
Early efforts like Scholars & Writers for America, AmGreatness, and the American Affairs Journal are great but have yet to make a dent. There is arguably more intellectual history and depth further to our right. We should be open to bridge-building there as well as with the progressive left.
The bottom line is that we need to continue cultivating intellectual vitality. We should work towards coalescing around a core set of principles, policies, and ideas. We should do this with an eye towards building coalitions.
5. Cheerlead and support the administration.
The final priority is to continue doing what this movement is already good at: Waging day-to-day memetic combat against a hostile media and establishment. It is critical that we keep the media narrative in check, and by this I mean in the lane of truth. Without this line of effort, a soft coup could take place that could de-legitimize this entire movement or at the very least set it back. Imagine Bill Kristol’s reaction to the impeachment of Trump, much less the pussy-hat-wearing “Resist” crowd, and you will catch my drift. The movement, of course, is much bigger than Trump — but still.
One thing I learned from the election is the value of cheer-leading to build and sustain morale. I’m not shy about criticizing Trump, and I’m not the cheer-leading type, but some are and we should respect this important function. Maintaining a sense of momentum and high energy is key.
One of our strengths of this movement is its highly distributed, fourth-generation warfare nature. I’ve always thought of it as an open-source insurgency. There is no single leader or structure. We are all leaders.
I am often asked, how can I contribute to this movement? My intention with this post is not to try to fit our movement into a tidy organizational planning construct. It is simply to offer a point of view on strategic priorities. Do with them what you may. Criticize them, improve them, or take them and run with them. If you are looking for places to contribute, consider this a map of ideas and opportunities.
There is so much that needs to be done, it can feel as though it is all on our shoulders. The flip side is that anyone can make a difference. Step up and you can too. The secret of open-source movements is that they require more leaders, not fewer.
The next 24 months will be very telling. You can make a difference.