Michael A. Walsh is a former associate editor of TIME magazine, the author of six novels, and six works of nonfiction. He currently writes as a columnist for the New York Post and as a contributor to the National Review and PJ Media. He won the 2004 American Book Awards for his novel, And All the Saints. At various points in his notable career, Mr. Walsh has also worked as a music critic, foreign correspondent, and screenwriter. As a political outsider, Mr. Walsh’s journalistic experience offered a critical perspective on Trump’s path to victory in the 2016 election. Significantly, Mr. Walsh highlighted the effects of economic division, establishment elitism, and today’s media culture.
Despite widespread shock from numerous quarters, Mr. Walsh emphasized that a historical precedent exists for the Trump victory: the Nixon campaign of 1968. After political defeat in 1960, Nixon migrated politically to the south, bringing an “America First!” message to a disaffected, white working class drowning in economic ills. Walsh isolated three particular commandments that Nixon followed and which preceded Trump–never give up, don’t back down, and run right at them. Additionally, a hidden theme burned beneath the surface in 2016; a theme brighter than the most explicit distinctions that normally animate American politics: divisions between urban, white collar workers and rural, blue collar workers.
Walsh identified Trump’s initial appeal as a shock to the GOP establishment. Trump’s candidacy inadvertently emphasized how disconnected the party had become when it transformed into a permanent, confederated alliance. Trump’s outsider status allowed him to decimate the political apparatus, even in the face of uniform opposition from the GOP. As his opponents inordinately invested in the Midwest, Trump earned the Midwestern voting block without deigning to invest a reciprocal amount. Furthermore, the other candidates did too little, too late to secure the nomination. The message, Walsh states, is that Trump led whenever the mainstream Republican Party would not and uncompromisingly focused on his “Make America Great Again” campaign. All the while, negative media coverage inadvertently supported the overarching narrative of the struggle between corruption and honest Americans. As the media predicted Trump’s inevitable demise time and time again, immense crowds filled his every rally. As the campaign season progressed, Trump masterfully played his hand by relentlessly questioning Hillary Clinton, aggressively grappling with the media, and adroitly navigating the political pitfalls devised by the Beltway elite. However unexpectedly, Trump’s efforts brought victory to the “silent majority” in 2016 just as Nixon’s efforts did in 1968.
Walsh’s odyssey into the 2016 campaign revealed significant structural flaws in the modern methods of electoral modeling and polling. The glamorous polls, rally numbers, and voter distribution yielded to a different political brand in the end. While the debate rages on about the decline of journalistic standards, Mr. Walsh’s experiences and analysis offers an important perspective on the role of political outsiders in the American political landscape.