Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Trump Before Trump

William Jennings Bryan circa 1910 
Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
There are lessons for today’s Republican Party in the ill-fated populist insurgency of William Jennings Bryan
Underfinanced, thinly organized and reviled in the media, the Trump campaign has nonetheless apparently pulled even in some recent polls with Hillary Clinton. Every pundit can itemize the long list of things that Donald Trump has done all wrong throughout this election season—and yet here he is, poised to overcome all dissent at the Republican convention in Cleveland and to run a competitive race afterward.
Trump’s first and strongest advocate in conservative media, the columnist Ann Coulter, has vividly described the radicalism of what has happened: “Trump isn’t a standard-issue GOP, trying to balance the ticket to get his party into power. He’s starting a new party! He’s just blown up the old GOP.”
Dazed and baffled, the old GOP is still struggling to understand how it has reached this point. One way to understand the situation is to look at an unexpected historical parallel: the populist insurgency led by William Jennings Bryan, who was three times —in 1896, 1900 and 1908—the Democratic Party’s candidate for president.
As individuals, the gaudy businessman from New York City and the Great Commoner from the prairies don’t have much in common. But the political movements that they have championed do share much in common—both on the way up and, perhaps, on the way down.
Read the rest of David Frum's op-ed HERE.

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