Since at least the 1960s, some people whom leftists think should be supporting the left have instead drifted over to the right. These have mostly been white members of the working class, and the general idea on the left is that they turned conservative. First, however, it should be noted that the right consists of more than just conservatives, a fact of which the left is only dimly aware, for the right includes libertarians, too. Accordingly, it is possible that they became libertarians. However, I want to suggest that most of these people are neither conservative nor libertarian (nor “conservatarian”; see here). Instead, they should be deemed the egalitarian right.
Now everyone on the left thinks that if you are an egalitarian, you are automatically on the left, but I want to suggest that just as some libertarians (like Noam Chomsky) think of themselves as being on the left rather than the right, so some egalitarians think of themselves as being on the right rather than the left. How can this be? It is because there is plenty of room for disenchantment with the current way that the egalitarians on the left run things, either in terms of their tactics or their choice of emphasis, and so some prefer to move to the right and make common cause with conservatives and libertarians in order to thwart their former leftist allies.
Note that nobody, as far as I know, actually uses the term “egalitarian right.” Rather, they tend to vote Republican as a way of voting against the liberals and leftists who dominate egalitarian thought. Sometimes they agree with conservatives and libertarians, and sometimes they don’t. (For that matter, conservatives and libertarians don’t always agree with each other, either.) However, whatever disagreements they have with conservatives and libertarians, these seldom become great enough that they split off from the right.
What are the issues on which the egalitarian right disagrees with the egalitarian left? It is more informative to do this in terms of history rather than simply listing the issues. There may have been people who drifted to the egalitarian right at the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact, but since I wasn’t alive at that time, I’m not sure. Possibly, so many people were disenchanted that they could form an anti-communist left without feeling the need to move to the right. Accordingly, my story begins in the late 1960s when lots of working-class whites became part of the egalitarian right as a result of rising levels of crime together with the Democrats’ refusal to do much about it. In the early 1970s, there was the issue of busing, which sent many more poorer whites over to the Republican side. George McGovern said of this period that in a spirit of inclusiveness, he opened up the party to more groups and twenty million people walked out.
By the 1980s, we began hearing about “Reagan Democrats.” These people were bothered by the weakness both of the economy and of America in its foreign policy, and electing Reagan solved both of these problems. Since 9/11, there has been a new group, that of leftists horrified by the left’s alliance with Muslims. Names like Phyllis Chesler, Bruce Bawer, and Milo Yiannopoulos perhaps are part of this group. They are feminists and gay activists who are repelled by the obvious sexism and homophobia of Muslims and the left’s blindness to these facts.
However, the great majority of right egalitarians are poorer whites.
I don’t know if anyone has ever enunciated any principles or values of the egalitarian right before this, but the first such principle will be a preference for equality, though just as some libertarians talk about being libertarian with a small letter l, the same is true here. No one expects absolute equality; but something can be done to help the poor and others who are marginalized. The question is what, and it matters greatly if you think that high taxes and redistributions will help (as the egalitarian left believes) as opposed to tax cuts and job creation (which the egalitarian right is more likely to believe).
The next principle is a preference for using small government rather than large government. The egalitarian right agrees with the idea of the libertarians that a government big enough to give you everything you need and want is also big enough to take it away. Having seen their tax money used for redistributions that go to those they consider the wrong people, or else having seen it go not toward them but towards others the left regards as more “worthy,” the egalitarian right has less interest in redistributions.
With that in mind, they will want lower taxes. As I have pointed out endlessly, the Democrats and Republicans fight constantly over the tax rate of the rich, but this group probably is more interested in the tax rate on the poor.
Along with the anti-redistributionist mindset, they are anti-welfare, at least as it is run by the left these days. Likewise, they want job creation which will not only help get people off of welfare, but help everyone else as well. Moreover, they are cautious about immigration because it hurts the job creation they are hoping for. It undercuts their own prosperity. Their idea is that we first make sure all citizens are employed, and only then do we invite immigrants in. It is pointless to do so during a recession.
They are also leery of free trade if it means good jobs will be lost, and of course they are leery of the environmentalists, too, since their policies often involve jobs being lost (or else they impose pointless costs on poor people).
They are also against the left’s insistence that society be soft on crime. Either they themselves have been victims of crime, or else they saw their neighborhoods deteriorate, so they want nothing to do with soft-on-crime policies.
Finally, they are angry about schools that have been taken over by the left so that schools are more concerned with propaganda than with actually teaching children. As a way to escape poverty, the public schools are now a complete disaster, but no one on the left wants to acknowledge this.
Now why should we classify these people as on the right when they don’t share all the values that other people on the right share? First, these are people who vote Republican, having allied themselves with those on the right rather than those on the left. Second, libertarians generally think of themselves as on the right, even though they don’t always share every value with conservatives. Third, there is a preference for small government that all three groups share.
But fourth, let me observe that the preference for small government that conservatives have these days was not true when I was young. Growing up in the 1950s and the early 1960s, I knew plenty of religious conservatives, and these were people who accepted big government in certain ways. For example, they expected that government schools – that is, public schools – would teach their values. History would be taught according to what they believed to be true, and there were no worries about whether diversity or inclusiveness was being attended to. It was very patriotic, it taught that democracy and Christianity were part of progress, and it taught that communism was evil. My relatives expected moreover that there would be prayer in those schools. There would be Christmas programs. More generally, there would be Christmas displays on government property. There would be laws against stores being open on Sunday. The laws concerning divorce made it harder to get one, and of course, there was no way to get a legal abortion. These were all examples of big government that would horrify leftists today.
There were also plenty of customs that prevented people from being free. Men were supposed to dress and behave in certain ways, while women were supposed to dress and behave in quite different ways. Girls were supposed to wear dresses to school. We boys could not wear blue jeans. Men did not have long hair. They wore suits at work if they had white-collar jobs. There were no casual Fridays. There was pressure on people to get married and have children (in that order). Women were expected to give up their jobs when they got married, or if not then, when they had children. It was expected that if you went to a nice hotel or motel, you simply wouldn’t be allowed to check in with a member of the opposite sex to whom you weren’t married. People didn’t live together before marriage. Homosexuality was never mentioned.
In other words, if conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, are now promoting small government, it’s because they’ve been burned by the wrong kind of big government. (Similarly, those leftists who love big government would turn against it if all they ever saw of big government was something that didn’t do anything they wanted it to do.) That doesn’t mean they are in principle against big government, something which a libertarian would never say. Likewise, the egalitarian right is not necessarily against big government; it’s just that the big government that we have today treats them so shabbily, they want nothing to do with it.
The reason I bring all this up is because it is by now quite clear that working-class whites who vote Republican (and maybe even some of those who generally vote Democrat) love Donald Trump, while those who are conservative or libertarian are much less fond of him. Some in these two groups are even willing to vote for Hillary to prevent Trump from becoming president. It should thus be clear that working-class white Republicans are neither conservative nor libertarian, but something else. I am suggesting we can call them the egalitarian right since nothing else comes to mind. I touched on this concept briefly in my last book (pp. 276-7), but didn’t go into it much. I simply said that if I was not a leftist, and that if I must be placed on the right, then since I didn’t think of myself as either conservative or libertarian, then I must be part of the egalitarian right. But whatever we call working-class white Republicans, it is pretty clear they aren't conservative or libertarian.