Monday, October 17, 2016

Donald Trump and the death of the Republican party


Here's an enlightening discussion over at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight on the present status and future prospects of the Republican party.

It isn't pretty. Participants in the discussion have various impressions, and all of them are worth considering. But it's hard to deny the general consensus that Donald Trump has done long-term if not permanent damage to the GOP among women and minorities. Only a few cycles ago there was talk of how Hispanics- a growing portion of the population and a socially conservative one- might well be enticed into the GOP tent, No more.

Married women have tended to vote Republican; single ones have tended to vote Democratic. No more. Trump has driven an entire gender into the arms of the Democrats- and the larger of the two genders demographically, at that. It's a sign of how nutty and tone-deaf at least a large portion of the Trump coalition is that in response to this fact  one of the most active discussions among Trump supporters on Twitter has recently been the advisability of repealing the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote!

These people simply don't have a clue. They have believed all along- contrary to al the evidence- that Trump was going to, or even might, win. Even now the delusion is rampant among that the only way Trump can lose is if the election were to be somehow "stolen. The marginal part of the electorate which supports Trump has always vastly overestimated both its numbers and its influence. Apparently, some of them even think that they can wrest the vote from a majority of the electorate!

Trump's manifest disrespect for women solidified their opposition long before the tape of Trump bragging about sexually abusing them came to light. With women and Hispanics alienated, no party which identifies with Trump has a future in America. It's as simple as that.

After Trump's defeat, there will be efforts to re-make the party. Some of the panel participants think that in the short term this might work. They could be right. Hillary Clinton will almost certainly be a one-term president. Her unpopularity, her abrasiveness, and the general reluctance of the American people to leave either party in control of the presidency for too long will almost certainly doom her- provided, of course, that the GOP doesn't self-destruct again. My hunch is that the Ted Cruz branch of the party- the Tea Party, it used to be called- will seize control. Its uncompromising, combative, take-no-prisoners approach will probably attract some erstwhile Trumpers. I myself would have held my nose and voted for Ted Cruz who, despite his unpresidential temperament and self-defeating tactics, would certainly have been better for America than Hillary would be.

But that combative attitude runs directly counter to the mood of the electorate as a whole, which wants to see Congress and the president (whoever it may be) working together, compromising, acting the way the Congress and the president traditionally have even when divided between the parties. It's quite possible that if the Democrats play their role skillfully enough the kamikaze Republicans might well snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again by coming across as quarrelsome, fanatical, and unreasonable.

The minority of the party that supports Paul Ryan- the "Establishment," if you will- is in a death grapple with the majority that at least likes Donald Trump, even if it didn't vote for him in the primaries. Ryan has hinted that Trump needs to lose; there have been rumblings in the Trump camp that Trumpsters should vote for the Great Orange God Emperor and then vote Democratic down the ballot out of spite. The Tea Party wing is foaming at the mouth and pulling in every direction at once. The reality is that the only way the Republicans can win an election is through an alliance of the "Establishment" and the Tea Party; the Trumpers absolutely must be isolated and marginalized- if not excluded- in order to at least minimize the seriousness of the damage to the Republican brand Trump's nomination has perhaps permanently inflicted. Prospects don't appear to be good. Still, as one of the panel participants observed, the very election after Watergate Gerald Ford very nearly won the presidency; eight years later came Ronald Reagan. Miracles happen. But it's hard for me to see a miracle happening big enough to fix all that is terminally wrong with the GOP.

George Will has suggested, as one of the panel participants mentions, that Trump will prove to be "chemo" for the GOP, bringing the ugliness to a head and purging it. Ain't gonna happen. The racist, ignorant, Social Darwinist element has always been a part of the GOP, and it's been reinforced by an infusion of racist, ignorant Democrats attracted by Trump. The Republicans have to absolutely repudiate Trump (one consequence, sadly, being that Mike Pence probably has no future in the national Republican party, and probably shouldn't) and distance themselves from him utterly and absolutely. But I don't think they can do it.

In short, I think Silver is right. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Ryan branch of the party- perhaps an expanded version of the Evan McMullin movement- might break off and form a new, Center Right party, while the Republicans become an ongoing fight between the Far Right Tea Party faction and the white nativist Trumpers. More than likely the disappearance of the toxic and destructive personality of Trump himself. will make it possible for the two wings to more or less coexist and perhaps even work together,

Or maybe not. Centrists like Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst seem determined to continue to work within the Republican party, even though I'm inclined to the skepticism McMullin expresses as to its ongoing utility as a vehicle for constructive change. The Republican party- cut off from the entire female gender, having alienated America's fastest-growing demographic groups, and thoroughly turning off the younger generation with the ongoing ugliness festering within it- is almost certainly moribund. Its death will be slow and agonizing rather than quick and decisive. Like the Whigs, it will go with a whimper rather than with a bang, and it may be a while before something new and viable succeeds it.

But my hunch is that it is already in the process of being born. The McMullin cadre may be small, but I can honestly say that I think that we represent the best of America, both in our instincts and in our understanding of what lies at the core of the American idea.

Someone once said that Donald Trump can't make America great again because he doesn't understand what made it great in the first place. But I think that we in the McMullin movement do- and that we represent the future of the American Center and Right.

Graphic by DonkeyHotey

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