Will The GOP Survive Without Trump?
Granted, it took them eight months, but the GOP has finally gotten the Trump monkey off its back. Yesterday’s vote on the infrastructure bill, where almost one-third of the Republican Senate caucus joined with the majority, was not only a major victory for Joe, but a stunning defeat for Trump.
And what have we heard from Trump since the vote went down, a vote which he railed against non-stop over the last couple of weeks? Zilch.
I just watched the first half-hour of Fox & Friends. They blabbed on and on about ‘woke culture’ and other nonsense like that. Trump wasn’t mentioned even once.
Of course, Trump will have something to say over the next couple of days. He can’t walk away from any losing fight with even the slightest degree of dignity. But it really doesn’t matter how he responds. He lost and the GOP won.
We have never before had a President as undignified and vulgar as Trump. He turned every public event in the Oval Office into a bar-stool argument in some gin mill in Richmond Hill, Queens. Remember the phrase about how ‘anyone’ can become President of the United States? Trump proved that one true — in spades!
And despite what Trump believes or at least pretends to believe, most GOP voters have the same respectful view of our political leadership, particularly the Commander-in-Chief, as everyone else. They may never vote for a Democrat, and they may increasingly believe that they cannot find any areas of agreement with the other side, but they still support the idea that you either win or you lose and that’s as far as it goes.
Our two-party system is so entrenched at the federal, state, and local levels that the idea it could be jettisoned and replaced by some phony t-shirt marketing scheme is a bad joke.
The degree to which our two-party system has become increasingly polarized along ideological lines is the subject of a clever book, The Great Alignment, written by a political scientist, Alan Abramowitz, whose work is based on voting data collected and published by the American National Election Study (ANES).
If you’re a nut for political data like I am, the ANES website is a place you want to visit and get to know. In fact, the website has just begun to post 2020 election data which I will analyze in due time. For the moment, let’s stick with what Abramowitz says about the 2016 election as well as the political alignments which occurred over Trump’s four White House years.
Basically, what the ANES data shows, according to Abramowitz, is that White voters have tended to move from the Democratic Party to the GOP over the past 40 years, the deficit being made up in Democratic voting strength by the appearance of new immigrants and more voting energy from minority groups. Abramowitz concludes the book, written in 2017, by saying “it appears very likely that ideological conflict and partisan hostility will reach new heights during the Trump years.” [p. 172] This statement was certainly true while Trump sat behind the Resolute desk. I’m not so sure it holds true now.
Trump issued his usual threat to go against Republicans next year who break ranks and vote with the other side, but nobody’s listening to what he says. His website, now called Save America because MAGA is no longer such an inspiring brand, has lost -ready? — fifty percent of its daily traffic over the last two months.
The basic argument made by Abramowitz is that while the two parties are increasingly polarized ideologically, this polarization is really all about race. But here is where the GOP knows it has to make some kind of change because racial demographics in this country cannot be fundamentally redrawn by passing stricter voting rules or ramping up the racist rhetoric during a political campaign or anything else.
The United States is a very different country than the country which existed when Ronald Reagan made jokes on the campaign trail about the ‘welfare Queen’ driving around in her Cadillac. Hell, even Cadillacs now look like Chevys — imagine that.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen tomorrow or even the next day or even the next couple of years. But the GOP will have to find some way to enlist some non-White voters, or the party will go extinct.
Remember the Reform Party? This was the political vehicle which enabled Ross Perot to capture 19 percent of the popular vote when he ran against Clinton and Bush in 1992. The party then got pro wrestler Jesse Ventura elected Governor of Minnesota in 1998.
When Donald Trump briefly considered a Presidential campaign in 2000, he was immediately supported by what was left of the Reform Party, to which he said, “The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.”
Trump had no problem keeping and energizing that kind of company in 2016. Except there was only one little problem. After four years of unending hostility to any kind of political compromise and four years of vulgar appeals to racism in its most obvious forms, he lost. And he lost big-time, not just the way that Hillary lost by a sliver in 2016.
As to the future of the GOP, we’ll see what we see.