So let’s think about this seriously for a minute.
What could Trump get out of a new party?
Trump loves attention, chaos and suckers giving him money he doesn’t have to return or do anything for.
If he forms a party, a lot of his current followers will at minimum pay a lot of attention to him and show up at his rallies to get their infusion of emotional gratification by being with people who hate the same things and people that they hate. All the news networks will continue to report about him. Fox News, OANN and Breitbart won’t take the spotlight off of him. He’ll get the attention he needs like normal people need oxygen and water.
If he forms a party, he’ll take perhaps 10–15% of the electorate with him. His final job approval rating was 29%, but a lot of those people are tribal Republicans who loved Trump, not random people off the street. 10–15%, however, is enough to screw up political calculus in enormous numbers of states, which is of course sufficient to get lots of news and analyst attention (like this question and these answers, but writ large and glowing). Massive disruptions in electoral balance are chaos. He’ll have Republican families split down the middle and feuding. He’ll have Republicans fighting Republicans, with some joining him and some attacking him. He’ll revel in it. All that chaos, all his doing.
If he forms a party, he’ll be able to continue to spread his messages of chaos, disunity, hatred and white grievance. He’ll say that the Republican deep state kept him from meeting the needs of his flock, and while he’ll be pretty generic, the most extreme elements of the right such as the Proud Boys and the militias will think he’s talking directly to them. They’ll be even more emboldened, and buy into the notion that he’s their leader. There will be more right-wing extremism and insurrectionist acts inflamed by his rhetoric. More chaos.
And he’ll create a secular prosperity gospel movement, with him as the megachurch owner. He’ll invoke god, but it will mostly be the god of bling, the literal golden calf. He’ll undoubtedly continue to have all the evangelical leaders show up along with the pillow guy at his events and in his media drops, to give the illusion that he cares about Christians. And he’ll have all of those people send him money. He’ll get churches donating to him. He’ll get white Christian business owners donating to him. He’ll get a bunch of lottery-ticket scratching poor white people sending him their money. And he won’t have to give them a thing in return except feeding the howling void of biased ignorance inside them with things that make them feel good about themselves by pointing at all of the people they hate and supporting their loathing of them.
It will be a reality-tv political party, World Wrestling Entertainment-quality mental pablum, with all the histrionics and flamboyance, but none of the athletics. A lot of Americans will latch onto that and suck mightily at the teat of bile and disinformation. The Republicans have spent over 60 years creating and feeding those ignorant wedges, and Trump exploited them to take their party away from them in 2015. Now that he’s free of the inconvenience of actually having to do the job of President — however fitfully, poorly and incompetently — he’s free to exploit those wedges for the remainder of his life.
And he’ll have lots of help. Trump has no problem attracting venal, amoral people, leeches in human form, to his efforts. They arrogantly think that they’ll be able to get in, make their millions off the drippings from the table, and escape with their mostly non-existent souls and reputations intact.
As I said, arrogant, but not wrong in many cases about making millions. There are innumerable people who will line up to carve off as much of the proceedings of the long con into their coffers as possible. There’s been a steady conveyor line of them coming and going over the past 6 years, in and out of the Trump camp, in and out of Trump’s favor. Many of them will end up bankrupt because they’ll foolishly think that they can make deals and contracts with Trump and have them honored, greed blinding them to Trump’s entire history. He’ll con them too.
So how will this be different than the Republican Party?
Well, the RNC completely caved to Trump. Prior to the primaries last summer, they voted to be Trump’s lapdogs and support whatever he wanted, while continuing to block anything from the Democratic Party because partisan nonsense.
WHEREAS, The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration, as well as those espoused by the Democratic National Committee today; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda;
RESOVLVED, That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention;
Yeah, covfefe-level typo and all. Truly an inspiring document, laying out their positive vision for America. (Sarcasm mode off). It’s remarkable how sycophantic it is, which is probably why the RNC no longer allows people to see it on their site, and people like me have to cite it from Ballotpedia and other independent sources now.
So what are their options?
The first choice is to out-Trump Trump.
That would be to have Tom Cotton or Matt Gaetz or Tucker Carlson be the new Donald Trump, attacking him, attempting to be even more Trump-like than Trump. More brazen, more ignorant, more crude, more jingoistic, more nationalistic, more fact-free, more hating. That’s an entirely possible and probable path for the GOP. They aren’t winning Red states with reasonable and thoughtful policies, after all.
The second choice is to pivot to being a 21st Century center-right party.
The GOP has an amazing history, which they started unravelling in 1956 with In God We Trust. They were the party that freed the slaves, voted 76% to give women the vote, supported a strong Fourth Estate, were strongly for separation of church and state, were good fiscal managers of government, started the EPA, fought polio to the ground and established the national parks.
They could return to their roots, but in a 21st Century context. They could rebuild themselves as a credible alternative to the Democratic Party. They could accept climate change and offer center-right policies that were seriously thought through and communicated. They could reject the anti-vaxxers, leaving them to Trump. They could maintain an ecumenical council to gain the thoughts of religious groups, but stop pandering 24/7 to evangelicals. They could reject educational policies which intentionally made things horrible for the bottom 40% of the socioeconomic classes. They could embrace universal health care, something every western democracy has successfully done, something which has better outcomes at much lower costs. They could embrace police reform and demilitarization, but with differentiation.
They could embrace the better angels of their nature, returning to Lincoln for inspiration and guidance. They could look to the Angela Merkels of the world, right-wing leaders who are fully present in this century, not pining for a mythically glorious 1950s. They could reject the identity politics of being the party of white, Christian male grievance and embrace the vast diversity of America.
If they did that, they could carve off some of the Democratic Party’s more conservative members such as Klobuchar, Manchin and Edwards. They could make inroads into the cities. They could turn some purple states Red again, reversing the tide of history that’s seen them losing ground for decades.
The clearest sign that they would actually do this is if they vote to both impeach Trump in the Senate, and further invoke the option of disqualifying him for ever running for office again. This wouldn’t prevent Trump from pretending he was running, but it would divorce him utterly from the Republicans and limit the damage he could do politically to them in the future. I’m sure that at least three Republicans are advocating for this path out of the hundreds in Washington. It should be hundreds of the hundreds.
I think the Republicans becoming a 21st Century center right party is as likely as Trump fading quietly and humbly into the background, but they could do it.
Their last choice is to re-embrace Trump.
Instead of leaving him to kill their party, they reach out and negotiate to keep him in the fold. They promise him riches and adulation. They surround him with their organization and they stick their probing noses even further up the deep, deep divide between his buttocks.
This is basically the first choice, but with Trump as the even more Trumpy leader, leaving Gaetz, Cotton and Carlson frustrated from coupus interruptus. And then the spectacle continues, with even more craven and abject sycophancy from Republican leaders.
They preserve their electoral chances. All they give up is everything.
And Mitt Romney, while he talks a good game, would undoubtedly stay in the party, continue to be a gadfly with no power or influence and continue to get elected in Utah. A few more Republican congress members and Senators would elect to not run again over the next six years, and be replaced by even more craven Trump acolytes.
The only good choice for the Republicans is option 2. But the history of the past 70 years tells us that when presented with choices, they’ve inevitably taken the worst one for the long-term, but the one that gives them another shot for the next election cycle.
It’s been seven decades of craven weakness and unwise choices, not moral strength and foresight. There’s no reason to believe that they will change now.
Trump and many of the G.O.P.’s leaders seem to think so, with ominous consequences for the future.
Of the many stories to tell about American politics since the end of the Cold War, one of growing significance is how the Republican Party came to believe in its singular legitimacy as a political actor. Whether it’s a hangover from the heady days of the Reagan revolution (when conservatives could claim ideological hegemony) or something downstream of America’s reactionary traditions, it’s a belief that now dominates conservative politics and has placed much of the Republican Party in opposition to republican government itself.
It’s a story of escalation, from the relentless obstruction of the Gingrich era to the effort to impeach Bill Clinton to the attempt to nullify the presidency of Barack Obama and on to the struggle, however doomed, to keep Joe Biden from ever sitting in the White House as president. It also goes beyond national politics. In 2016, after a Democrat, Roy Cooper, defeated the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory for the governorship of North Carolina, the state’s Republican legislature promptly stripped the office of power and authority. Wisconsin Republicans did the same in 2018 after Tony Evers unseated Scott Walker in his bid for a third term. And Michigan Republicans took similar steps against another Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, after her successful race for the governor’s mansion.
Considered in the context of a 30-year assault on the legitimacy of Democratic leaders and Democratic constituencies (of which Republican-led voter suppression is an important part), the present attempt to disrupt and derail the certification of electoral votes is but the next step, in which Republicans say, outright, that a Democrat has no right to hold power and try to make that reality. The next Democrat to win the White House — whether it’s Biden getting re-elected or someone else winning for the first time — will almost certainly face the same flood of accusations, challenges and lawsuits, on the same false grounds of “fraud.”
It’s worth emphasizing the bad faith and dishonesty on display here. At least 140 House Republicans say that they will vote against counting certain electoral votes on Wednesday. Among them are newly seated lawmakers in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two states whose votes are in contention. But the logic of their objection applies to them as well as Biden. If his state victories are potentially illegitimate, then so are theirs. Or take the charge, from Ted Cruz and 10 other Senate Republicans, that multiple key swing states changed (or even violated) their election laws in contravention of the Constitution. If it’s true for those cases, then it’s also true of Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, unilaterally expanded voting, however meagerly. And yet there’s no drive to cancel those results.
The issue for Republicans is not election integrity, it’s the fact that Democratic votes count at all.
That said, not every Republican has joined the president’s crusade against self-government. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas shares the presidential ambitions of Cruz and Josh Hawley and others who want to disrupt the electoral vote count. But where they see opportunity, he sees blowback. Here he is in a statement released by his office:
If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed that power, but also establish unwise precedents. First, Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress. Second, Congress would imperil the Electoral College, which gives small states like Arkansas a voice in presidential elections. Democrats could achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College in effect by refusing to count electoral votes in the future for a Republican president-elect.
So do seven of his Republican colleagues in the House, who similarly argue that this stunt will undermine the Republican Party’s ability to win presidential elections:
From a purely partisan perspective, Republican presidential candidates have won the national popular vote only once in the last 32 years. They have therefore depended on the Electoral College for nearly all presidential victories in the last generation. If we perpetuate the notion that Congress may disregard certified electoral votes — based solely on its own assessment that one or more states mishandled the presidential election — we will be delegitimizing the very system that led Donald Trump to victory in 2016, and that could provide the only path to victory in 2024.
But even as they stand against the effort to challenge the results, these Republicans affirm the baseless idea that there was fraud and abuse in the election. Cotton says he “shares the concerns of many Arkansans about irregularities in the presidential election,” while the House lawmakers say that they “are outraged at the significant abuses in our election system resulting from the reckless adoption of mail-in ballots and the lack of safeguards maintained to guarantee that only legitimate votes are cast and counted.” Even as they criticize an attempted power grab, they echo the idea that one side has legitimate voters and the other does not.
It’s hard to say how anyone can shatter this belief in the Republican Party’s singular right to govern. The most we can do, in this moment, is rebuke the attempt to overturn the election in as strong a manner as possible. If President Trump broke the law with his phone call to Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia — in which he pressured Raffensperger to “find” votes on his behalf — then Trump should be pursued like any other citizen who attempted to subvert an election. He should be impeached as well, even if there’s only two weeks left in his term, and the lawmakers who support him should be censured and condemned.
There’s no guarantee that all this will hurt the Republican Party at the ballot box. But I think we’re past that. The question now is whether the events of the past two months will stand as precedent, a guide for those who might emulate Trump.
The door to overturning a presidential election is open. The rules — or at least a tortured, politically motivated reading of the rules — make it possible. Moreover, it is a simple reality of political systems that what can happen eventually will happen. It may not be in four years, it may not be in eight, but if the Republican Party continues along this path, it will run this play again. And there’s nothing to say it can’t work.
Joe Biden won the US presidential election with 306 electoral votes. But incumbent President Donald Trump has yet to concede, and the Republican Party seems to be at a crossroads after four years of Trumpism. What direction will the GOP take going forward?
The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson offers a very bleak outlook into the GOP’s future. He says ‘the Republican party has sold out itself to Trump’ and what follows Trump will be more dangerous, because it will be more sophisticated.
trump supporters rallying for him again
they won’t accept that their president
lost the elections
and they’re determined to keep him as
around 73 million americans voted for
making them a formidable force of force
threatens to run out of control
he loves america he loves america he
does not quit on america
and that’s why america will not quit on
i’d like trump to start a new party if
he wanted to
the republican party is changing real
fast so we’re
we’re gonna be represented by the
soldiers the veterans uh the
hard-working people of this country
not by the corrupt politicians that sit
up here and get fat on our money
and steal everything from us
there are many who want to take the
republican party down a more
moderate path to strengthen their case
they talk about this man abraham lincoln
he was the president who won the civil
war and ended slavery
and he was a republican he is the man
anti-trump republicans turn to when they
want to invoke
reason and moral values into present day
the lincoln project is a political
set up by former republicans to prevent
being re-elected i want to hear their
thoughts on the future of the gop
from rick wilson one of the co-founders
how could donald trump happen
well donald trump was not just about the
republican party it was about american
and this is a country that has become
largely addicted to
and mediated by reality television and
the man they saw on the apprentice for
on television looked competent smart
steady brilliant negotiator great deal
maker great businessman
of course we all know in the real world
that was never
even close to donald trump’s actual
character or who he really is
as a person and a leader but that was
between fox and reality television
republican voters were insulated in this
uh sphere of irreality of fantasy
and so donald trump uh reached the
presidential stage at a moment where
where republican voters had become
increasingly isolated from reality of
and had become increasingly addicted to
the kind of defiant
uh oppositional nature of
fox news and of their own facebook
groups and their own online
communities and as those moments um
you know evolved in the 2016 election
it became harder and harder for actual
republicans who had
you know the ideological predicates of
the past limited government
personal responsibility you know strong
international relations and good
relationships with our allies
all of those things were washed away
because donald trump
gave them entertainment and
i mean you you are a former republican
was there any sense
how dangerous it could be letting him
in well i was screaming about how
dangerous he was since 2015
and by the by the middle of his
administration by around 2018
there had been a massive schism in the
party there were only two types of
those who understood how dangerous he
was and would speak
and the vast majority who understood how
dangerous he was and wouldn’t speak
you know there’s there’s a secret here
that most republicans the vast majority
of the elected officials
do not like donald trump they are not
trumpists they are afraid of them
but they don’t like him they don’t
regard him or admire him
now i will say that that doesn’t fix the
because with donald trump there is never
a limit to which he will press these
folks as we saw this week in america
17 republican attorneys general in the
um went out and and pushed hard
to to have the supreme court invalidate
election now these people they’ve
all of their you know former political
and ideological predicates
for trump uh and so what you’ve seen is
a radical transformation of the gop
into the trump party what what should
do with all these trump supporters i
mean 73 million voted for him maybe not
all trump supporters but
you know i mean what should what should
the gop do luckily it’s not my problem
you know good riddance um but look
they have to have a painful
reconciliation with what they have done
there has to be a look back at the way
they have corrupted the party on trump’s
and until they do that i don’t think
there’s a real solution
going forward because he has been such a
the republican base vote the republican
the ordinary republican voters there’s
only one thing they hate more
than a democrat and that’s a republican
who hates donald trump
and so they’re going to be driving the
party further and further into the
trumpet space which is authoritarian
which is nationalist which is highly
regimented around the obedience to the
you know it has frightening historical
precedence and what i worry about as a
former republican and knowing the sort
of character of the people still in the
i’m worried about the more competent
presentable version of trump that’s
going to come down the pike in a few
that to me is um
an enormously concerning uh impact of
what could come out of that asking as a
well yeah what could go wrong as i like
um yeah those sort of things as i said
there are a lot of historical precedents
that are not good
um and not just the german precedent
there are many many other nations
um that that have gone down this
uh and it always leads to an abuse of
power it always
at the minimum two abuses of power uh at
the maximum to the worst case scenarios
and and i’m afraid that trump has
conditioned a generation of republicans
that if they don’t get their way that
they don’t need to work within the
constitution of the united states that
they can go an extra constitutional
extrajudicial extra political route
which may involve violence
which may involve the generation of of
for the future of one of the world’s
longest running and
most robust democracies rick um
i talked to republicans i have the
feeling that they are not understanding
what is going on
no a lot of them when you’re talking
about reconciliation but
from what i i mean experienced the last
couple of days
working on this piece i think that they
get it no they they don’t understand it
and they don’t understand that that
without donald trump
as the figurehead of their party they’re
going to lose a meaningful number of
their own voters
those voters have become members of a
trumpist movement a faction
if you will and that’s not going to go
his son will pick up the mantle when
donald trump dies or his daughter
or people that imitate him very closely
uh will pick up that mantle and there’s
nothing that can be done
about that because the republican party
has sold itself to trump
there is no institutional republican
party left to push back against trumpism
what does that mean politically for the
united states and for the rest of the
world so to speak
well it means that we have a that the
emergence of a third party
in the us is is upon us and that party
an american party that party is
dedicated to authoritarianism
that party is dedicated to the worship
of a single family
um that party is is oppositional
to anything that gets in their political
way and that opposition manifests itself
in ways that are not traditionally seen
in the american political space
look the american political space has
long had a center left
and a center right and and the the edges
of both parties
were not terribly influential and there
was always a tug of war
between those center left center right
we have a voice on the extreme right of
which is um which is driven by again
that oppositional defiance
of traditional norms and values and laws
it’s driven by a hatred of immigrants a
various races it’s driven by a hatred of
the elite the educated the experts um
and that’s a recipe for a country
that has a major political party that
does not look like anything we’ve had in
there’s never been a true large scale
i mean we had you know george lincoln
you know and then we had some of the and
you had lindbergh in the bund
back in the 30s that was growing into a
but they never manifested at the level
that the trumpest party is manifesting
and that’s something that is that is
concerning a lot of americans who
regardless of their ideology whether
they’re conservative or progressive or
moderate or they’re liberal it’s
concerning a broad spectrum of americans
you know this is a pathway that leads to
a very bad outcome in this country
and the concern is rising and it’s right
to be it’s right to be rising
and that’s why our group the lincoln
project has stayed in this fight
we we know that defeating donald trump
was only the first step
trumpism is a more dangerous and more
than anyone could have accounted for
even a couple years ago
but it has this very powerful allies in
the media it has a very powerful ally in
facebook which allows
all these these alt-right and
and and openly fascist groups like the
to to organize and to use it as a
bullhorn and to proselytize and
and to propagandize the american people
and so we’re seeing
uh an enormous risk that what follows
trump is is more dangerous
because it’s more sophisticated than
donald trump ever was
last question rick um what should uh
the western world learn from this
you know how dangerous is it when you go
to bed with the devil as we say you know
sure and get out of it so what what is
your message kind of you know
well look there is there is a clear
message for for folks in europe
uh especially because there is a rising
uh tide of rescission from the
that define sort of the atlantic charter
field and the the eu’s
uh original mission that recision is
all over europe i mean you have erdogan
in turkey who
is essentially a dictator um you have
um who are very alt-right who are who
are trying to
you know put on a suit and tie and it’s
not just the clownish sort of le pen
types it’s you know people who appear
presentable who say some of the right
but who are part of this global
alt-right movement this global
this global rising tide will zombasha in
in albania of all things there’s a guy
who you know looks presentable he
doesn’t come out you know wearing a an
but the things he says and wants to do
are enormously dangerous
if you’re going to look at modern
european democracies or modern or modern
writ large and these risk factors have
asia in south and central america in the
united states obviously
and across europe and that’s one of the
reasons that again our group is fighting
to to in america now
increasingly abroad to face these kind
from this from this far right uh
racially inflected movement
that has grown i mean look if you look
at the governments of albania and poland
you are not looking at things that that
that the post-war
consensus would have recognized um as
embracing the values that that we all
shaped the western civilization in the
in the years after world war
ii and in the years after the collapse
of the soviet union
and so it’s enormously troubling it’s a
fight that we’re in now and we’re going
to be in for
for apparently quite a long time are
there any leaders in the republican
party who could kind of take over again
do you see any figures there may be
leaders in the republican
party but it’ll be a smaller party i
mean look there are guys like mitt
and adam kinzinger uh and and some of
the folks in georgia
who have said no the president not you
know was not cheated
um but that courage is
is very rare few and far between
i mean when you’ve only got uh 27
members of congress in the republican
side who have acknowledged that joe
biden won the election
you’ve got a much smaller party than you
once had so
as the conservative side splits the
trumpist party will be
two-thirds to five-eighths uh of
of what was the gop and there’ll be a
smaller romney sort of republican party
and that’s not an effective um that’s
not an effective political party at the
at that point that’s a disturbing
yeah i don’t sleep a lot so and did you
how do you schedule how do you kind of
see the next kind of two years or so
what’s going to happen well i think
you’re going to see an awful lot of
trying to destroy joe biden’s
administration very quickly
they’re going to use legislative tactics
in the senate particularly
to deny joe biden the ability to do
or health care relief for our hospitals
and doctors and nurses who have suffered
so badly during the course of covet
you’re going to see them block his
appointments as much as they can
so their idea is to train wreck
joe biden’s administration the first two
so they can recapture the senate at the
same time you’re going to see a whole
of new trump-ist style candidates
emerging tom cotton josh hawley marco
rubio mike lee
ted cruz they’re going to all be running
for president in 2022
and you’re going to have donald trump
and his he’s on paper running for
but you’re also going to see his son
preparing to run for president 2022
so there will be a strong set of
incentives to keep driving that
authoritarian statism and and that that
sort of new
fascism message of trumpism in the next
two years to four years
because that is where the republican
base has been transformed and that’s
where those people will go and run to
try to get their votes
rick thank you very much i hope we can
talk again in some
i would love to that’d be great this is
an ongoing conversation in the world
absolutely i’d love to i’d love to see
because this is kind of well this is
what we experience as you said in many
other countries as well
so stay safe thank you very much you too
great to talk to you on this i’ll talk
to you soon
In a new book, the pollster Stanley Greenberg predicts a blue tidal wave in 2020.
Toward the end of his new book, “R.I.P. G.O.P.,” the renowned Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg makes a thrilling prediction, delivered with the certainty of prophecy. “The year 2020 will produce a second blue wave on at least the scale of the first in 2018 and finally will crash and shatter the Republican Party that was consumed by the ill-begotten battle to stop the New America from governing,” he writes.
It sounds almost messianic: the Republican Party, that foul agglomeration of bigotry and avarice that has turned American politics into a dystopian farce, not just defeated but destroyed. The inexorable force of demography bringing us a new, enlightened political dispensation. Greenberg foresees “the death of the Republican Party as we’ve known it,” and a Democratic Party “liberated from the nation’s suffocating polarization to use government to advance the public good.” I’d like to believe it, and maybe you would too. But should we?
This is not the first time that experts have predicted the inevitable triumph of progressive politics. Seventeen years ago, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which argued that the country was on the cusp of a liberal political realignment driven by growing diversity, urbanization and gender equality. In sheer numerical terms they were right; between then and now the Republican Party won the presidential popular vote only once, in 2004. But Republicans still have more power than Democrats, and in 2017, Judis disavowed his book’s thesis, arguing that only populist economics could deliver Democratic victories.
As it happens, Greenberg, who became famous as Bill Clinton’s pollster in 1992 and consulted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, told me he used to “shudder” at the “Emerging Democratic Majority” analysis. “I’m used to campaigns in which you impact what’s going to happen,” he said. “The idea that it’s just going to happen because of trends is dangerous. And it was dangerous with Hillary.”
There’s a fascinating tension in “R.I.P. G.O.P.” Greenberg is scathing about the failures of the Hillary Clinton campaign, accusing it of “malpractice.” Yet he believes that at least some of the political assumptions that were mistaken in 2016 will be sound in 2020.
Greenberg suggests that Clinton erred by focusing too much on multiculturalism at the expense of class, and by trying to discredit Donald Trump as a vulgarian rather than a plutocrat. As Clinton wrote in “What Happened,” her post mortem of her shattering loss, Greenberg “thought my campaign was too upbeat on the economy, too liberal on immigration, and not vocal enough about trade.”
Yet going into 2020, Greenberg believes that what he calls the “rising American electorate” — including millennials, people of color and single women — will ensure Democratic victory, almost regardless of whom the party nominates. “We’re dealing with demographic and cultural trends, but we’re also dealing with people that are organizing and talking to one and another and becoming much more conscious of their values,” he said.
In his polling and focus groups, he’s seeing that the reaction to Trump is changing people. “The Trump presidency so invaded the public’s consciousness that it was hard to talk to previously disengaged and unregistered unmarried women, people of color and millennials without them going right to Trump,” he writes. A few months after the election, he realized he could no longer put Clinton and Trump voters in focus groups together because indignant Clinton voters, particularly women, so dominated the conversations. “This turned out to be an unintended test of the strength of their views and resolve to resist,” he wrote.
That resolve to resist has led many voters to define their own beliefs in opposition to Trump’s. On immigration, for example, “every Trump outrage increased the proportion of Americans who said, ‘We are an immigrant country,’” writes Greenberg. Indeed, according to recent Pew data, 62 percent of Americans say that immigrants strengthen the country, while 28 percent, a near record low, see them as a burden.
Yet rather than modulating their anti-immigrant politics in response, Republicans have little choice but to double down, because so many of their voters are driven by nativism. In this way, Greenberg sees an omen for the Republican Party in California. It’s hard to remember now, but the state was once the heartland of conservatism, nurturing the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. From 1968 to 1988, it voted Republican in every presidential election, and regularly elected Republican governors.
But in 1994, California Republicans, fearful of changing demography, campaigned for Proposition 187, a ballot initiative meant to make life miserable for undocumented immigrants. It won — though courts blocked its implementation — but it also turned expanding constituencies in California against Republicans. Today the party has been reduced to an irrelevant rump faction in state politics.
The specter of California haunts the modern right; many conservatives see it as a portent of what demographic change will do to Republican power nationally. But California can just as easily be seen as a sign of how a political party can drive itself to ruin by making a cruel, doomed stand against the coming generation. If Greenberg is right, national Republicans, fearful of going the way of those in California, may have ensured precisely that fate.
But is he right? Unlike in California, you can’t win power in the United States just by getting the most votes. The political analyst David Wasserman has argued that Trump could lose the popular vote by as much as five million and still prevail in the Electoral College. Greenberg, however, is convinced that the 2018 midterms prove that mass turnout can overcome the Democrats’ structural disadvantages. “Every piece of data I have, the trends have moved to be more Democratic since 2018,” he said.
His confidence will not be enough to lessen the insomnia that has plagued me since the cursed night when Trump was elected. But his book should be a corrective to the media’s overweening focus on the mulish devotion of Trump voters. Trump hatred is a much more potent force in this country than Trump love. There is one way, and one way only, that Trump may surpass Barack Obama. Though Obama was a community organizer, Trump could turn out to be much better at mobilizing progressives.
Why do Republicans enable right-wing extremism?
Why has the Republican Party become a systematic enabler of terrorism?
Don’t pretend to be shocked. Just look at G.O.P. responses to the massacre in El Paso. They have ranged from the ludicrous (blame video games!) to the almost honest (who would have expected Ted Cruz, of all people, to speak out against white supremacy?). But as far as I can tell, not one prominent Republican has even hinted at the obvious link between Donald Trump’s repeated incitements to violence and the upsurge in hate crimes.
So the party remains in lock step behind a man who has arguably done more to promote racial violence than any American since Nathan Bedford Forrest, who helped found the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization if there ever was one — and who was recently honored by the Republican governor of Tennessee.
Anyway, the party’s complicity started long before Trump came on the scene. More than a decade ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report warning about a surge of right-wing extremism. The report was prescient, to say the least. But when congressional Republicans learned about it, they went on a rampage, demanding the resignation of Janet Napolitano, who headed the agency, and insisted that even using the term “right-wing extremism” was unacceptable.
This backlash was effective: Homeland Security drastically scaled back its efforts to monitor and head off what was already becoming a major threat. In effect, Republicans bullied law enforcement into creating a safe space for potential terrorists, as long as their violent impulses were motivated by the right kind of hatred.
No, not exactly. No doubt some members of Congress, and a significant number of Trump administration officials, very much including the tweeter in chief, really are white supremacists. And a much larger fraction — almost surely bigger than anyone wants to admit — are racists. (Recently released tapes of conversations between Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon reveal that the modern G.O.P.’s patron saint was, in fact, a crude racist who called Africans “monkeys.”)
But racism isn’t what drives the Republican establishment, and my guess is that a majority of the party’s elected officials find it a little bit repugnant — just not repugnant enough to induce them to repudiate its political exploitation. And their exploitation of racism has led them inexorably to where they are today: de facto enablers of a wave of white supremacist terrorism.
The central story of U.S. politics since the 1970s is the takeover of the Republican Party by economic radicals, determined to slash taxes for the wealthy while undermining the social safety net.
With the arguable exception of George H.W. Bush, every Republican president since 1980 has pushed through tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the 1 percent while trying to defund and/or privatize key social programs like
- Social Security,
- Medicaid and the
- Affordable Care Act.
So how do Republicans win elections? By appealing to racial animus. This is such an obvious fact of American political life that you have to be willfully blind not to see it.
For a long time, the G.O.P. establishment was able to keep this game under control. It would campaign using implicit appeals to racial hostility (welfare queens! Willie Horton!) but turn postelection to privatization and tax cuts.
But for some reason this bait-and-switch started getting less effective in the 2000s. Maybe it was the reality of America’s growing racial diversity; maybe it was the fact that American society as a whole was becoming less racist, leaving the hard-core racists feeling isolated and frustrated. And the election of our first black president really kicked hatred into overdrive.
The result is that there are more and more angry white people out there willing to commit mayhem — and able to do so because those same Republicans have blocked any effective control over sales of assault weapons.
A different, better G.O.P. might have been willing to acknowledge the growing threat and supported a crackdown on violent right-wing extremism, comparable to the F.B.I.’s successful campaign against the modern K.K.K. in the 1960s. A lot of innocent victims would be alive today if Republicans had done so.
But they didn’t, because admitting that right-wing extremism was a threat, or even a phrase law enforcement should be allowed to use, might have threatened the party’s exploitation of racial hostility to achieve its economic goals.
In effect, then, the Republican Party decided that a few massacres were an acceptable price to pay in return for tax cuts. I wish that were hyperbole, but the continuing refusal of G.O.P. figures to criticize Trump even after El Paso shows that it’s the literal truth.
So as I said at the beginning, the G.O.P. has become a systematic enabler of terrorism. Why? Follow the money.
We ask Andrew Sullivan:
Do you still consider yourself a conservative?
Andrew Sullivan replies:
Absolutely. I wrote a book on my conservatism, ‘The Conservative Soul.’ But in so far as the word has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists and emotionally arrested Randians, I am not one of them. I’d fit easily into a conservative party in any other western democracy. But the GOP is a rogue in the western world – the most extremist right-wing party in any modern democracy by a mile. Banning all abortion and all gay marriages? Denying climate change science?
They’re not conservatives, they’re the loony right.
P.S.: [William F.] Buckley favored legal pot. Where are the celebrations of freedom at [the National Review]?