The Trump trap, Part 2

The Thinker by Rodin

Back in March I discussed what could happen with Trump supporters when he loses. How will they deal with their feelings of disempowerment? It’s hard to say but it’s more likely to be ugly than not. Trump has opened the can of racism for all to see after decades of sensible Republicans peaking under its lid. It’s unlikely to go away when Trump loses. Should Trump want its mantle (and it’s likely he will, given his enormous ego) he can own it and its movement.

Today I want to ponder what his loss will mean to the Republican Party, which could actually be the Republican Party. It all depends on how badly the election goes for Republicans. With tightly gerrymandered districts, Republicans will probably retain control of the House. At worst the odds are about even that Democrats will retake the Senate. One credible analysis suggests Democrats need to win about eight percent more votes than Republicans for them to win the House. Given that is a pretty high bar, Republicans are likely to emerge from the election bloodied and bruised but not out for the count.

Over the last couple of decades, Republicans have been the more fortunate party in winning massive amounts of seats in Congress. They picked up 52 seats in 1994 and an astounding 64 seats in 2010. Democratic gains tend to be more incremental: 31 seats in 2004 and 24 seats in 2008. Presidential election years, particularly when a new president will be elected, tend to bring out Democrats. Democrats would have to flip 30 seats in November to wrest House control. It’s a high bar but not impossible, as they did it in 2004. Regardless, Democrats will pick up House seats. If they don’t gain the majority, it is likely their minority will be ten seats or fewer.

Democrats wresting total control of Congress and the Executive is a gram slam, last done in 2008. History tends to prove these majorities are ephemeral but while they last they allow Washington to move, providing the majority party can stay united. This is always problematic with Democrats.

A triple loss did not kill the Republican Party in 2008, but it did make them meaner and more ornery, pushing the party from mainstream to extreme. Trump has captured the party and turned it into an officially extreme party. Those Republicans left in Congress after November will come from more gerrymandered districts, which means they will be more extreme, not less. However, if Trump loses badly it will be hard for the remaining Republicans to escape the feeling that they don’t have an electable message. There is likely to be more fruitless soul searching by the Republican Party leadership on how it can reach out to new voters. This is hard to do if your party has essentially become a white nationalist party and demographics mean this will only make your party more in the minority in the future.

Moreover, the national disgrace of nominating Trump as their candidate in the first place won’t have new voters switching parties or coming into their movement. Whatever percentage of votes that Trump gets is likely the party’s ceiling in the future, unless they fundamentally redefine their party. If they can’t turn some purple states red, the party is unlikely to reclaim the White House for decades. Complete refusal to work with a Democratic president has proven counterproductive. More of the same – no matter how natural a reaction it will be – won’t improve the party’s chances of enacting its agenda in the future.

Republicans supporting Trump today won’t easily be able to walk it back. Texas senator Ted Cruz recently endorsed Trump, despite saying he would never do so. It’s unclear why he is preferable to Hillary Clinton, when Trump is a sociopath, serial adulterer, misogynist, liar and likely a lawbreaker as well, given shenanigans with his charity and apparently illegally doing business covertly in Cuba. By supporting him, Republicans are also tacitly endorsing policies hitherto anathema to Republicans: ending free trade, allowing the expansion of nuclear weapons, reducing our commitments to NATO and approving of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Any of these positions would have immediately disqualified any candidate in Ronald Reagan’s mind, and yet the pro-Reagan party has nominated a candidate his complete antithesis. How on earth do you get back to a governing majority after promoting this wreckage of a candidate?

My suspicion is that after four years or so of trying, Republicans won’t try anymore. Their brand is likely to be fatally tarnished by this election. The truly principled Republicans are actually very few, but the Bush clan seems to be among the few that simply won’t abide or vote for Trump. Most of the Bushes are likely to vote for no one, but as least one (former president George H. W. Bush) plans to vote for Hillary Clinton. When push comes to shove, few Republicans can actually put country before party.

The party must moderate and be more inclusive or die. Since it is now principally a party full of extremes, it is more likely to die, which means it is likely to Balkanize. There are a few people to watch to see what happens including Ohio governor John Kasich, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and House Speaker Paul Ryan. I think that within four years the Republican Party — while not ceasing to exist — will shrink yet again, with perhaps a third moving in a new direction under a new label and brand, perhaps under a Prosperity Party. Expect a couple of years while the party thrashes and ultimately fails to unite first. Those who put power over principle are likely to eventually win this test of wills because a party that cannot wield power is not really a party.

4 thoughts on “The Trump trap, Part 2

  1. My friend, I’ve been receiving your post for over a year but you hit a grand slam with this jewel. Trump has exposed this countries racism and shear ignorance! I’ve said for years, 30% or more of americans are hopelessly delusional, so poorly unaware of common sense, not to mention critical thinking skills. Now add some economic issues and TRUMP is their new lily white savior!! I’m truly amazed how easily many caucasians are to manipulate!! HITLER, wasn’t a genius! he just took advantage of the German’s people hate of the other! mix in a crashed economy , WW1 and the recipe is cooking on the stove!!

  2. Sorry, this is anti-intellectual dishonest drivel. This election is not about racism or sexism as there is no real difference between the two candidates on that score except one wants to use Alinsky tactics and the other mostly doesn’t.

    This election is about Globalism vs Nationalism, both of which are dangerous if carried to extremes. And Sanders was anti-globalist before he was paid off, so this is not even a left vs right election.

    So you’re saying that open borders and no vetting for Saudis will become the accepted permanent norm if Trump loses? I don’t think so. Clinton will probably put up more barriers and she’ll probably vet more people from terror-supporting countries. The anti-globalist movement will continue into the 2018 elections *in both parties* and into the 2020 election season. The Bushes and Romneys are permanently out. The base will never forgive them anymore than they forgave Romney’s father in the sixties for doing the same thing.

    Regarding war with Russia…don’t be so smug about wanting the new Cold War to remain hot. You don’t know the first thing about Crimea. The only way it would be smart of the US to remain enemies with a newly allied Russia-China is if ISIS is really an American black ops organization created to keep Iraqi oil selling for petrodollars in place of US troops whom the Iraqis asked to leave. If ISIS is really a terror threat to the USA, then it’s entirely stupid to have any lack of cooperation with the other superpowers. Period. Maximum cooperation is required if ISIS is what the US government publicly says it is.

    About free trade…again we’re talking about fair trade. Admittedly, it’s bizarre for Trump to say Ford can’t produce small cars in Mexico if it wants to (or else face a 35% tarrif) when other countries can build plants in Mexico or otherwise and shouldn’t face such tarrifs, but Trump could keep Ford and Carrier in the USA by reducing corporate taxes and other impediments to manufacturing domestically.

    If Trump loses, he will become the main financial backer and a speaker for a lot of 2018 politicians (think incumbent Senators like Flake losing their seats). Think a much more effective version of Ron Paul. Again, there is zero chance of anyone who is now voting for Trump to go back to voting for globalist establishment candidates. Except maybe the strange voters in Wisconsin’s First District who voted for Ryan in his primary or the super weird voters of Arizona who voted for McCain again in his primary. That was strange.

    Trump would no longer be in a position where he has to pretend to be nice to the incumbent Republicans now running for Congress (and unfortunately likely to win) because he is now running “with” them.

    Remember, the incumbent GOP politicians all voted for TPP and more war. I can now only vote straight Democrat for everyone below the Presidency.

    But talking about future politics is only relevant if Clinton doesn’t get us all killed in nuclear war with Russia in 2017. It’s only Obama’s common sense that is keeping us from attacking the Syrian Army right now, although to say Obama is keeping his cool would be to imply that there are a lot of neocons around him who hold equal power to him and who have been putting the pressure on him to act in the first place. There are rumors that the September attack that killed Syrian soldiers was not ordered by Obama but by rogue elements whom Obama couldn’t court martial or fire.

    Logically, Obama should have long ago fired anyone in government who ever implied that the US has any business in Syria at all. The American people are overwhelmingly against fighting anyone but terrorists in Syria.

    But then we still have a one party system where we don’t have any real say in such matters.

  3. If you want to go into wonkish foreign policy specifics, the war hawk neocons (who back Clinton) have already floated the idea to the Russians of recognizing Crimea in return for getting Donbass “back”.

    Trump was not really going off the war hawk reservation at all on that score. Not only that, but it wouldn’t be extreme for any western politician to accept Minsk2. After all, Merkel and Holland forged that deal (which gives Donbass to Russia as well). Trump hasn’t gone as “far” as saying he’s OK with Merkel and Hollande’s deal with Russia. So he sounds pretty hawkish to me.

    In fact, when Trump says we should “take the Iraqis’ oil” that’s very in-your-face to the Russians, Iranians, Chinese and Iraqis who probably are not down with that (nor is it legal under international law in any way, shape or form).

    So, if you want to play real hardball with the Russians and flout their interests in the Middle East, Trump is your man. It’s just that he would do it forthrightly and honestly by telling them “this is what we’re going to do” and throwing them some bones like something they already have anyway (Minsk2).

    This is opposed to the Obama/Clinton strategy of being passive/aggressive with the Russians and Chinese, involving pretending that we stand for the Manichean Good vs their Evil, but getting antsy and angry if one of those other powers bombs ISIS oil trucks or Al Qaeda positions. I mean, what’s up with that?

  4. At least in the 2nd debate Clinton did not say she’d attack Assad’s forces. She just said we’d get the world to declare Russia and Syria to be “war criminals”. It was actually a plus for her not to be too warlike in front of the US public.

    Trump, in the 2nd debate, openly said he would not attack Assad’s forces saying we need to be allied with them and the Russians against ISIS. Trump must look so naive to members of the elite who know ISIS is secretly “on our side” against the Russians and Assad.

    But to viewers paying attention, Trump said he would not start WW3 or continue the useless cold war that is so stressful to Europeans and which has driven Russia and China and Iran into an alliance.

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