Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Yesterday, Paul Ryan won his primary against Trump-like challenger Paul Nehlen in a blowout. The Atlantic's Molly Ball wonders if that means Trumpism won't outlast Donald Trump's candidacy:
... House Speaker Paul Ryan easily won his congressional primary on Tuesday, by a nearly 70-point margin....

Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, styled himself along Trumpist lines, railing against globalism and “open borders” and depicting Ryan as a tool of Wall Street; he said he would consider deporting all Muslims and campaigned alongside such pro-Trump figures as Tom Tancredo and Ann Coulter.

... Nehlen’s candidacy was a test of whether there’s actually a latent constituency in the GOP base for a Trumpist ideology of populist nationalism. Some Trump fans believe he represents a larger philosophical movement to overthrow the longstanding priorities of the party’s donor class....

The evidence from Tuesday’s result ... is bolstered by other pieces of evidence this year. Establishment-friendly candidates have won Republican primaries across the board; another incumbent member of Congress endorsed by Trump in a primary, North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers, went down to defeat. On this evidence, Trump would seem to have neither political clout nor an ideological hold over the party whose nomination he’s taken.

... It’s too soon to say for sure, but the Wisconsin primary offered anti-Trump Republicans hope that their 2016 nominee may represent an anomaly rather than a revolution from within.
The old cliche about presidential primary campaigns is that Democrats fall in love and Republican fall in line. The exact opposite happened this year -- but Republican voters have eventually fallen in line in the recent past, even when the candidate who was "owed" the nomination was uninspiring (Dole in 1996, Romney in 2012). This year, Republicans didn't go with a pre-selected political alpha male because Trump was seen as a non-political alpha male, and thus a much more alpha alpha than, say, Jeb Bush or Scott Walker. Trump is really rich! (Or so he regularly tells us.) So of course he can do a job for which he has no qualifications! That perception of Trump's alpha status is why he succeeded where ideological soul mates such as Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo failed.

Hard as he tries, Paul Nehlen is not an alpha:

He's a mid-level executive at a non-elite firm; he's not a mover and shaker. Ryan has come in for his share of criticism among GOP voters, but he's still powerful in D.C. and he still thwarts and frustrates Democrats. Therefore, in a one-to-one comparison, Ryan is the alpha and Nehlen is the beta. That's true in most Republican races -- the incumbent backed by big corporate bucks is effectively the alpha (backed by real alphas), and the upstarts are betas. The party Establishment lost ground to the upstarts for a few years, and, yes, Eric Cantor lost a shocker to a not-particularly-alpha challenger, but the Establishment losers were mostly asleep at the switch, and that's happening less and less now.

So, yeah, I agree with those who think Trumpism will lose a lot of its punch once Trump is out of the picture. To some extent, it's a personality cult.

But Republicans shouldn't be complacent, because the size of the gap between Establishment Republicanism and Trumpism has been greatly exaggerated. With the possible exception of the trade issue, Trumpism is mostly mainstream Republicanism with the euphemisms, dog whistles, and use of surrogates replaced by overt appeals to baser instincts directly from the mouth of the candidate. Republican Establishmentarians may not have run expressly racist campaigns in recent years, but they benefited from Fox/Drudge scaremongering about the "Ground Zero mosque" and the New Black Panthers and crime in Chicago and "knockout game" attacks. The GOP Establishment may claim to want to do outreach to Hispanics, but the majority of House Republicans have repeatedly run screaming from immigration reform.

This goes both ways, of course: The economic plan Trump just introduced was cribbed to a great extent from congressional Republicans. And everybody across the board in the GOP wants to jail Hillary Clinton, repeal Obamacare, and scream "radical Islamic terrorism" until the words themselves magically end the threat.

So, yes, the pre-Trump GOP will reemerge after Trump is gone, unless another alpha takes his place. But Trump was always more than a little bit Establishment, and the Establishment was fairly Trumpy all along.


Victor said...

tRUMP isn't a symptom, he's the very disease, left to run its course.

He is the conservative id, unhinged!

He merely says what they've been whispering and dog-whistling for 50 years.

Ten Bears said...

Mid-level manager: business talk for "bully". Doesn't need to know anything, just... bully.

Now that the Secret Service has had a little chat with der Dumpf ick, anyone want to make book on how long before it "fires" its government supplied security detail in lieu of a private service?

Yes, it.