Thursday, March 24, 2016


Ross Douthat doesn't think the Donald Trump moment will lead to a permanent conservative split -- and not only do I agree with him, I think the healing process will be (alas) even easier than he anticipates.

Douthat writes:
First, there is no Trump movement as yet; there is only Trump himself, his brand and his cult of personality, plus a parade of opportunists and hangers-on. This makes the Trump phenomenon very different from the Goldwater and McGovern candidacies, which were boosted by pre-existing movements on the right and left....

Maybe a Trump movement is struggling toward self-consciousness, and in four to eight years it will be fully formed. But for now there aren’t Trump-like candidates challenging Republican politicians insufficiently committed to his cause (this has been a pretty easy year for incumbents, in fact), nor is there a Trumpish version of the netroots poised to be a player in Republican politics in 2018 or 2020....

So when Trump is no longer a candidate for president, Sean Hannity will probably morph back into a partisan hatchet man, Ben Carson will go back to his speaking circuit, Newt Gingrich will find some new ideological coat to wear and Chris Christie will take a job chauffeuring Trump’s limo. Maybe they’ll all rally again if he runs again in 2020. But Trumpism will need new leaders and a real activist base if it’s going to be more than a tendency or a temptation going forward.
Absolutely, and for good reason: Members of the right-wing rank-and-file just want someone or something to hate, and they're not picky: Show them a clip of George W. Bush standing on the 9/11 rubble with a bullhorn and they'll cheer. Show them a clip of Trump denouncing W for lying about Iraq WMDs and they'll cheer. They don't know what they believe. They just want enemies. They want an angry champion who seems conservative and who appears to have the strength to kick the asses of those enemies, whoever the hell they are this week.

Douthat considers the possibility that there might be an ongoing Trump movement, and rejects it.
... a Trumpian schism probably wouldn’t lead to a full realignment, a real re-sorting of the parties. Instead it would likely just create a lasting civil war within American conservatism, forging two provisional mini-parties -- one more nationalist and populist, concentrated in the Rust Belt and the South, the other more like the Goldwater-to-Reagan G.O.P, concentrated in the high plains and Mountain West -- whose constant warfare would deliver the presidency to the Democrats time and time again.
Maybe that will be the split -- but how different is that from the coalition the GOP has successfully sustained for the past 35-plus years, a coalition that's still holding together in congressional, state, and local elections? The defeat of Eric Cantor notwithstanding, Republicans voters were more willing to vote for candidates the party establishment put up for them in 2014 than they were in 2010; gone were loose cannons such as Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Carl Paladino.

I think the Establishment will just pick up a few Trump talking points, dilute them, then teach the usual candidates how to sell them effectively. And I think the rubes will just go along. The GOP will be just fine in future downballot elections.

The only question, in 2020, is which crazy extremist will hijack the presidential nominating process, and either steal the nomination or push the nominee too far to the right to win the only kind of election in which Democratic voters actually show up. I don't know who that will be, but it'll be someone buffoonish and awful. (Maybe it'll just be Ted Cruz.) But apart from that, the GOP will painlessly reunite, and be just fine.


AllieG said...

Since the only thing that really threatens the GOP dominance of Congress and state governments would be having a Republican President, I don't see why all officeholders don't support Trump.

StringOnAStick said...

My sister in NV says Sharon Angle is back, and nuttier than ever, but likely to lose the primary against a Tea Party lawyer type, so just as nutty. The good news is the Democratic opponent in the general is very credible.

She's also clued me in the our wingnut reactionary parents hate, hate, hate both tRump and Cruz. They both have college degrees, so maybe that puts them out of the tRump camp, but they were big Christie supporters and there isn't much difference in policy proposals between any of these candidates so what they are objecting to is the medium, not the message.

Victor said...

The conservative Id says:
Hold your friends close, and your enemy close...


Trump isn't saying or promising anything new.
It's just the same old the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and relogos intolerance, in a new bottle.

Ten Bears said...

"..chauffeuring Trump’s limo.." I can't think of a better job for that barrel of rendered pig fat.

Twice in two days, damn: I agree with your agreement with asshat, to a degree: I still think we are watching in painfully slow motion the End of the Republican Party.

But I have always suffered from having to much faith in humanity.

Professor Chaos said...

I've fallen for the "GOP is going yo,split in two" hype before. It used to be the Christian right or moral majority that was going to sit off and form their own party when Republican lawmakers failed to outlaw abortion or gay people or whatever. It never happens. The GOP just keeps absorbing and coopting new brands of crazy and keeps rolling along.

Unknown said...

I'm no longer even confident that Trump will win the nomination. His weakness in recent polls from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania suggest that he has almost no path left to 1,237. And reports suggest that the GOP is increasingly prepared to choke down the shit sandwich of tipping the nomination to Ted Cruz on a second ballot.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Trump may not represent a permanent crack-up for the GOP, but he's going to leave a mark. And, if the scenario you describe comes to pass, the GOP will continue to be a house divided against itself for some time to come. Can't really see the downside in that.

Could someone wake the Democrats?

Feud Turgidson said...

Unk, maybe so. But it wouldn't necessarily or even probably help.

First: I've heard several GOP primary rules 'experts' speaking on MSNBC over the last week or so, mostly on O'Donnell's show. They pretty much all agreed that Drumpf INEVITABLY will get the first-ballot delegates necessary before even getting to Cleveland.

Second: if he misses during the primary process, it'll be awfully close. It's currently IMPOSSIBLE for Cruz to catch up to him before Cleveland. So what's left is denying the clear winner of BOTH the plurality of delegates out of the primary process AND the one with the most popular support (leaving aside for now the most popular opposition, since that requires factoring in all likely voters in the general election).

I think that's why we're seeing 'smart' and 'calculating' GOP establishment types, which in the GOP context includes TeaPsters and Free Dumbers like Steve King, starting to endorse Drumpf. They either really do prefer him or else they hate Cruz so much or else they're thinking strategically - rightly or worngly - about the GOP's future.

So it's fracture the party in this presidential election, or else face up to likely presidential election disaster and fall-out in the Senate, but do all possible to save the House and keep the SCOTUS deadlocked at 8 for as long as they can.

Here's where I question Douthat and Steve M.'s consensus. Well, first I'm going to note the obvious weakness, not in Steve M., but in Steve M.'s being in agreement with Douthat. That's a sign.

More generally, I've said for a long time here now, first as an unknown but lately in my current guise that Drumpf is after acquiring control and effective ownership of the GOP as a matter of typically Drumpfian business exploitation and personal aggrandizement. THAT, IMO, could well cause the GOP to break up, at least until Drumpf is bought off - it'll cost a lot, a billion maybe more - or he becomes enfeebled with age, which is not all that far off.

At that point, tho, it's still going to be tough for the GOP, because they'll be wanting to return to the being the party of American Apartheid while spending multiple cycles in the wilderness. It can be done - fascism took decades took a long time to grow from the collapse of the AustroHungarian Empire thru the German Revolution thru WW I's loss before seizing power in Germany, but it won't take nearly so long this time.

sdhays said...

I think @Feud Turgidson makes a good point - while I agree that I don't think that Republicans are going to just fracture if (hopefully "when") Trump goes down in defeat, he will still be around afterwards and his supporters will be just as angry - probably even more so. That will continue to disrupt the party from getting back to being horrible, but coy about it. Instead of a split, it may very well be the moment where the party starts spiraling faster and faster so that it's completely out of control so that they simply start losing winnable elections because some start voting for Democrats and others just don't bother anymore. Trump-like rage becomes necessary to win the primaries but finally becomes too much in local constituencies to reliably win.

I just don't see Trump's supporters reacting to a loss, including a landslide loss, which circumspection and self-reflection.