Friday, April 01, 2016


Jeet Heer thinks Donald Trump has already changed the Republican Party and American politics dramatically, no matter whether he wins the election this year, or even his party's nomination:
What really needs to be asked is this: How is Donald Trump changing America? Not how he will change the country if he lands in the White House, but how he’s already changing it. Because Trump, even before he secures the Republican nomination -- and even if he never wins the presidency -- has transformed America as much as any political figure of our era. It’s a transformation that transcends politics and bleeds deeply into our culture....

We can expect future Republican presidential candidates, running in a party that has not only lastingly alienated Americans of color but threatened them with open hatred and violence -- even expulsion -- to borrow from Trump’s strategy of racial polarization. Trump might fail, in other words, but Trumpism will live on. And given the fact America has a two-party system and voters will inevitably want change, we have to face the prospect that even if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders wins the White House for Democrats in November, the historical odds say the United States will eventually elect a Trumpian president.

... The dog whistle has given way to the air horn. And now when white people want to harass Hispanic basketball players or Muslim students, they have a rallying cry: “Trump, Trump, Trump!”
But I think David Greenberg is closer to the truth when he compares the Trump moment to Teddy Roosevelt's break from the GOP in 1912, which led to a third-party run under the banner of the Progressive Party:
... if history is any guide, even a Trump exodus may be less consequential than many are imagining.

Running as a third-party candidate, TR certainly put up a strong fight, placing second overall. But, beyond that, his eventual decision to run on a third-party ticket had few lasting effects. It didn’t radically change the character of the GOP. It didn’t even present its members with a credible alternative beyond 1912. Like many third parties in American history, the Progressive Party that Roosevelt created was held together primarily by its adherents’ love for its standard-bearer. And that cult of personality wasn’t enough to make up for the history, infrastructure and deep bench of talented leaders that his movement lacked.
Does the following sound familiar?
Roosevelt ... wasn’t temperamentally cut out for party-building. He did little to strengthen his new creation. Instead, he went on a treacherous expedition to the Amazon River basin, where he nearly succumbed to disease (three of his fellow adventurers died). Meanwhile, without TR topping the ticket, Progressive Party candidates did poorly in 1914.
Do you think Trump is temperamentally cut out for party-building, or even movement-building? Isn't he much more likely to go off and do another reality show, or find an even younger wife? And without Trump, I don't see how this is sustained, any more than Ross Perot's movement was sustained.

Greenberg writes:
... even if Trump bolts this year, it’s hard to see a lasting party emerging out of his candidacy. His voters represent, if anything, a less cohesive group than Roosevelt’s did in 1912. And just as no Progressive Party would have emerged that year without TR, so Trump’s voters almost certainly wouldn’t be coming together this year if it weren’t for Trump.

Nor, for that matter, would a Trump victory in Cleveland change the GOP as much as some are predicting. Too many of its stalwarts are deeply committed to policies of limited government and low taxes for the GOP to rewrite its basic script. The party may well soften its maximalist positions on a few issues to regain the allegiance of the middle-class whites flocking to Trump. But it will probably tweak, rather than overhaul, its stances on its core issues.
What needs to be added is that the party will probably also tweak its appeals to the baser natures of its voters. Yes, post-Trump Republicans will try to appeal to white nationalism and anti-black and anti-Muslim racism, but they'll revert to using coded phrases and dog whistles, albeit with somewhat less coding than in the pre-Trump era. There'll be less inclination to pretend that torture is a bad thing. There'll be more talk of merciless military assaults, with not much concern about whether the uses of force being described are war crimes. Future Republicans won't be just like Trump. But they'll be somewhat more like Trump.

Let's recall that David Duke's run for governor of Louisiana in 1991 didn't turn the state into a Klan hotbed -- in fact, sixteen years later the state elected Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, an Indian-American, as governor. On the other hand, the man who replaced Jindal in Congress was Steve Scalise, who once gave a speech to a white supremacist group and reportedly referred to himself as "like David Duke without the baggage" -- none of which has prevented him from becoming the House majority whip, a leadership position he retained even after his this uncomfortable information came to light.

So should we worry about the GOP become more Trump-like? Sure. Will that transformation involve jackboots? If it happens, it's more likely to be a lot subtler than that.


Victor said...

From dog-whistles, pre-Trump, to Trump openly airing racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and other forms of bigoty, via air-raid siren, what the GOP will do is go back to dog-whistling in front of the graveyard they'll soon be buried in.

Feud Turgidson said...

They're PEOPLE, sure; Americans even. But there's a bigger difference than generally assumed in how the pie tastes on slicing up this R pie, compared to the American pie.

This goes to the by-now-laughable GOP Bench Strength. Turns out, those bench dudes (and one dude-ette) were, in general, weren't pulled in from the elite GOP farm development system (which doesn't actually exist anway: Tom Cotton? Trey-Trey Gowdy? Lance Boyle? Those dudes are all from the dump of detritus that used to be in the reject pile).

Greg Sargent's take - or mine from his - is that much of Trump's consistent, largely pervasive support within the primary voting crowds derives IN A MATERIAL, EVEN IMPORTANT way from Trump's beloved "under-educateds" isn't actual pro-Trump. Much of it is one or more of anti-Heritage, anti-AEI, anti-Rove, anti-McConnell, anti-Boehner, anti-Wall Street, anti-Kochs, anti-fundys, anti-establishment, anti-Congress, anti-SCOTUS, anti whatever. And voting technically FOR Trump at this level is, to them, voting symbolically, spiritually, or [IMO most likely] viscerally AGAINST the thing(s) the GOP is identified with in their guts/minds/colons that they despise.

So, what will these doofuses do in the general? Will they show up? They're NOT actually, as it turns out, 'new' voters per se - not in any way materially greater than the percentage of new voters that come into every election thru the trudge of time. Most have voted before, not actually all that far short of the GOP base percentage since Nixon released the beast - either R or Blue Dog. And there've been fewer and fewer Blue Dogs to vote for since after 2008. So in 2012, they voted Romney or not at all.

IMO, Drumpf will not even get to the support among white voters for Romney in 2012. And the voters who are truly pro-Drumpf or anti-R-institutional Drumpf-settlers are, it's worth emphasizing, Not. Very. Bright. - that is: less likely that the typical, reliable R that the GOP has depended upon for half a century to show up and, whatever they do at the top of the ballot, go on to fill out their ballots in favor of Republican candidates below the top.

Now, that ALSO means the reliable part of the R electoral Base is largely unaffected by the Rise of Drumpf. But the Base is dying, and Drumpf-mania is going to exacerbate an already-existing trend.

Ten Bears said...

Unmentioned is the private contributions of the International Bankers and Insurers: the Usurers, to Roosevelt's "Progressive" campaign; drawing enough of that "personality cult" off of the Taft vote to secure the presidency for the Wall Street media darling Woodrow Wilson.

History only repeats to those paying attention.