Wednesday, May 04, 2016


I keep hearing that the Republican Party will never be the same after the rise of Donald Trump. I'm told that litmus-test conservatism is dead and that the party is in utter disarray.

I hear that, and then I read something like this:
Voters would get a say on whether fetuses should be given constitutional rights under a measure that won first-round approval in the Missouri House on Tuesday.

The House voted 112-36 to advance the legislation....

Opponents said the resolution was the most extreme abortion-related proposal the Legislature has taken up this year, potentially outlawing abortion in cases of rape or when the life of a mother is in jeopardy. They also said it could make contraception illegal in the state.

“This bill doesn’t just take the issue over the edge of the cliff,” said Rep. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. “It rockets the issue into outer space.”
This is happening shortly after the Oklahoma House voted to effectively ban abortion:
Oklahoma is dangerously close to making abortion illegal. The state passed a bill in the State Senate this March and in the House of Representatives just last week that makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions, the only exception being if a woman’s life is in danger or she’s already had a miscarriage that they’re removing. The bill is an amendment to the state’s description of what’s considered “unprofessional conduct” by a physician. Now, “performance of abortion” is included in that description, unless it’s necessary to “preserve the life of the mother.” There’s no other exception -- not even rape.
Elsewhere, Republican-dominated states are enacting gun laws so extreme that even Southern police chiefs oppose them:
In more than a dozen states with traditions of robust support for gun ownership rights, and where legislatures have moved to relax gun laws during the past year, the local police have become increasingly vocal in denouncing the measures. They say the new laws expose officers to greater danger and prevent them from doing their jobs effectively.

“We are a gun society and we recognize that, but we should be writing gun laws that make us safer,” said Leonard Papania, the police chief in Gulfport, who opposes part of a new state law that creates exceptions to the rules for concealed-carry permits. “Do you want every incident on your street to escalate to acts of gun violence?”
And, of course, Republicans such as North Carolina governor Pat McCrory still defiantly defend transphobic laws regarding public bathrooms.

All this is striking for two reasons. First, we're being told that the Republican Party is falling apart, riven by internal conflict. We certainly see that in the presidential campaign -- but where's the evidence of it in the states?

Also, we're told that litmus-test conservatism is dead -- purists such as Ted Cruz tried and failed to win the Republican presidential nomination, but they all lost to a guy who frequently deviates from conservative orthodoxy. But apart from the occasional Republican governor who vetoes an extreme gun bill or bathroom bill because the business community objects to it, orthodoxy seems to be doing just fine in the states.

At the national level, Trump was able to rewrite the rules because, well, he's Donald Trump. As I said in the last post, he's promised to inflict much more pain on conservative voters' enemies than ordinary politicians have been able to do. Because he's rich and has a pre-established level of mainstream fame, he was able to get a hearing for this message, which would have limited him to the fringes, even on the right, if he'd been poor and unknown. And because he has an (undeserved) reputation for competence, he's taken seriously when he says he can do what he promises.

There just isn't anyone else like Trump. Pat Buchanan and Sarah Palin came close, because they'd established some mainstream cred, but not enough people thought trying to elect them was worth the risk. David Duke got as far as a previously little-known politician could get with a message as extreme as Trump's, and he didn't get all that far.

There just aren't any Trumps in the states -- people with the gall to bait their enemies in a bigoted and thuggish a fashion as Trump who actually have the juice to become plausible candidates. And when Trump leaves the scene, there won't be anyone like him to take his place at the national level.

In the absence of a Trump -- someone who tells GOP voters that he can terminate all their enemies with extreme prejudice (in all senses of the word) -- what motivates those voters to vote Republican? The same old thing: litmus-test legislation that makes liberals howl in outrage. So that's what Republicans at the state level are still using to get reelected.

It's worked for Republicans for years. In the state, it's still working. It's what will define the GOP in a post-Trump era, just the way it did before Trump's rise.

The party hasn't really changed, and it won't. Only the presidential nominee is different.


AllieG said...

That;s what happened in 2010 and 2104. We haven't even gotten to 2106 yet, let alone 2018.

sdhays said...

I think the argument that the Republican Party is fracturing before our eyes is the idea that nominating Trump will discredit the party as a whole in the eyes of many people who currently vote Republican, and that will both have lasting consequences and play out over the course of the next several years. I think a lot of that depends on the size of the rout voters deliver Republicans in November (assuming it is a rout) and if it is at least somewhat sustained in 2018 and 2020. It also depends on how serious Democrats get about going after Republicans at the state and local levels.

I think it's certainly possible that Trump rearranges the calculus enough to have some lasting consequences, but the Democrats are going to have to work at it to realize this potential.

Unknown said...

"Orthodoxy seems to be doing just fine in the states" - No, not really. Republican orthodoxy would give us immigration reform while the hatreds of the base take it away; Republican orthodoxy would give us carbon credits while the climate denialists of the base make that impossible; Republican orthodoxy... you get the point: it's the Limbaugh/Hannity-driven hatreds of the base that drive the policies of elected ones who have been promoted from that same base. The abortion/voter id/bathroom bills being passed are not due to Republican orthodoxy, they're simply a "Fuck You!" to the libtards they feel are otherwise winning. It won't work on the national level because most people don't share that hate but on a localized level - yeah, it works there. And it works there even if the haters are a minority because negative emotions produce a stronger reaction than the positive ones of the non-haters who ARE winning. Yes, the non-haters are apathetic voters but that's because they're generally pleased with the way things are going now. Eventually they'll learn about that eternal vigilance stuff. Maybe. Sigh.

Fergal said...

when Trump leaves the scene, there won't be anyone like him to take his place at the national level.

I'm not so sure about that. Surely there are other super-wealthy celebrities looking at Trumps run and thinking they could do even better.
Maybe we'll see a Bruce Willis candidacy!