Thursday, May 05, 2016

Is Trump's Claim To The Nomination A Signal For A Conservative Migration To And A Take-Over Of The Democratic Party?


When Elizabeth Warren tweeted that there's more enthusiasm for Trump among the leaders of the KKK than leaders of the GOP, she was referring to the same sort of narrow slivver of political elites who have propped up the lesser evil in her own party. GOP elites have deployed $43 million worth of ads against Trump during the later stages of the primary and they made him more-- not less-- popular with the Republican masses. GOP hyperbole and Hate Talk Radio/Fox lowest common denominator pandering have created a base strong enough to overthrow the establishment elites within Republican Party, Inc. What a pity the reasoned arguments of people like Warren, Grayson and Bernie haven't been able to do it within Democratic Party, Inc, where corrupt careerists like Wasserman Schultz, Schumer, Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel and the Clintons still rule the roost.

But, as the NYTimes editorial board noted after Trump's big win in Indiana Tuesday night, It's Trump's Party Now. "That the Never-Trumpers," they opined, "had hoped to fall back on Mr. Cruz, perhaps the most reviled politician in his party, was a measure of their panic about the prospect now before them. With Mr. Trump’s success, 'I’m watching a 160-year-old political party commit suicide,' said Henry Olsen, an elections analyst with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank. Republicans will all but certainly nominate Mr. Trump, who would be the most volatile and least prepared presidential candidate nominated by a major party in modern times. A man once ridiculed by many prominent Republicans will become the G.O.P. standard-bearer."
This is a moment of reckoning for the Republican Party. It’s incumbent on its leadership to account for the failures and betrayals that led to this, and find a better way to address them than the demagogy on offer.

Republicans haven’t yet begun to grapple with this. Instead they’re falling into line.

Republican leaders have for years failed to think about much of anything beyond winning the next election. Year after year, the party’s candidates promised help for middle-class people who lost their homes, jobs and savings to recession, who lost limbs and well-being to war, and then did next to nothing. That Mr. Trump was able to enthrall voters by promising simply to “Make America Great Again”-- but offering only xenophobic, isolationist or fantastical ideas-- is testimony to how thoroughly they reject the politicians who betrayed them.

Now, myopic as ever, Republican leaders are talking themselves into supporting Mr. Trump. At a party retreat in Florida last month, Mr. Trump’s adviser Paul Manafort, brought in to make the candidate seem safer to the old guard, assured them that Mr. Trump will better prepare himself for the presidency. “That was all most of these guys needed to hear,” said an operative in the room. “Maybe he’s trainable.” But within a day, Mr. Trump was back to making vile comments at his rallies. In his confused foreign policy address, he demonstrated nothing but a willful refusal to learn.

...It is the Republicans who are making a clear choice in 2016, one that seemed unimaginable a year ago: To stamp what they still like to call the party of Lincoln with the brand of Donald Trump.

Last night Trump said he's open to naming Cruz his running mate

On MSNBC Wednesday morning, Trump told his preferred audience, people who watch Morning Joe, that he doesn't even want endorsements from the GOP establishment types who have treated him, in his mind, badly. With his usually self-centered, lazy incoherence, he babbled, "I’ve been saying for a long time that there's some people that, I almost don't want their endorsement, Republicans, because it was too rough and they were too nasty, and I don’t think it’s going to matter, frankly. It’s going to be me... from people who were far more brutal than Ted... I said to them, how can you do that after what you said. They said, 'don't worry about, it's not a problem,' because they’re politicians. It's talk."

The most recent head-to-head match-ups, CNN's, show Bernie beating him 56-40% and even the hideously flawed lesser-of-two evils candidate would thump Trump 54-41%. And, remember, Trump hasn't even been thoroughly vetted yet and there is so, so much for the general election voters to learn about him. Erick Erickson, a far right blogger, seems distraught-- and angry at Republican primary voters for, in his words, handing the White House to Hillary in an act of ritual suicide (without the ritual). "Trump," he wrote, "cannot win. 42% of Republican voters have an unfavorable view of Trump. 53% of registered voters have an unfavorable view of Trump. 70% of women have an unfavorable view of Trump. 89% of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of Trump. The Republican Party is on the verge of nominating the least popular politician in American presidential history. Ironically, the party’s voters are doing it to spite its own leaders, but its leaders prefer Trump to the other guy. The result will be Hillary Clinton winning in November. Trump cannot build a meaningful coalition outside of blue collar white voters, white supremacists, and internet conspiracy theorists. The rest of the voting public no more wants Trump than herpes."

Erick is right about the herpes, white supremacists and internet conspiracy theorists but he's not as right as he thinks he is about the blue collar white voters. In fact, on Tuesday Nate Silver called working class support for Trump a myth. "As compared with most Americans," wrote Silver, "Trump’s voters are better off. The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both."
Class in America is a complicated concept, and it may be that Trump supporters see themselves as having been left behind in other respects. Since almost all of Trump’s voters so far in the primaries have been non-Hispanic whites, we can ask whether they make lower incomes than other white Americans, for instance. The answer is “no.” The median household income for non-Hispanic whites is about $62,000, still a fair bit lower than the $72,000 median for Trump voters.

Likewise, although about 44 percent of Trump supporters have college degrees, according to exit polls-- lower than the 50 percent for Cruz supporters or 64 percent for Kasich supporters-- that’s still higher than the 33 percent of non-Hispanic white adults, or the 29 percent of American adults overall, who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

This is not to say that Trump voters are happy about the condition of the economy. Substantial majorities of Republicans in every state so far have said they’re “very worried” about the condition of the U.S. economy, according to exit polls, and these voters have been more likely to vote for Trump. But that anxiety doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal economic circumstances, which for many Trump voters, at least in a relative sense, are reasonably good.

Now, what about the existential threat Trump poses to the GOP? Far right web-site, the Washington Examiner reported yesterday that "the Republican donors who helped Mitt Romney raise $1 billion in 2012 [and wasted hundreds of millions of Jeb, Rubio, Cruz, Christie and the rest of the laughable "Deep Bench"] have a target figure in mind for Donald Trump: zero. Repelled by Trump and convinced he can't beat Hillary Clinton, wealthy GOP contributors are abandoning the presidential contest and directing their lucrative networks to spend to invest in protecting vulnerable Republican majorities in the House and Senate... [O]n policy and fitness for the presidency, the party's most active contributors and bundlers simply can't bring themselves to support their front-runner, reluctantly preferring a Clinton administration that is checked by a GOP congress."
Wealthy Republican donors are typically successful business people who approach politics pragmatically. They tend to support candidates most likely to win, with less regard to ideology, often to the chagrin of committed conservative activists. So in many ways it's unusual that establishment contributors in New York, Washington and around the country aren't preparing to open their wallets to Trump, now that he appears more likely to be the nominee.

But their issues with him are twofold.

On the issues, Trump's populism bothers donors, who tend to support the GOP because it has been the party of free markets, free trade, and lately, shrinking the size and scope of government through reforming Medicare and Social Security. On foreign policy, they prefer robust U.S. leadership abroad, making Clinton a preferable commander in chief when measured against Trump's isolationism.

Then there's Trump's behavior. Republican donors see a U.S. that is evolving demographically and becoming less white. Trump's harsh rhetoric directed toward illegal Mexican immigrants and Muslims, and long history of publicly insulting women and his critics, leads them to believe he will inflict long-term damage to the GOP, and worse, that he is unfit for the presidency.

Given their options, Republican donors prefer Clinton in the White House and Republicans controlling the House and Senate.

Responding to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Bill Kristol, who is advocating for a conservative to challenge Trump and Hillary on a conservative line, made his point crystal clear: "Trump shouldn't be POTUS. Wall Street Journal can't say it. We can, do say it." Also yesterday, just as Kasich was raising the white flag, Paul Waldman was asking his Washington Post readers, "So now that Trump has taken control of the GOP, how is the image Americans have of this party going to change? Right now, he points out, "the Democratic Party is viewed unfavorably by 50 percent of the public and favorably by 45 percent, for a net favorability of minus five, the Republican Party is viewed unfavorably by 62 percent and favorably by 33 percent, for a net favorability of minus 29. The latest Gallup poll shows that more Americans call themselves Democrats than Republicans by a margin of 49-41." Can Trump make it worse, not just lose the election but tarnish the already tarnished brand? Does it even matter to Republicans and the GOP that Trump is "making it absolutely clear that he is leading a movement of, by, and for white people?" Waldman likens the difference in approach as being "the difference between a guy in a trench coat saying 'Psst, buddy, want to buy some racism and xenophobia? Follow me into this alley…', and a guy standing on a soapbox in the middle of Times Square shouting 'Get yer racism and xenophobia here!'"
For decades, the GOP has built its identity on what I call the Four Pillars of Conservatism: small government, low taxes, strong defense, and traditional social values. They provide an easy-to-understand template for every Republican running for any office from dog catcher to president, they bind Republicans with different agendas in common cause, and their constant repetition cements the party’s image in voters’ minds. But Donald Trump, now the leader of this party, has shown only sporadic interest in any of them, with the possible exception of a strong defense.

...[Trump] alienates moderates who don’t want to think that they’re voting for a reactionary party. That’s something Karl Rove and George W. Bush understood-- when they created “compassionate conservatism” and had Bush take endless smiling photos with black and Hispanic people, the real target wasn’t minorities themselves but white moderates who wanted reassurance that they were voting for an open, inclusive party.

But that idea is dead, at least for this election. Trump likes to come out after a primary win and say how great he did among various demographic groups (even if much of the time he’s just making up results out of nowhere)-- I won with women, I won with “the blacks,” I won with “the Hispanics”! But if the election were held right now, Trump would not just lose but likely lose by record margins among women, among African-Americans, among Hispanics, among Asian-Americans, among people with college educations-- basically among every group except blue-collar white men.

So Trump takes what was a challenge for the party-- their reliance on a diminishing portion of the population and their struggles appealing to all the portions of the population that are growing-- and makes it dramatically worse.

How persistent will the effects be? At the moment it’s impossible to tell. It might be that Trump will tarnish the GOP brand for a generation or more, particularly among voters just now coming of age. Republican candidates at all levels are going to be confronted with the question of not just whether they support Trump’s election, but whether they support anything he might do. Do you think Donald Trump should appoint the next Supreme Court justice? Do you think Donald Trump’s finger should be on the nuclear button? Do you think Donald Trump is a good role model for children?
Lowest Democratic vote for a Democratic nominee in last 4 elections was Gore with 87%; lowest GOP was G.W.Bush in 2000 with 91%. Last month an NBC/WSJ poll showed Hillary with 87% of Dems and Trump with just Trump 72% of Republicans

Oh, yeah, now we're back at my "life's losers" scenario where the only people who back Trump are the ones with nothing to live for and who want to take the cruel world down with them when it ends for them. But are there really anti-Trump Republicans ready to help Hillary in greater numbers than the usual odd ducks who desert their parties for one reason or another in every election? Sean Sullivan addressed that in the Post yesterday too. "For some Republicans, the prospect of a President Clinton is more palatable than a President Trump-- not because they like Clinton, but because they could fight her on familiar terrain, rather than watching an unpredictable Trump use the power of the White House to remake the GOP."

They should just forget the primitive tribalism and embrace the conservative Clinton for what she is, a socially forward-thinking conservative who stands with them on a whole range of issues, from national security hawkishness and a devastating anti-family trade agenda to standard corporatism and elitism. As Shaun King explained in yesterday's New York Daily News, "Hillary Clinton represents the political establishment... Hillary Clinton is as establishment as establishment gets. The machine is behind her. Her campaign against Bernie Sanders has only advanced this sentiment... Independent and new voters are flocking to Bernie Sanders and even to Donald Trump, but not to Hillary Clinton." Charlie Crist told his fellow Republicans right after Trump's victory that the water in the Democratic Party pool feels just right. And look at an unaccomplished do-nothing like Patrick Murphy-- speaking of "former" Republicans from Florida. After amassing a socially-forward Republican voting record in the House, Schumer is insisting Florida Democrats abandon Alan Grayson and elect Murphy to the U.S. Senate! So will GOP establishment types not just abandon Trump, but realign with the conservative Republican/Clinton wing of the Democratic Party?

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At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've suspected for awhile that Hillary wants to make a play for those Republicans who still have enough self-respect to oppose Trump--perhaps by putting forward an agenda focused on tax cuts for the middle class.

At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This makes sense.

The Democrats now occupy the political space that was once the domain of the Republicans before they got addicted to TEA.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Bill Michtom said...

The Republicans have been the party of bigots since the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. Compassionate conservatives? Who are we kidding?

Reagan in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Nixon killing blacks, Native Americans and the young. Willie Horton.

The Republican Party died completely in 1965.


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