Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Happens To The Smouldering Wreck Of The GOP After Trump?


Yesterday, far right New Hamphire ex-Senator Gordon Humphrey walked out of the convention when the roll call gave Trump the 1,237 votes he needed for the nomination, left the convention and said he is re-registering as an Independent. John Kasich, on the other hand, said he could still endorse Trump-- if he changed his posture on virtually everything, but especially Hispanics, trade, the national debut and Muslims. Trump operative Roger Stone announced he would actively work to defeat Kasich and Utah Senator Mike Lee. (Roger can contribute to rid the Senate of Mike Lee by backing Misty Katherine Snow here.) It must have been bizarre to read Bill Kristol asserting-- in the Weekly Standard itself, no less-- that the GOP "was always perhaps the stupider party, the clumsier party, and the stodgier party." His excuse was that at least the party was sounder, more responsible and more "constitutional." That fits in with Republican dogma about itself well enough. But then the kicker: "Now, Donald Trump's Republican party is stupider than ever, but it is no longer sound or constitutional or responsible. Quite an achievement."

Last night, New Hampshire state Rep (Londonderry) Al Baldasaro, a well-known crackpot, a radical extremist and Trump's Veteran Affairs adviser, got a little carried away-- even for him-- and said that Hillary Clinton "should be put in the firing line and shot for treason." Today he stood by his firing squad remarks, something Trump hasn't commented on, let alone put a stop to. This is what happens when you "normalize" fascism as part of the democratic process. This kind of language works fine among the kind of hyper-partisan sociopaths who become Trump delegates to a Republican convention. How do you think normal American voters view it?

Baldasaro's wedding day (2013)

Watching the first two nights of the Republican convention and... who can argue? To Kristol it was the day it became clear that his party was "has fallen into the grip of a vulgar demagogue with a thuggish retinue. They will maintain that grip at least through November 8. And even if they lose, the after-effects will be substantial, and recovery and renaissance won't be easy." George Bush went so far as to crack-- back in April!-- "I’m worried that I will be the last Republican president."

Shane Goldmacher, writing for Politico points out that things have only gotten worse since then-- especially in the last week. Trump "has solidified himself as an erratic, underfunded and scattershot candidate, plagued by staff turmoil and missed opportunities. In the run-up to the convention, he sued a former aide for $10 million. He canceled his vice-presidential announcement citing a terror attack in France, went on cable news and declared America to be in a world war and then announced his pick at the original time slot anyway on Twitter. Within hours, Trump was rocked by leaks from within his inner circle about his own late-night waffling on the single most significant decision a presidential candidate can make.
But it is the rise of Trump’s divisive style and embrace of white resentment politics—anchored by proposals for a wall to keep Mexicans out, an immigration ban preventing Muslims from coming in and talk of cheating by China and ripping up trade deals-- that has many of the Republican Party’s elders, privately and publicly, predicting defeat this fall at the hands of a diversifying electorate and fretting about long-term fallout.

In interviews with more than 40 of the Republican Party’s leading strategists, lawmakers, fundraisers and donors, a common thread has emerged heading into the general election: Win or lose in November (and more expect to lose than not), they fear that Trump’s overheated and racialized rhetoric could irreparably poison the GOP brand among the fastest-growing demographic groups in America.

His point is that the Republican establishment isn't planning on rolling over and playing dead after Trump loses in November. They're already planning on how to pick up the pieces and "save the Republican Party from itself."

From the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch to an increasingly influential GOP financier Paul Singer, from those who fell short in 2016-- Ted Cruz and Scott Walker-- to those who could be fresh faces in 2020-- Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse, Nikki Haley-- from House Speaker Paul Ryan to the not-so-subterranean contest for the chairmanship of the RepublicanNational Committee, the maneuvering is underway to pick up the shards of the shattered GOP.

“There’s a school of thought that Trump, who’s gonna get crushed, will somehow teach the party a lesson and they’ll get it out of their system,” said Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012. “I don’t have confidence in that.”

No figure looms larger in the Cleveland shadow convention than Ryan, who is chairman of the official convention proceedings but has a frenetic schedule to boost the fortunes of House GOP members-- and his agenda.

Ryan is busily fighting to ensure Trump only rents the Republican brand, at least when it comes to the GOP’s ideas and policies. Ryan dragged his feet before endorsing Trump and since doing so has condemned him for “racist” rhetoric and talked constantly about “A Better Way,” the branding of the House GOP’s agenda that pointedly applies as much to Democrats as the Republican nominee. On Monday, Ryan scheduled it so, though he is the convention chairman, he was not at the dais as chaos broke out as anti-Trump delegates tried to force a roll-call vote.

Ryan and Trump disagree on fundamental, and traditionally core, GOP principles. Ryan favors free trade deals, has backed comprehensive immigration reform and wants to rein in entitlement programs. Trump is a trade protectionist, whose immigration policy centers on building a mammoth wall and a deportation force, and he wants no cutbacks to entitlements.

Ryan, the former House Budget Comittee chairman and a self-styled ideas man of the GOP, has done his own national publicity blitz, including a recent CNN town hall, to ensure Trumpism doesn’t define Republicanism. “Look,” Ryan said during the televised town hall, “when I hear something that I think doesn't reflect our values and principles, I'm going to say it.” Last Friday night, his office emailed out a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that read, in part, “Paul Ryan and Donald Trump neatly define the poles of the GOP in 2016.”

Ryan has endorsed Trump but, somewhat remarkably, the two have still not appeared in public together, robbing cable networks and the rest of the media of any photographs or video of the highest-ranking Republican in elected office and the Republican nominee for president in the same shot.

Many see the tug-of-war between Ryan and Trump over Republican policy as just as significant as the battle for political control. If Trump exploited a divide between the elite GOP agenda and the electorate, Peter Wehner, a senior adviser in the Bush White House, said, “Republicans have to find how much of it is Trump, how much of this is Trumpism.”

There has been talk of forming a new organization to help, with calls for a reassessment akin to the Democratic Leadership Council from the 1980s, the politically minded think tank that paved the way for moderate Democrats, “third way” politics and, ultimately, Bill Clinton.

After 2012, the Republican Party commissioned an “autopsy” that called for almost the opposite approach to presidential elections that Trump has taken: inclusive rhetoric for Hispanics, outreach to minorities and comprehensive immigration reform. Ryan, though, with his anti-poverty agenda and explicit outreach to African-Americans and young voters is hewing to the autopsy’s blueprint. But if Ryan is chiefly working to define the GOP this cycle and into 2017, there is no shortage of Republicans maneuvering with their eyes on 2020.

...“Unseemly” is the exact word one veteran member of the Republican National Committee used to describe the shadow contest underway to replace Reince Priebus as head of the RNC. The reason? The race is premised on the very idea that Trump loses. Because if he wins, presidents almost always hand-pick their preferred RNC chair.

But despite that fact, two GOP leaders are not-so-quietly angling for the job: Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, and Matt Pinnell, a former Oklahoma state chairman who is currently on staff at the RNC as the national state party director. They’re both traveling the country and actively wooing the three committee members. In the most overt move yet, Graham has invited RNC members to schmooze at a Kid Rock concert on Thursday. Pinnell countered with a roving happy hour last Saturday, held in the auspices of his job at the RNC.

The contest-- as with everything about the Republican Party-- is revolving at least in part around Trump.

As staff, Pinnell is widely viewed inside the RNC as Priebus’ preferred pick, with a job wrangling state party chairs that has given him a natural base among the 168-member committee. He gets to travel the country on the party’s dime, as his job is to train and earn the trust of one-third of the committee. Graham’s base is believed to lie in the West-- he even recently took a trip to Hawaii-- and he is out of favor in the RNC’s Capitol Hill headquarters. Graham has been an outspoken Trump backer, trying to whip the Arizona delegation to unify behind the presumptive nominee.

The anti-Trump forces have taken notice. Beau Correll, a delegate from Virginia, called him an “absolute madman” for apparently heavy-handed pro-Trump tactics. “I find that frightening that someone being as heavy-handed and thuggish … would aspire to lead the whole party,” he told anti-Trump activists on a recent conference call.

Others could jump in, too. Ohio chairman Matt Borges leads a key battleground state and is well-regarded. South Carolina chairman Matt Moore is young and fast forging friendships. But the RNC race-- Priebus has signaled he’s done after two terms-- might not be an internal tussle but a broader one.

Even in its diminished state in the age of unlimited super PAC money, the party chairmanship remains one of the most influential posts to exert influence over the GOP’s direction. Some of the party’s top financiers have even discussed throwing their weight behind a preferred pick. And the potential for a broad reassessment has raised the specter of outsider wild-card candidates mostly in idle barroom chatter-- a termed-out Chris Christie, say, a still-looking-for-a-prominent-political-job Carly Fiorina or even Mitt Romney.

“The day after the election we’ll get back to being the anti-Clinton party,” said Alex Conant, a veteran Republican strategist and longtime Rubio adviser. “Which we’re actually good at being.”

"We’ll have a really good midterm,” he predicted, and a deep bench for 2020.
True enough... they'll be putting all their energy into being the party that's against everything that's great about America and obstructing all progress. Maybe that's why they are where they are today, no?

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