Sunday, August 14, 2016

The End Of The GOP?

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The Wall Street Journal headline indicated more bad news for Campaign Trumpanzee: Trump Running Mate Mike Pence Tries to Get Republicans on Board. It's midway through August and the parties should be united and reaching out to independents. Democrats, including the vast majority of Bernie supporters, are overwhelmingly united behind Hillary, even if reluctantly. Trump is still hemorrhaging traditional Republican voters and there is a daily drumbeat of ominous news reports about GOP leaders who have been pushed to the breaking point and just can't endorse him-- or even vote for him. Pence was supposed to be the antidote. That hasn't worked. Mike Steele, a former aide to Paul Ryan, told the Journal that "Mending fences isn’t usually part of a vice-presidential nominee’s job. But we’ve never before seen a nominee like Donald Trump, who has alienated huge swaths of the party."
A week after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump threatened last month to put money into a super PAC to end the political careers of former rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich, Mr. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, called each of them to try to make peace.

While Mr. Trump has exacerbated intraparty tensions, Mr. Pence is taking on a conciliatory role, trying in phone calls and private meetings to persuade GOP stalwarts, one by one, to rally behind the party’s presidential ticket.

The task has taken him from the private office of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to a Phoenix airport meeting with embattled Arizona Sen. John McCain. He has tried to charm hostile talk-radio hosts, whose ranks he once belonged to, and even low-ranking state party officials.
According to a report from Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, early this summer Trumpanzee campaign's own internal polling showed that too many voters described him in two words: "unqualified" and "racist." And there began a series of "interventions" from friends, allies and family to try to get him to behave better. Although Mr. Trumpanzee goes along with their entreaties to shut them up, in the end each intervention has failed. Utterly.
Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

...Trump’s advisers believe he is nearly out of time to right his campaign. On Tuesday, hours before his explosive comment about “Second Amendment people” taking action if Mrs. Clinton is elected, his brain trust reassembled again at Trump Tower in a reprise of their stern meeting in June.

They again urged Mr. Trump to adjust his tone and comportment. The top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, gave an unvarnished assessment, warning that Mr. Trump’s numbers would only move in one direction, absent a major change.

Mr. Trump, people briefed on the meeting said, digested the advice and responded receptively.

It was time, he agreed, to get on track.
Oops! Pence has succeeded in signing up crackpot Iowa racist and xenophobe Steve King... but no one else. He's been rebuffed by far more influential Republicans like Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, John McCain, John Kasich and Jeb Bush. Pence also seems to be trying to reassure the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Trump isn't really opposed to traditional globalist Republican trade policies and he's only playing it up to win over the rubes.

AP reporter Steve Peoples wrote yesterday that "frustration abounds" among Republicans and that the party could be near the breaking point in terms of Mr. Trumpnazee. "As he skips from one gaffe to the next, GOP leaders in Washington and in the most competitive states have begun openly contemplating turning their backs on their party's presidential nominee to prevent what they fear will be wide-scale Republican losses on Election Day... Republicans who have devoted their professional lives to electing GOP candidates say they believe the White House already may be lost. They're exasperated by Trump's divisive politics and his insistence on running a general election campaign that mirrors his approach to the primaries. 'Based on his campaign record, there's no chance he's going to win,' said Sara Fagen, the political director for former President George W. Bush. 'He's losing groups of people he can't get back.'"
Trump did show some modest improvement as a candidate in the past week. He has stopped criticizing a Muslim family of a fallen U.S. soldier. Gone are the fights with some of his party's most respected members of Congress.

But also in the past seven days, Trump has questioned the advice of senior aides, threatened to stop raising money for the party, dismissed the usefulness of get-out-the-vote efforts and defended his decision not to run any television ads even as his opponents fill the airwaves with spots backing Clinton in several contested states.

It all largely overshadowed the content of 44 previously-unreleased email exchanges Clinton had while at the State Department. They became public on Tuesday and showed her interacting with lobbyists, political and Clinton Foundation donors and business interests while serving as secretary of state.

"He can't simply continue to preach to the choir and think he's going to put together a coalition that will win the White House," said Ryan Williams, a party strategist and former aide to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. "He's essentially guaranteeing that he will lose by refusing to clean up his mistakes and stop committing future ones."

The mistakes do keep coming.

Trump this past week stuck by a patently false claim that President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State group. The candidate made an off-handed remark about Clinton that was widely condemned by critics as an invitation to violence. He even acknowledged that losing might not be so bad.

"I'll just keep doing the same thing I'm doing right now," he told CNBC on Thursday. "And at the end it's either going to work or I'm going to you know, I'm going to have a very, very nice, long vacation."

All of it, to some Republicans, should lead the party to give up on its nominee.

More than 100 GOP officials, including at least six former members of Congress and more than 20 former staffers at the Republican National Committee, have signed a letter asking the party chairman, Reince Priebus, to stop helping Trump's campaign.

They call the New York real estate mogul a threat to the party and to the nation. They want the RNC to take resources now helping Trump and shift them to vulnerable GOP candidates for House and Senate.

The letter follows a steady stream of recent defections from Republican elected officials and longtime strategists who vow never to support Trump. They want party leaders to acknowledge that backing his White House bid is a waste of time and money.

"They're going to do it sooner or later. They might as well do it sooner to have more impact," said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, one of the Republicans to sign the letter to Priebus.

...There is no evidence that a formal plan to break with Trump exists at either the state party or RNC level, but Priebus has informally discussed the possibility with party leaders in battleground states in recent days, three of the officials said.

Should that occur, it's not likely to happen until after Labor Day, as the party is still relying on Trump to help raise money to fund its expansive political operation. But the amount of money needed decreases as each day passes, giving the RNC greater financial freedom to potentially change course as the election nears.

For now, Priebus is vocally supportive of Trump. The party chairman joined the nominee on Friday, part of a larger effort to ensure an experienced political hand is almost always at the candidate's side when he travels. Others keeping Trump company this past week include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"We've always found it's wise to have people traveling with him, because it's an opportunity to have him engaged and not just sitting there," Manafort said.
Why not give him a book to read or, if he refuses, a bunch bananas? Republican Party operative Avik Roy thinks it's too late anyway-- not just for the Trumpanzee campaign, but for the Republican Party itself. "I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way,” he told Vox reporter Zack Beauchamp last month in Cleveland. "There’s going to be a disruption," which he fears will leave Democrats dominating national politics for a long time. "[H]e also believes the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans. 'Until the conservative movement can stand up and live by that principle, it will not have the moral authority to lead the country... Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was a historical disaster for the conservative movement,' Roy tells me, 'because for the ensuing decades, it identified Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party opposed to civil rights.'... This had a double effect, Roy says. First, it forced black voters out of the GOP. Second, it invited in white racists who had previously been Democrats. Even though many Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act in Congress, the post-Goldwater party became the party of aggrieved whites."
Patti Davis' father was Ronald Reagan

Republican intellectuals have long denied this, fabricating a revisionist history in which Republicans were and always have been the party of civil rights. In 2012, National Review ran a lengthy cover story arguing that the standard history recounted by Roy was “popular but indefensible.”

This revisionism, according to Roy, points to a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism-- philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

Conservative intellectuals, for the most part, are horrified by racism. When they talk about believing in individual rights and equality, they really mean it. Because the Republican Party is the vehicle through which their ideas can be implemented, they need to believe that the party isn’t racist.

So they deny the party’s racist history, that its post-1964 success was a direct result of attracting whites disillusioned by the Democrats’ embrace of civil rights. And they deny that to this day, Republican voters are driven more by white resentment than by a principled commitment to the free market and individual liberty.

“It’s the power of wishful thinking. None of us want to accept that opposition to civil rights is the legacy that we’ve inherited,” Roy says.

He expands on this idea: “It’s a common observation on the left, but it’s an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true-- which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

This, Roy believes, is where the conservative intellectual class went astray. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise. They told themselves, over and over again, that Goldwater’s victory was a triumph.

But in reality, it created the conditions under which Trump could thrive. Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism-- labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists-- succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.

“[Trump] tapped into something that was latent in the Republican Party and conservative movement-- but a lot of people in the conservative movement didn’t notice,” Roy concludes, glumly.

...[S]oul-searching led Roy to an uncomfortable conclusion: The Republican Party, and the conservative movement that propped it up, is doomed.

Both are too wedded to the politics of white nationalism to change how they act, but that just isn’t a winning formula in a nation that’s increasingly black and brown. Either the Republican Party will eat itself or a new party will rise and overtake its voting share.

“Either the disruption will come from the Republican Party representing cranky old white people and a new right-of-center party emerging in its place, or a third party will emerge, à la the Republicans emerging from the Whigs in the [1850s],” Roy says.

The work of conservative intellectuals today, he argues, is to devise a new conservatism-- a political vision that adheres to limited government principles but genuinely appeals to a more diverse America.

“I think it’s incredibly important to take stock,” he says, “and build a new conservative movement that is genuinely about individual liberty.”

I don’t know how this would work. I don’t think Roy knows either.

For the entire history of modern conservatism, its ideals have been wedded to and marred by white supremacism. That’s Roy’s own diagnosis, and I think it’s correct. As a result, we have literally no experience in America of a politically viable conservative movement unmoored from white supremacy.

I’ve read dozens of conservative intellectuals writing compellingly about non-racist conservative ideals. Writers like Andrew Sullivan, Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Michael Brendan Dougherty, and too many others to count have put forward visions of a conservative party quite different from the one we have.

But not one of these writers, smart as they are, has been able to explain what actual political constituency could bring about this pure conservatism in practice. The fact is that limited government conservatism is not especially appealing to nonwhite Americans, whereas liberalism and social democracy are. The only ones for whom conservatism is a natural fit are Roy’s “cranky old white people”-- and they’re dying off.

Maybe Roy and company will be able to solve this problem. I hope they do. America needs a viable, intellectually serious right-of-center party.

Because we now know what the alternative looks like. It’s Donald Trump.


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8 Comments:

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Alton Pandora said...

All you disgruntled Republicans need to stay home on election day to express your displeasure with YOUR party's choice. Go play polo or something.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Jimbo said...

Your title says "End of the GOP". It should read "End of the National GOP". State and local level GOP is not going anywhere for a long time, especially in the deep red states. Purple states, OTOH, are likely to steadily trend blue but we're talking about VA, NC, FL, CO, OH, and NV. Maybe GA, a decade from now. But my main point is not that, it is the dilemma of the actual workability of the conservative ideology. They still believe in very limited government, essentially what used to be called the "watchdog state" and now the national security state, leaving everything else to the states and the private sector. The private sector is interested in profit maximization through minimization of costs and reducing competition through cartels and oligopolies. They are not at all interested in public service provision unless they can make outsize profits and no regulations or standards. So that leaves the states, which essentially means huge differences across the country in economic, social, environmental and many other standards and regs. This is enormously inefficient and would certainly lead to economic collapse. This, it needs be said, would severely hurt all those nationalist whites just as much or more (because they aren't used to hardship) than minorities. So, actual feasibility of implementing the conservative vision in a highly complex, globalized country like the US is basically zero.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points made. Let's face it, economic conservatism is only good for the rich. Without racism, who is their constituency? The 1%?

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

America already has a "right of center party" and it's candidate is Hillary.

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Bill Michtom said...

Jimbo's comment and "America already has a "right of center party" and it's candidate is Hillary" totally covers it.

 
At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Republican Party, and the conservative movement that propped it up"

might be more accurately restated as:

"The conservative movement, and the Republican Party that propped it up"


 
At 2:43 AM, Blogger borsib333 said...

The GOP is simply a hate group. It used to be an actual political party, but those days are long gone.

 
At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

What Borsib 333 said.

The HEAD is dead, like the Catholic church. BURN baby BURN

 

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