Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Pandemic Is Powerful Enough To Swing An Election-- But How Will It Impact Partisan Realignment?



"... And I Won't Lose One Voter" by Nancy Ohanian

Many people wonder if, aside from Herman Cain (RIP), Trump rallies have been killing off his followers? And now we know. In a report from USA Today late Friday night, Erin Mansfield, Josh Salman and Dinah Pulver wrote that coronavirus cases surged in the wake of President Super Spreader's visits. New cases in the U.S. are spiking like crazy. Friday there were a record-setting 81,210 new cases-- many in rural, Trump-worshipping areas. And deaths are way back up again-- especially in Texas, Florida and Tennessee. Over 20,000 cases per million in any locale is considered an out of control pandemic. There are now 18 states with over 30,000 cases per million and two-- North and South Dakota-- with over 40,000 cases per million. There are no places on earth-- other than postage stamp sized quasi-countries like Qatar and Aruba-- that are worse COVID hellholes than the Trumpistani states of North nd South Dakota.

Mansfield, Salman and Pulver reported that as Trump "jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn’t just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake. The president has participated in nearly three dozen rallies since mid-August, all but two at airport hangars. A USA Today analysis shows COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate than before after at least five of those rallies in the following counties: Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota. Together, those counties saw 1,500 more new cases in the two weeks following Trump’s rallies than the two weeks before-- 9,647 cases, up from 8,069." Now, those three states are COVID-disaster areas. Friday's new cases (and the number of cases per million residents):
Minnesota +1,711 (23,027 cases per million residents)-- 13 new deaths on Friday
Wisconsin +4,378 (32,714 cases per million residents)-- 42 new deaths on Friday
Pennsylvania +2,258 (15,283 cases per million residents)-- 34 new deaths on Friday

"Although there’s no way to determine definitively if cases originated at Trump’s rallies," the trio of reporters wrote, "public health experts say the gatherings fly in the face of all recommendations to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The earliest post-rally spikes occurred even as the nation’s overall case counts were in decline from a peak in mid-July. When U.S. cases started climbing in mid-September, Trump did not alter his campaign schedule but continued holding an average of four rallies a week.

He stopped first in Minnesota, where Blue Earth County’s coronavirus growth rate was 15% before Trump’s rally, but grew to 25% afterward. Three days later, he was in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, where the coronavirus growth rate jumped from less than 3% before his visit to more than 7% afterward.

Even in states where cases were already rising, the spikes in at least four counties that hosted Trump rallies far surpassed their state’s overall growth rates.

In two counties, it was more than double: Marathon County’s case count surged by 67% after Trump’s visit compared to Wisconsin’s overall growth rate of 29% during the same time. In Beltrami County, Minnesota, it swelled by 35% compared to the state’s 14%.

...[E]xperts all agreed that holding large rallies during a pandemic interferes with efforts to contain the virus and can make things worse. This is why officials in at least five states, including two with Republican governors, voiced concerns or issued warnings in advance of the president’s rallies.

“I would ask the president, for once, to put the health of his constituents ahead of his own political fortunes,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said on Sept. 25. Trump has held three rallies in the state since then.

Campaign events where people gather together cheering and screaming can carry the virus far through the crowd, said Shelley Payne, director of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas. Then those infected will take the virus back to their families, friends and coworkers-- fanning an outbreak in the community.

“This is true of any respiratory virus; when you’re near people in close contact, you’re going to spread the virus,” Payne said. “And rallies are particularly problematic.”

Campaign rallies fall within a category the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels “highest risk” for the potential to spread the virus that already has claimed the lives of more than 222,000 Americans.

...Political experts say the guideline-defying events are part of a strategy by the Trump administration to downplay the seriousness of the virus ahead of the election. It has divided the nation over wearing masks and taking the necessary precautions to contain the virus.

“It’s a trade-off between doing what’s right for public health or what benefits re-election,” said Todd Belt, professor and director of the Political Management Program at The George Washington University. “And over and over, the greater concern for this White House is re-election.”

From conservative Christians with tucked shirts and dress shoes to bikers with long beards and leather, hundreds of Trump supporters waved flags, held signs and donned the red caps as they descended on the small town of Bemidji, located in Beltrami County, Minnesota.

Despite the 250-person limit for gatherings in the state, throngs stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they waited in long lines, cheering on the commander in chief and greeting others as if the global pandemic did not exist. A mix of locals and those who traveled hundreds of miles, the scene at the September rally has played out in small towns across America where Trump has a stronghold.

Charter buses packed full, merchandise vendors lining the streets and counter protests nearby, the spectacles have marked Trump’s campaigns and presidency.

But many of these towns don’t typically draw these types of crowds-- and the aftermath is now evident in their COVID-19 cases.

Between mid-August and mid-October, Trump has visited small and mid-sized communities in major swing states with county populations ranging from 47,000 to 310,000.

They also have largely been in conservative communities that in many cases have resisted mask-wearing and social distancing efforts.

...The campaign includes a disclaimer on rally ticket requests stating that guests “assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”

...Following Trump’s COVID-19 infection, 57% or registered voters say they are very or somewhat confident in Biden to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus, while 40% express that level of confidence in Trump, according to the Pew Research Center. Biden held a narrower lead on his support over the outbreak in June.
Trump isn't holding these rallies in deep red states that he considers "in the bag"-- like West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Arkansas, Wyoming and Tennessee. No, he's holding them in swing states where he thinks he needs to motivate his base to turn out on election day. Let's go back to the three states where he should be charged with negligent homicide and look at the polling average in each:
Minnesota- Trump down by 6.0 points
Wisconsin- Trump down by 4.6 points
Pennsylvania- Trump down by 5.1 points

And that brings us to Nicholas Lemann's much-discussed essay in Friday's New Yorker, The Republican Identity Crisis After Trump. Lemann explores if, post-Trump, "economic insecurity and inequality [are] powerful enough to blow apart the boundaries of conventional politics... An ambitious Republican can’t ignore Trumpism. Nor can an ambitious Democrat: the Democratic Party has also failed to address the deep economic discontent in this country. But is it possible to address it without opening a Pandora’s box of virulent rage and racism?"
The Republican Party has long had a significant nativist, isolationist element. In the Party’s collective memory, this faction was kept in check by “fusionism,” a grand entente between this element and the Party’s business establishment. The best-known promoter of fusionism is the late William F. Buckley, Jr., the theatrically patrician founder of National Review and an all-around conservative celebrity. Buckley tried to keep anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists out of the conservative movement, but he was not a standard Chamber of Commerce Republican. His first book attacked liberal universities, his second defended Joseph McCarthy, and in 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower was sending federal troops to integrate Little Rock Central High School, he wrote an article titled “WHY THE SOUTH MUST PREVAIL.” Buckley helped define American conservatism as a movement that supported free-market economics and internationalism and welcomed serious intellectuals, including former Communists such as James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and Whittaker Chambers.

Fusionism brought these views together into what seemed for a long time, at least from the outside, to be a relatively workable political coalition. Philip Zelikow, a veteran Republican foreign-policy official and one of hundreds of prominent members of the Party who vigorously opposed Trump in 2016, said, “World War II, followed by nearly World War III, brought the United States into an unprecedented world role. And a vocal minority didn’t accept it. They don’t like foreigners. They think they’re playing us for suckers. There were a lot of Pearl Harbor and Yalta conspiracy theories that we’ve forgotten about. This group concentrates overwhelmingly in the Republican Party.” For a long time, it was kept in check. Now, in Zelikow’s view, it has grown in prominence and become less deferential to the business wing of the Republican establishment, and is “close to being the most influential element in the Party.”

...In American politics, white nativism and racism tend to rise in conjunction with economic distress. Quite often, liberal economic reforms have been achieved at the price of compromises with politicians who were anything but liberal on race. The greatest triumph of liberalism in American history, the New Deal, entailed a bargain with the segregationist South in which the Jim Crow system remained firmly in place. In the twenty-first century, rising economic discontent among working-class whites has often caused them to lash out at people from other groups. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, and a leader of the religious wing of the conservative movement, told me, “There’s an anxiety. A world is being demolished before your eyes. It’s an instinct that things aren’t going as they should. The world is coming apart. Somebody has to say no.”

Trump’s Republican opponents in 2016, who had been living in a world created by the Republican donor class, didn’t see that the Republican coalition had been shattered. After Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, Reince Priebus, then the head of the Republican National Committee (who later followed the familiar trajectory from Never Trumper to Trump enabler to Trump exile), commissioned an inquiry to find out what had gone wrong. The resulting report, known in Republican circles as “the autopsy,” noted a significant decline in the Latino vote for Republican Presidential candidates since the George W. Bush high-water mark, in 2004, and urgently called on the Party to reaffirm its identity as pro-market, government-skeptical, and ethnically and culturally inclusive. Romney would have carried Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada if he had replicated Bush’s share of the Latino vote. The Republican establishment, and most of the 2016 Republican Presidential field, accepted the autopsy as revealed truth.

This left an opening for Trump to ignore a series of supposedly inviolable Republican bromides. He didn’t talk about the need for limited government or for balancing the federal budget. He didn’t talk about the United States as the guarantor of freedom worldwide. He didn’t extoll free trade. He didn’t court the Koch brothers. He did not sign the no-new-tax pledge that the conservative organizer Grover Norquist has been imposing on Republican Presidential aspirants for decades. A new book, Never Trump, by two political scientists, Robert Saldin and Steven Teles, asserts that Trump was opposed by more officials in his own Party (the Never Trumpers of their title) than any Presidential nominee in recent American history. Nonetheless, he got more votes in the Republican primary than any Presidential candidate ever has. Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, who in the nineties laid some of the groundwork for Trump’s rise by establishing hot-blooded attack as the dominant Republican leadership style, told me, “He won because he’s a dramatically better politician than anybody believed. A substantial part of the country felt demeaned. Talked down to.” Gingrich, who was among the first prominent Republican politicians to endorse Trump, has written two glowing books about the “great comeback” that the President’s agenda represents.

...Trump’s key insight in 2016 was that the Republican establishment could be ignored, and his primary campaign pitched only to the Republican base, which no longer believed in the free-market gospel, if it ever had. There would be no penalty for violating any ironclad rule of traditional Republicanism. Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican consultant who was affiliated with Jeb Bush in 2016, said, “Trump was a perfect grievance candidate, at a time when Republican voters wanted to blow up the system. I did Arnold Schwarzenegger-- he was what Hollywood people call a ‘pre-awareness title.’ People thought Trump was all over the place on Republican-base issues like guns and abortion, and that would do him in. But he hit this note of resentment. He was ‘politically incorrect’-- critical of Obama in crude terms. There was definitely a racial subtext.” He went on, “He was very George Wallace. And then there was the strongman thing: Juan Perón in an orange fright wig. He spoke to a fifty-two-year-old shoe salesman in a dying mall in Parma, Ohio. He has those voters in his head.” Charles Kesler, a conservative political scientist and the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, one of a small number of Trump-sympathetic intellectual journals, said much the same thing: “It’s a confession of the disrepair of the Republican Party that he won that race. He shouldn’t have won that race. It revealed the inner hollowness of the Party.”

Nobody pretends that President Trump pores over detailed policy briefs. By all accounts from reporters and from Administration defectors, what you see (tweets, rallies, enmities, palace intrigue) is what you get. Even though Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House for two years, Trump failed to achieve his most loudly voiced campaign promises from 2016, such as building that big, beautiful wall and making Mexico pay for it, getting Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and undertaking a major infrastructure-building program. He is running for a second term without having produced any formal platform. What he did accomplish is a surprisingly conventional Republican program: substantial tax cuts, a vast rollback of federal regulations, large increases in military spending, and the elevation to the federal bench of more than two hundred judges with lifetime tenure, including, most likely, three avowedly conservative Supreme Court Justices.

Trump signed into law a cut in the corporate tax rate from thirty-five per cent to twenty-one per cent-- far lower than what Reagan was able to get. Glenn Hubbard said, “Jeb would have given you the tax cut. I know because I wrote it. Trump just doubled it.” In 2017, Julius Krein, an up-and-coming conservative intellectual and a former Trump supporter, founded a magazine called American Affairs. He told me, regarding Trump’s economic accomplishments, “Laugh if you want, but he ran on an ambitious agenda, which ran counter to the entire consensus. And in office he did almost nothing for anyone aligned with the 2016 campaign. The donors are driving the bus.” Trump’s racially charged rhetoric has remained constant from his first campaign through his time in office, but, in policy, foreign affairs is the one area where the Trump of the campaign and the Trump of the White House are truly aligned. His hostility toward alliances and treaties has led him to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. He has enacted punitive restrictions on immigration. He constantly attacks NATO and other international organizations.

The best explanation I’ve heard for the difference between Trump as a candidate and Trump as the President goes back to fusionism. Governing requires filling thousands of jobs at the highest levels of the federal government with people who know what they’re doing, and also having shovel-ready policies in dozens of specific areas. Trump and most of his closest aides had no government experience and no developed policies. Reagan was elected sixteen years after Barry Goldwater’s forty-four-state defeat, in 1964. The conservative movement had used that time to develop a governing infrastructure. As Reagan took office, the Heritage Foundation (established in 1973) released the thousand-page Mandate for Leadership, which included hundreds of detailed suggestions for conservative policies that Reagan could enact.

There was no manual like that detailing the program Trump ran on, and no economic-policy experts ready to enact it. “This was a case where the dog caught the car,” Oren Cass, a young conservative activist and thinker who dislikes both Trump and the Republican establishment, told me. Trump’s motley crew included people like Stephen Bannon, Corey Lewandowski, and Paul Manafort, who hadn’t previously worked in government, or even had leading roles in prominent Republican campaigns. Stuart Stevens, Romney’s senior strategist in 2012 and a Never Trumper, told me, “These are evil people. They don’t have a sense of right and wrong. The people Trump attracts—these are damaged people. These are weird, damaged people. They are using Trump to work out their personal issues.”

Yet the establishment’s governing machinery was still running apace, so there were plenty of appointees and policies available from congressional staffs, think tanks, and lobbying organizations—all funded by the Republican donor class. The establishment is set up to supply the Presidential officials who supervise the career civil servants (also known by Trumpists as “the deep state”) in federal agencies. A few distinctively Trump appointees-- Stephen Miller, on immigration, and Jared Kushner, on the Middle East-- pushed through policies that no traditional Republican would have put into place. Otherwise, appointees without previous connections to Trump but with deep connections to the Party’s libertarian wing have put in place an enhanced version of the standard Republican program.

The result has been an odd mix of traditional Republican policies and Trumpian rhetorical flourishes. It’s hard to tell whether Trump believed in what his Administration was doing or if he was merely focussed on how to square it with his personal branding strategy. Cliff Sims, a White House aide who left in 2018, is the author of Team of Vipers, arguably the most revealing of the half-dozen tell-all Administration memoirs. In the book, Sims describes a scene from 2017, in which Trump is on the phone with Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady, the Republican members of Congress who were primarily responsible for the tax-cut plan. Trump says, “I think I’ve got a great name for this bill-- it’s going to be really cool. We need to call it ‘The Cut Cut Cut Act,’ because this is a tax cut. When people hear the name, that’s what we want people to know.” (The bill became law under the name Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.)

It’s also hard to tell whether Trump is truly an economic nationalist or merely a crony capitalist. He railed against TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, demanding that it sell its U.S. division, but then approved a deal that would permit Chinese control to continue and would also benefit two American companies, Walmart and Oracle, the latter of which has a major Trump contributor as a top executive. The Administration’s misadventures in Ukraine appear to have involved attempts to get the head of Naftogaz, the national gas company there, replaced by someone who would agree to import liquefied natural gas from the United States. Whatever is really going on, it’s clear that Trump in office is far less economically populist than he claimed to be while he was campaigning for his first term.

...As Trump has outsourced economic policy to the establishment, he has outsourced social policy to the evangelicals. Years before he launched his Presidential campaign, some instinct led him to create an alliance with the religious wing of the Republican Party. Nearly twenty years ago, he formed a public relationship with Paula White, a popular televangelist who preaches the "prosperity Gospel," and who has said that she guided Trump toward active Christianity. Since at least 2011, Trump has been appearing at the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a large gathering of activists from the Party base. In 2016 and 2017, Trump released lists of potential Supreme Court Justices, all of them demonstrably acceptable to both wings of the Republican Party, the evangelicals and the libertarians, and then made appointments only from those lists. (He released a second-term list this year.) He selected Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian who had strong support from the Koch brothers and from other major Republican donors, as his Vice-President. As President, Trump has issued a number of executive orders that evangelicals approve of, such as one that rescinded a provision of the Affordable Care Act which required health-care providers to offer birth control. "He actually did what he said he'd do," Albert Mohler told me. "It's the oddest thing."

...Trump is far too bizarre to be precisely replicable as a model for the generic Republican of the future. That raises the question of where the Republican Party will go after he leaves office. The jockeying for the 2024 Republican nomination is already well under way. Did Trump's ascension represent a significant change in the Party's orientation, and, if so, will the change be temporary or lasting?

Among the Republicans I spoke to, some of whom will vote for Trump and some of whom won't, there are three competing predictions about the future of the Party over the coming years. Let's call them the Remnant, Restoration, and Reversal scenarios.

Most of the 2016 Republican Presidential candidates accepted the post-2012-autopsy argument that the Party, with its overwhelming lack of appeal to nonwhite voters, was in a demographic death spiral. Trump ran a campaign that seemed designed to appeal only to whites-- indeed, only to whites who didn't like nonwhites. That worked well in the Republican primaries, and well enough in the general election for Trump to eke out a victory that would have been impossible without the Electoral College system. He also did slightly better with minority voters than Romney had, though minority turnout was significantly lower than it had been in the two elections when Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee.

Could somebody else use the Trump playbook to win a Presidential election? Those who believe in the Remnant scenario think so. It would require extremely high motivation among Trump's base-- mainly exurban or rural, actively religious, and not highly educated-- along with a strong appeal to affluent whites, continued modest inroads with minority voters, and a low turnout among Democrats. If a politician were able to tap into the deep antipathy toward élites in the Trump heartland, he could compensate, at least in part, for the demographic decline of white voters. In the years between the elections of 1996 and 2016, the Democratic Party lost its voting majority in about a thousand of the three thousand counties in the United States-- none in major population centers. Trump carried eighty-four per cent of the counties.

...The Remnant strategy entails relentless attacks. It rests on the idea of an outpowered cohort of traditional Americans who see themselves as courageously defending their values. The obvious candidate to carry out a high Trumpist strategy in 2024 would be Donald Trump, Jr., who is an active speaker in Trump-admiring circles and in the past two years has published two books that excoriate liberals. Several other potential Republican candidates, most notably Senators Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, and Josh Hawley, of Missouri, have demonstrated that they see Trump's success as instructive. Between them, Cotton and Hawley have two degrees from Harvard, one from Yale, and one from Stanford, but both have been steadily propounding populist and nationalist themes. The forty-year-old Hawley, who is only two years into his first term and is the youngest member of the Senate, is a relentless Twitter user, frequently targeting China, Silicon Valley, and liberals who are hostile to religion. Like Trump in 2016, he almost never argues for less government, and often calls for programs to help working people. In the summer of 2019, he gave a speech at the National Conservatism Conference denouncing "a powerful upper class and their cosmopolitan priorities" which, he implied, had gained control of both parties. There is also Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, who, like Trump in 2016, has no political experience and a large television audience. He offers up ferocious attacks on élites almost nightly. Charles Kesler told me that, no matter who wins, the Claremont Institute, which publishes the Claremont Review of Books, is going to start a Washington branch after the election, to devise Trumpian policies: socially conservative, economically nationalist.

Under the Restoration scenario, if Trump loses, Republicans, as if waking from a bad dream, could recapture their essential identity for the past hundred years as the party of business. They could revive a Reagan-like optimistic rhetoric of freedom and enterprise; resume an internationalist, alliance-oriented foreign policy; and embrace, at least notionally, diversity and immigration. One veteran Republican campaigner with Restorationist leanings says that, if Trump wins,"it'll blow up the Republican Party. In the 2022 election, we'll have an epic disaster-- a wipeout of epic proportions" Instead of Trumpism, "economic growth with an emphasis on character, and treating the Democrats as opponents and not as the enemy, is a way forward for the Party." Many Never Trumpers would feel comfortable again in a Restorationist Republican Party. Restoration could entail a conventionally positioned Presidential candidate, such as Mike Pence or Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, if it's possible for them to shake off their close association with Trump. But the most discussed Restorationist candidate is Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a former U.N. ambassador. Haley is the child of immigrants from India (one a professor at Voorhees College, a historically Black college, the other a schoolteacher who started a successful business selling clothing and accessories from around the world) and the sister of a military veteran. She achieved the rare feat of serving in the Trump Administration without either going full Trumpist or falling out with the President. She left, evidently on good terms with Trump, shortly after it emerged that she had accepted rides on private planes from businessmen in South Carolina. She was given a starring role at Trump's renomination convention, this past August.

...The Reversal scenario, though perhaps the least plausible, is the most threatening to the Democratic Party. The parties would essentially switch the roles they have had for the past century: the Republicans would replace the Democrats as the party of the people, the one with a greater emphasis on progressive economic policies for ordinary families. Some Reversalists have praised Elizabeth Warren; criticizing Wall Street and free trade is pretty much a membership requirement. Michael Podhorzer, who works at the A.F.L.-C.I.O., sent me a chart he had made that showed the vote in congressional districts, ranked by median income, from 1960 to today. For most of that time, districts in the bottom forty per cent of income were far more likely to vote Democratic. But by 2010 the lines had crossed-- perhaps because of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, perhaps because of the Presidency of Barack Obama-- and today poorer districts are far more likely to vote Republican and richer districts are far more likely to vote Democratic. The ten richest congressional districts in the country, and forty-four of the richest fifty, are represented by Democrats. The French economist Thomas Piketty has produced a chart showing that for highly educated voters, who were once mainly Republican, the lines started crossing back in 1968. In 2016, Trump carried non-college-educated whites by thirty-six points, and Hillary Clinton carried college-educated whites by seventeen points. Could Republicans become the working-class party, and Democrats the party of the prosperous? That would bode well for Republicans because, especially in a time of rising inequality, there aren't enough prosperous people to make up a reliable voting majority.

The Democratic Party appears confident that it has the abiding loyalty of minority voters at all income and education levels, and that it dominates the metropolitan areas where a growing majority of Americans live. The coming majority-minority, decreasingly rural country will be naturally Democratic over the long term. But there are holes in this argument. Because minorities are younger than whites and are also less likely to be U.S. citizens, the electorate could remain white-majority for decades. Richard Alba, a sociologist who has written a book called The Great Demographic Illusion, which challenges the idea of a rapidly arriving majority-minority America, estimates that in 2060, which is as far into the future as the Census Bureau projects, the electorate will still be fifty-five per cent white. (It was seventy-three per cent white in 2018). And minority voters-- especially Latinos, who will be the largest group of minority voters in the 2020 election-- may not remain as loyally Democratic as they have been in recent elections, especially if the Republican Party has a leader who doesn't race-bait. Black and Latino Democratic voters are substantially less likely to identify as liberal than white Democratic voters are. They are also more likely to be actively religious, and to pursue Republican-leaning careers such as military service and law enforcement.

...The Reversalists believe that the Democrats' embrace of market economics, and their establishment of a powerful business wing of the Democratic Party, especially in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, during the Clinton and Obama Administrations, has left them vulnerable to an attack from a new, socially conservative and economically liberal strain of Republicanism. Reversalists oppose the Republican donor class. Several have abandoned donor-funded libertarian and neoconservative think tanks like Cato and the American Enterprise Institute, disillusioned with the Party's indifference to the concerns of middle-class and working-class voters. Oren Cass, one of the leading Reversalists, has founded an organization called American Compass, which is trying to formulate policies that would appeal to members of the base of both parties. "What we're talking about is actual conservatism," he told me. "What we have called 'conservatism' just outsourced economic policy thinking away from conservatives to a small niche group of libertarians." Culturally, Reversalists present themselves as champions of provincialism, faith, and work, but they aim to promote these things through unusually interventionist (at least for Republicans, and for centrist Democrats since the nineties) economic policies. Steven Hayward, who calls himself a reluctant Trump supporter, said, "It's amazing to me the number of conservatives who are talking about, essentially, Walter Mondale's industrial policy from 1984. The right and the left suddenly agree. Reagan was very popular with younger voters. Younger people then had come of age seeing government failure. Now young people have come of age seeing market failure."

...Many Democrats will surely see this vision of the future of the Republican Party as fanciful. Isn't the Party controlled by ferociously right-wing billionaires? Aren't Republican-base voters irredeemable white supremacists who have been bamboozled by Fox News and televangelists? But the Democrats' coalition is no less unnatural than the Republicans'. A political system with only two parties produces parties with internal contradictions. The five most valuable corporations in America are all West Coast tech companies-- enemy territory, in today's Republican rhetoric. The head of the country's biggest bank, Jamie Dimon, of JPMorgan Chase, is a Democrat and a Trump critic. There was a stir in Republican circles in 2018, when a conservative journalist eavesdropped, on an Amtrak train, on a long phone conversation that Representative Jerry Nadler, of the Upper West Side, was having. Nadler complained that Democrats were attracting voters who were like the old Rockefeller Republicans-- liberal on social issues, conservative on economics. That's who lives in a lot of the wealthy older suburbs-- formerly Republican areas that are now Democratic. And the Democrats' minority voters differ enough on measures such as income, education, ideology, and religion that some of them could potentially be tempted to join a Republican Party that wasn't headed by Trump.

Trump has already changed the Republican Party. Its most hawkish element-- hawkish in the Iraq War sense-- has gone underground, if it still exists. The same goes for publicly stated Republican skepticism about Social Security and Medicare. One must be hostile to China, and skeptical, to some degree, of free trade. Especially since the arrival of the pandemic, it's hard to find a true libertarian in the Party-- at least among those who have to run for office. In the future, according to Donald Critchlow, a historian of conservatism who teaches at Arizona State University, "the advantage would go to a candidate who is Trump without the Trump caricature. An old-fashioned Chamber of Commerce candidate would not do well. We're in a new situation, in both parties. Everything's up for grabs." A senior Republican staffer who has Reversalist sympathies says, "Trump isn't good at a twenty-first-century policy agenda," but that work can go on without him. "If he loses, we'll have a massive argument in the Republican Party. Some will say, "He's a black swan." To me, the lesson is: he correctly diagnosed what was going on. Let's apply that to conservative economic policy. To me, what's up for grabs is the working-class vote. Not just working-class white-- working-class. Does what the President tapped into have to be racial? Can it be about what neoliberalism has done to the country?"

Trump's genius is to command attention, including the attention of people who dislike him. That makes it tempting to think that, when he's gone, everything he stands for will go with him. It probably won't; elements of Trumpism will likely be with us for a long time. Which elements, taking what form, in the possession of which party? Such questions will be just as pressing after Trump as they are now.
The Great Depression was electorally equated with the Republican Party for at least 20 years and the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic is going to make Trump's Republican Party this generation's Herbert Hoover's Republican Party. So... Lemann is a really smart guy, but his frame may be cockeyed here.

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At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good if incomplete historical analysis of the nazi party. it is mainly incomplete because the hate (nazis) now *ARE* the party. Going along for the ride, as has been the case since gingrich's time, is stupid. And white is a given since '68 when southern racists' visceral revulsion to voting and civil rights planks of LBJ's "Great Society" turned them from yellow-dog Democrats into proto-nazi republicans.

Given the antidemocratic electoral college's minority-weighted method of determining the presidency, this became the nazis' path to power... as long as they could suppress the left sufficient to compete. Thus the Powell memo. and the democrap party -- see below.

You give a political party an almost unassailable path to power, you have to expect them to capitalize. Even when doing so means eschewing whatever "principles" outside of hate, stupid and white. When your party is already those demos, it becomes trivial.

"economic insecurity and inequality [are] powerful enough to blow apart the boundaries of conventional politics... An ambitious Republican can’t ignore Trumpism. Nor can an ambitious Democrat: the Democratic Party has also failed to address the deep economic discontent in this country."

this note should have been explored much more fully. It is precisely because the Democrats have REFUSED to be the party of economic insecurity/discontent for several decades now, that the suppression of the left has been accomplished.
After reagan ran a racist (in the south) and populist campaign in '80 and beat Carter (bigly) who tried to counter with reasoned thinking, the democraps decided that becoming corrupt, to get much more money from corporations and some millionaires (now billionaires) was their path to victory. They formed the DLC (guess who?) and pandered in private to the big money even as they continued to pander to their former constituency. In '92, after a decade spent on their backs, they finally capitalized (on the perot entry to siphon proto-nazi voters) and won an admin. They set about impressing their donors with corporate-fellating stuff like NAFTA, entry in WTO, but mainly GLBA and CFMA which passed as nearly unanimously as anything in memory. Those latter two wall street BJs created slick willie's housing bubble and crash in 2008 (which, ironically, got the democraps' next presidency for them).

I don't see much partisan realignment coming from the pandemic, unless biden proves to be as inept at it as was trump. And even if biden makes better moves, the pandemic may bloom again and again in spite of it. If it does, americans, being provably the dumbest population of hominids in the history of earty, will probably blame whomever is in office even if the blame is 99.999999999% theirs.

What MAY happen, over time, is that the stupidity and relentless refusal of the nazi voters to take precautions (*) could kill off enough of them to tip the scales back over to the left's self-suppressed number. It wouldn't make anything at all better. But it might make the nazis' path to perpetual power a bit more daunting... for a short while.

(*) I'm counting on the propensity of these fucking idiots to resist vaccines, the way they have with measles and so on, to help here also.

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the sage of discussion, assume for a moment that the "blue tsunami" talk has any basis in reality. Should we not be looking more at what Biden and his Republican Cabinet are going to try to do to the nation and discuss what we can do to stop them?

At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we should be, 8:25, but that is not in the (plant) DNA of a lefty voter nor in the DNA of DWT... or it would already be doing that.


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