Friday, September 13, 2019

The Collapse of Trump's Republican Party in 2020

Michael Anton warned us that even if we charged the cockpit in 2016 to avoid the certain death coming from Hillary Clinton's election, we might still die by electing Donald Trump.

"You--or the leader of your party--may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane."  "A Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto.  With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances."

So, we might ask, now that the Republican Party has been playing Russian Roulette with Trump, how has that been working out for them?

Anton's warning about the possible death of America is actually a fear of the death of the Republican Party.  The Democratic Party represents "half the country and all our elites," Anton admits, and the surging growth in the American electorate favoring the Democratic Party has been so rapid that the Republican Party could become the permanent minority party by 2020.  To save the Republican Party from death, therefore, Trump must increase the size of the electoral coalition supporting the Republican Party.

Has he done that?  The evidence from the past two and a half years--the 2016 election, the 2018 midterm elections, the popular protests against Trump, and voter opinion surveys--all suggest the answer is no.

In 2016, Trump was running against a remarkably flawed opponent who ran a poorly designed campaign, and yet Trump still lost the popular vote by almost three million votes.

On January 20, 2017, Trump's inauguration crowd in Washington was noticeably smaller than President Obama's massive crowd eight years earlier.  So much so, that Trump fumed about the "fake news" photographs of the crowds.  The next day the Women's Marches against Trump brought out over 2 million people across the country--673 marches in all 50 states--which might have been the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history.

As I have argued in a previous post (here), in the 2018 midterm elections, Trump suffered a massive defeat in what he himself framed as a national referendum on his policies--particularly, immigration.  This was the biggest gain for the Democrats in a midterm election since 1974, in the aftermath of Watergate and Nixon's resignation.  The victory in the House would have been even greater for the Democrats were it not for the Republican gerrymandering in states like Ohio and North Carolina.  Democrats won House seats in some of the most solidly Republican districts in the country.  For example, Orange County, California, now has not a single Republican representative in the House!

Remember that in the weeks before the midterms, Trump sent military troops to the southern border to stop the "invasion" of America by a massive caravan of criminal and terrorist immigrants who were supposedly coming to kill and rape Americans.  The voters repudiated this anti-immigration rhetoric in the midterm elections, which illustrates how the electoral support for illiberal populists like Trump must decline over time, because of the enduring appeal of the libertarian values of the Liberal Enlightenment.

In an article in the New York Times, and in his new book--R.I.P. G.O.P.: How the New America Is Dooming the Republicans--Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg surveys the evidence suggesting that Trump has accelerated the collapse of the Republican Party into becoming a permanent minority party.

For example, there is evidence that Trump's populist anti-immigrant rhetoric has backfired.  Since 1994, surveys have asked voters:  Do you believe that immigrants "strengthen the country with their hard work and talents"?  Or do you believe that they "burden the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care"?  In 1994, 63% answered that immigrants were a burden on the country; and only 31% answered that they strengthened the country.  In 2017, this had completely reversed: 65% said immigrants strengthened the country, while only 26% said they were a burden.  Surveys indicate that one of the prime motivations of voters in the "blue wave" 2018 midterms was rejecting Trump's crude anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Until recently, as analyzed by Greenberg, the Republican Party base has been a coalition of five voting blocks: evangelical conservatives (26%), moderates (23%), secular conservatives (18%), Tea Party conservatives (17%), and Catholic conservatives (16%).  Now, in 2019, the moderates have dropped from 23% to 16%; and the secular conservatives have dropped from 18% to 14%.

The demographic profile of the Republican Party has moved toward older, white, male, native-born, religious, less educated, and rural voters.  So the increase in younger, non-white, female, foreign-born, secular, educated, and urban voters favors the Democratic Party.

While Greenberg rightly sees all of these trends as pushing the Republican Party towards being a minority party, I agree with Eric Levitz (here) that Greenberg does not give enough weight to the structural features of American electoral politics that can allow a minority Republican Party to exert great power.  Even if the Republican Party is unpopular, it can control the Senate because the equal representation of the 50 states inflates the power of Republican voters in sparsely populated rural areas of the states in Middle America.  And as long as they control the Senate, they can control the appointment of federal judges, and the federal judiciary (including the Supreme Court) is a powerful countermajoritarian force.  Senate Republicans can refuse to confirm any judicial appointees of a Democratic President.

As I have suggested in some previous posts, there is a deeper cultural or philosophical dimension to the decline of the Republican Party that deserves more thought.  The triumph of the Liberal Enlightenment over the past two centuries favors the libertarian values of modernity embraced by the typical voting blocs of the Democratic Party.  But as the Republican Party has adopted the counter-Enlightenment values of illiberal populism, it has had to stand against liberal modernity--for example, by resisting the free global movement of ideas, trade, and people and the expansion of personal liberty in civil society (as in gay marriage, for instance).  Thirty years ago, the conservative thought of the Republican Party was based on a "fusionist" conception of liberal conservatism that combined political liberty and social virtue, which was open to liberal modernity.  But now the illiberal populism of Trumpism has rejected this liberal conservatism, and in doing so, it has doomed the Republican Party to appealing to only a minority of the voters who think (mistakenly) that the Liberal Enlightenment is an attack on their traditionalist conservative values.

I written about the fusionism of liberal conservatism here, here, here., and here.


Jon said...

Fusionism, Again is linked twice. I awas surprised to see Rothbard and Kirk mentioned. They strike me as part of the Old Right and Fusionism seems like a newer movement than that.

Jon said...

I think the Fusionism that Rothbard had in mind was the Fusionism that Karl News and Carl Oglesby had in mind; one between the Old Right and the New Left. Oglesby wrote my favorite nonfiction book on the JFK assassination, but I think the only conservative these days who is a fan is Bill Kaufman.

Anonymous said...

"The Democratic Party represents "half the country and all our elites," Anton admits"

Huh? Is Anton actually arguing that the rich and megarich who support the Republican tax cuts and deregulation policies are all Democrats, or they are not part of the elite, or what?

-- Les Brunswick

Larry Arnhart said...

Les, you are pointing to the absurdity of Anton's populist rhetoric of the virtuous People against the evil Elites. Either the Koch brothers are not part of the Elites, or they belong to the virtuous Elites.

Jon said...

It seems to me that there are two types of elites in this country. Oglesby mentioned this years ago in his book. The Yankee Cowboy War was in part a discussion of the struggle between the Eastern Establishment types like the Rockefellers and Kennedy's versus westerners like Howard Hughes and Richard Nixon. I'm not sure how different things are today from 1976 when Oglesby's book came out.

Anonymous said...

Jon, the fusionism referred to was an idea developed by Frank Meyer and adopted by the conservative movement in the 50's. The members of the conservative movement were all opposed to the New Deal, but had some strong ideological disagreements, in particular libertarians vs traditionalistic social conservatives. Meyer proposed they unite on what they agreed upon, and put aside their differences, and this is what the conservative movement did, though with ongoing tensions.

Les Brunswick

Jon said...

Thanks, Les.

Anonymous said...

You’ve set a good mark for judgment after the election. If Trump loses, it’ll sure look like you’re right. But what if he wins, and a number of those Orange Co. seats come back?

Doug1943 said...

No single election, including the one next year, is going to be definitive. "Events, dear boy, events." And these are not predictable.

However, the long-term trend is obvious. The question is, what is likely to happen to the US as a result of permanent liberal Democratic rule -- even with strong Republican obstructionism -- in the world as it is evolving?

China's rise seems inexorable. There seems to be wide agreement that the optimistic view of a 'New World Order' after 1990 has failed -- I'm surprised that so much of the Democratic establishment is still committed to the project of American world hegemony.

Then there are the economic/social developments in the US. I believe many social conservatives, in the base, are also economic 'liberals' -- that is, they don't hate the New Deal and the changes it brought in.

It would be a tricky project, to assemble a coalition of people who are (1) for a strong defense, but for its being used to defend America, i.e. who are non-interventionists without being peaceniks; (2) adherents to the general outlook of the Enlightenment, but cautious about deep social changes in things like sexual behavior, i.e. tolerant but not non-judgemental; (3) not against sensible state measures -- which will have to be paid for through taxation -- to ameliorate the sharp contradictions of capitalism, without encouraging welfare dependency; and (4) not hostile in a reflexively, ethnically-chauvinist way to immigration, but also very aware of the impossibility of Open Borders.

I think it's technically possible to do that -- think a Tulsi Gabbard/Mick Huckabee coalition, and in a crude way that's what Trump hinted at in his campaign. However, it would take extraordinarily good luck to realize this, probably a leadership on the level of Lincoln or Churchill.

If we don't get that, more likely is something much much worse, perhaps sparked by a combination of American military humiliation abroad, followed or preceded by a Great Depression. The most likely outcome is the growth of a very unpleasant genuinely white-supremacist movement among the white population.

There is another alternative, which might occur, and might not be so bad: the peaceful (hopefully) separation of the US into Blue and Red components. This sounds mad at the moment, of course.