Activist Monday: WWRD (What Will Republicans Do) in 2016?
Posted January 11, 2016on:
Good Monday, everyone. Today I’d like you to remember our PUMA roots. Remember when we were all trying to figure out what we would do if Obama were the nominee in 2008, and not Hillary? Would we stay home? Would we vote Republican or third-party in protest? Would we suck it up and vote the party line anyway? And then, after the election, we wondered if we should start our own Party, since the Democrats tanked our candidate and told many of us that our primary votes only counted as “half.” (Some counted as “none.”) Our dissatisfaction with the Party drove some of us to re-register as Green or Working Families, and a few of us (no one who comments or blogs here anymore) to give in to the Dark Side.
Well, it’s 2015, just a few weeks before the first caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Tea Party types are taking a page from our book. If we hadn’t done it first, they’d be screaming “Party Unity My Ass” at every “anti-establishment” rally.
Never have so many voters been attracted to Republican candidates like Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who are challenging core party beliefs on the economy and national security and new goals like winning over Hispanics through immigration reform. Rank-and-file conservatives, after decades of deferring to party elites, are trying to stage what is effectively a people’s coup by selecting a standard-bearer who is not the preferred candidate of wealthy donors and elected officials.
And many of those traditional power brokers, in turn, are deeply uncomfortable and even hostile to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz: Between them, the leading candidates do not have the backing of a single senator or governor.
“I haven’t seen this large of a division in my career,” said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican first elected to Congress in 1982. “You probably have to go back to Ford versus Reagan in 1976. But that was only two people.”
Yes, the Republican party base is not just revolting, but is fomenting a full-blown revolution. Now, I want to make it clear that I am not comparing their beliefs and values with those of us here. Original PUMAs were liberal to moderate Democrats who didn’t see Obama as representing Democratic values, while the base values of those who support Trump bear a striking resemblance to those of the German National Socialist Party in 1933. I am simply pointing out that the questions they’re asking are the same: what will we do if our guy, who lacks national Party support, isn’t the nominee?
But political analysts have taken this question a step further, wondering: What happens if Trump or Cruz wins the nomination? One possible scenario: A third-party challenge to the Tea Party candidate, from within the GOP establishment. It would be irresponsible NOT to speculate!
With Trump as the nominee, the Republican Party would face a threat to unity on several fronts. His victory would represent a triumph of an insurgent movement, or impulse, within the party. Historically speaking, this is exactly the kind of intraparty victory that guarantees political civil war.
Would a Trump nomination be another example of such a power shift? Yes, although not a shift in an ideological sense. It would represent a more radical kind of shift, with power moving from party officials and office-holders to deeply alienated voters and to their media tribunes. (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham have not exactly endorsed Trump, but they have been vocal in defending him and in assailing those who have branded Trump unacceptable.) It would undermine the thesis of a highly influential book, “The Party Decides,” which argues that the preferences of party insiders is still critical to the outcome of a nomination contest. This possibility, in turn, has provoked strong feelings about Trump from some “old school” Republicans. Says one self-described “structural, sycophantic Republican” who has been involved at high levels of GOP campaigns for decades: “Hillary would be bad for the country—he’d be worse.”
The idea behind running a more “traditional” Republican would be to 1) Save the Party from being associated with Trump in upcoming Congressional elections, and 2) give Republicans who don’t support Trump an alternative to either staying home, or voting for Hillary. This strategy would almost certainly lead to a Clinton victory in the short term, but might save the Senate from turning over to the Democrats, as well as giving the RNC credibility when it distances itself permanently from its former base.
Yes, I said “when.” As we at TW have pointed out many times, the beliefs of the GOP base are no longer based in anything resembling reality, and their goals cannot be met without radically changing the structure and core legal basis (the Constitution) of our country. This giant gap between the “movement conservatives” and the GOP establishment can no longer be ignored; the rise of Republican demagogues like Trump have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt. If the Party wants to become more friendly to Hispanics and young people, it needs to jettison the openly xenophobic and sexist views that Trump and Cruz have been pushing. Leading Republicans such as one of our Widdershinian favorites, Lindsey “Ah feel faint” Graham, have admitted as much.
So, WWRD in 2016? Well, first of all, they’ll lose the general election no matter what. A house divided against itself cannot stand. What I’m hoping, though, is that the RNC will finally have to confront the ideological extremism of the Republican base and take action to neutralize it. That can only be a good thing for this country as a whole.
This is an open thread.
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