In my previous piece, I made the case that a Republican Primary challenge to Trump won’t work. Instead, I suggested conservatives who had a problem with Trump needed to form a third party. Yet, I must acknowledge these aren’t the only two options that people see.
Some within the GOP who are opposed to Trumpism may hope to choose a new direction for the party when he leaves office. The party is fickle. Republicans once lauded George W. Bush and declared any questioning of his decisions amounted to giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda. Now Republicans leap to attack the former President over his supposed slights to Trump. The same will happen to Trump after 2024. That election cycle will see a chance to return to traditional conservatism.
Playing the long game for the heart of the GOP is a well-intentioned idea. However, it’s problematic. Even with Trump gone, the primary system’s dysfunction will foster a long, bruising fight for control of the Republican Party that may continue beyond the 2024 election. In reality, it will be a painful fight for a booby prize.
Both political parties are little more than brands. While some folks have a great deal of brand loyalty, many other people find the brands turn them off. Democrats feel they should be able to win many Christian Midwestern voters who vote Republican, as detailed in the book What’s the Matter in Kansas. When Republicans think about minority voters at all, they puzzle at how urban minorities continue to vote Democrat despite the Democrats producing disastrous results for their communities.
The explanation isn’t that all Midwestern Christians or urban Blacks and Hispanics have carefully examined all the arguments for the opposing parties and found them wanting. The fact is the other party is viewed with suspicion and deemed not to have the best interest of their communities in mind.
We don’t listen to the rhetoric of people we think aren’t seeking our best interests. Should David Duke ever make a good point about some issue unrelated to racial bigotry, that point won’t be accepted by people who despise his brand for its racial bigotry.
Likewise, Trump’s uncivil conduct and the GOP’s tolerance of it has poisoned the GOP brand. Untold millions of voters are ill-disposed to pay attention to what anyone says under the Republican Party banner.
Consider, Trump’s hesitance after Charlottesville to fully condemn the white supremacists led by Trump supporter Richard Spencer and his insistence “good people” marched that day underneath the banner of the Nazi flag. Even Republicans who disagreed with Trump were measured in their disagreement lest they anger Trump’s fans.
In the Trump University trial, Trump slammed Curiel Gonzalo as a biased “Mexican judge,” suggesting the judge couldn’t be trusted to be fair because of his ethnicity and his alleged opposition to Trump building a border wall. The repeated attacks were shrugged off by Republicans, who had no problem embracing and cheering Trump and putting him forward as their nominee for their presidency after he’d attacked a Hispanic jurist solely on the basis of his race.
It needs to be noted Trump’s allegations against Judge Gonzalo have been proven false. After the election, Judge Gonzalo urged the two sides to settle in the Trump University case to spare Trump and the country the spectacle of the President-elect standing trial for civil fraud. This year, he issued a ruling allowing President Trump to go ahead with construction of the wall.
In addition to Trump ’s racially charged behavior, consider Trump’s treatment of women. Trump has been accused by nineteen women of sexual harassment and assault. The statements he made in the infamous Access Hollywood tape paint him as a sexual predator. His remarks as a guest on the Howard Stern show indicates he used his position as a sponsor of beauty contests to find excuses to walk in on young women when they were not clothed.
Yet, Tony Perkins, the lead organizer of the annual “Values Voter” conference gives Trump a “mulligan” for all the harm he’s done to women. Most conservatives ignore Trump’s history of grabbing women’s genitalia, pretend his sexual assaults were consensual acts, and attack his victims as liars. Meanwhile, many conservatives are outraged that feminists and others against sexual assault wear pink hats with cat ears on them due to the hats’ name including a word for cat that is also slang for female genitalia.
While protecting Trump, many GOP faithful have become willing to minimize all legitimate charges of sexual harassment and assault against GOP members. During the Alabama special Senate election, Breitbart News strained to undermine the credibility of Roy Moore’s accusers. After the election, Breitbart Editor Alex Marlow admitted he believed the allegations against Moore. He cast aspersions on them anyway because “It’s about what’s coming next for President Trump.”
Then you have the case of Rob Porter. The FBI notified White House Counsel Donald McGahn that two of Porter’s ex-wives had accused him of assaulting them. After that, Porter continued to work in the White House without a security clearance for a year. He was forced to resign only after photographic evidence of the abuse became public. President Trump cast doubt on the accusations and made Porter out as a victim. As one political observer noted, there’s nothing so credible with Trump as man’s denials.
Outside of the GOP faithful, many women and minorities have become entrenched in the belief that the GOP does not have their interests at heart. This has empowered the left. The radical feminist movement in this country owes Donald Trump a debt of gratitude. The women’s marches across the country show how many women are being radicalized because we have a President with a decades-long history of predation towards women and a political party that’s willing to tolerate a predator to hold onto power.
Further, many younger people don’t want to be associated with the bigotry that’s been tolerated in the GOP. Take the case of Kyle McDaniel, a twenty-eight-year-old Virginian who won election to his state’s Central Committee. McDaniel had a promising future within the GOP. He bided his time, even while dealing with racially insensitive comments within the Party. But Trump finally pushed things too far with a comment denigrating Haitians and others who come to the US from the Third World. McDaniel announced his resignation from the Central Committee and the GOP:
The President’s unnecessary and appalling comments regarding the Haitian people, and the defense of those comments by party leaders, are the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have been to Haiti’s slums, twice, and worked alongside those who have to call it home; my wife and I are considering adopting a Haitian child. There is no rationalization of the President’s comments that makes them anything other than what they are: a claim that Haitians do not deserve a chance to be American.
The Republicans are becoming identified with white identity politics that younger generations find to be disgusting. As this grows, the Democrats’ advantage will grow. Consider the narrow margin of Trump’s victory in 2016. Let’s say, in 2020, we ran the 2016 election and only those who voted in the last election voted, and everyone voted precisely as they did the last time. Trump would lose the 2020 election to Clinton due to the number of his supporters who will have died by 2020.
Republicans should not kid themselves that they can move past this. After leaving office, Trump won’t go away. If Trump is defeated in 2020, based on his family history, he will have ten to fifteen years of good health ahead of him and will continue to Tweet. The media will continue to cover every bigoted tweet and every offensive statement and drain any oxygen from the room for new Republican voices.
Any distancing effort is going to be met by opposition. There will be Republicans who are diehard Trump supporters, and those who want to take the GOP in another direction don’t want to tick off these people. So you can’t have any apology or post-presidency condemnation of Trump’s worst behavior. Even if you could, it would be seen by most outsiders as an opportunistic move as the Democrats’ recent attempts to distance themselves from the Clintons in light of the #metoo campaign was seen.
Ideas like constitutionally limited government, federalism, government reform, and traditional values offer great answers to our country’s problems. However, those ideas will not triumph if conservatives rely on a political party that only white baby boomers will listen to.
Likely, for the GOP, attempting to move past Trump will be like pouring new wine into old wineskins about to burst. If we want a conservative party that genuinely speaks to all Americans regardless of race or gender, the only way we’ll get it is to replace the Grand Old Party with a Brand New Party.