Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Trump Brand Proves Toxic to GOP Candidates in 2017 Elections

When the history of the early part of this century is written, historians will point to November 8, 2016 as the turning point for the Democratic and Republican Parties.  Casual observers look at the election results that day and conclude they mean the Republican Party, led by President Trump, was in its ascendancy, having soundly vanquished its Democratic foe giving the GOP control of all three branches of government.  But a more analytical approach might conclude that seeds of a coming Republican disaster were sown in the those 2016 election results.

President Trump and his supporters like to claim the President resoundingly won the 2016 election as
the American public enthusiastically bought the Trump brand.  Of course, students of history know Trump's victory was far from overwhelming.  Trump's win in the Electoral College was the 9th closest in American history and he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

Trump did not win the 2016 election because of his brand.  He won in spite of his brand.  People were willing to overlook his hate-mongering, divisive politics because they hated Hillary Clinton more.  They wanted a change and Donald Trump was the only game in town when it came to fulfilling that desire.  Any other Republican would have trounced Hillary Clinton badly.

But despite Trump's and his supporters constant attempts to revive her, Hillary Clinton is gone.  The Trump brand stands alone and it is a toxic brand of politics that poisons everyone associated with it.

I dipped my political feet into the water in 1980 when the conservative movement came of age.  That year I attended seminars and other meetings in which conservative ideas were discussed. There was no talk then of harboring contempt for liberals and others who didn't share our views. They were merely viewed as people to be persuaded.  We conservatives sure did not hate people because of their race or religion.   In fact, we expressly rejected the ideology of the white supremacists (now called the "alt right") as not being consistent with the freedom and opportunity represented by our brand of conservatism, a brand that resulted in the (real) landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

I knew during the late hours of November 8, 2016 that we conservatives and Republicans had lost an historic election.  Those results meant that for the next 20 years or more, the conservative movement of my youth and the party I had chosen to join, would be tarnished with the Trump brand.  I knew from that day forward, we Republicans would lose a lot of elections and, for decades to come, the liberal ideology would prevail.

Prior to last night, there were a number of special elections in the U.S. House. Trump supporters gleefully pointed to the success of the Republican candidates in all those races of proof of the popularity of the Trump GOP brand.  It was a ridiculous suggestion.  All those races were run in heavily Republican districts that the GOP candidates had won by large double digits in 2016.  Yet, in every one of those heavily Republican districts, the Democratic candidates in 2017 ran competitively, losing by only a few points.

Last night, even the most fervent Trump supporters, if they wanted to look, could see the electoral cliff their "Trump Train" is heading for.  It was not just the surprising margin of victory of the Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam.  (Trump tweeted this morning that Republican candidate Ed Gillespie is at fault for his loss to Northam because Gillespie did not act Trump enough.  Of course, nothing is ever Donald Trump's fault.)  n Virginia, Republicans went from having a super-majority in the House of Delegates to possibly losing control of the chamber. And it was not just Virginia.  All across the country, Democrats were winning in areas they had not won for decades  In one county in Pennsylvania, the Democrats for the first time since the 1700s won a county-wide office.  They didn't just win one county-wide office; Democrats swept all four of those offices in that county.

From top to bottom, Democratic candidates employed the strategy of tying GOP candidates to Donald Trump.  And those Republicans, tethered to Trump, sank to the bottom of the political river.

Now the media talking heads are spreading the conclusion that "Trumpism without Trump" doesn't work.  Nonsense. Trumpism with Trump doesn't work either .   The independents and some Democrats who supported Trump over Hillary Clinton a year ago are long gone.  They are not coming back, unless of course the Democrats would be so stupid as to nominate Hillary Clinton again.   I can almost rule that out.  Almost.

But 2020 is not the election on the horizon.  The 2018 mid-term elections featuring 435 U.S. House  and 33 Senate seats are next in line.  While many point to the fact that gerrymandering protects the Republican majority in the House, there is an ugly truth about the process that is rarely discussed.  In a gerrymander, the goal is to create a large number of close but safe seats for the majority while conceding by a large margin fewer seats to the minority party.  Typical margins of majority districts in a gerrymander might be 60-40, while minority districts run 20-80.  The problem with gerrymandering is that when the rare large wave election happens, the political dam bursts and the flooding takes out more majority party incumbents than it would if they were drawn with larger margins than 60-40.

Certainly the Republican party will lose seats in the U.S. House in 2018.  (Unlike other analysts, I don't think it matters one bit what legislation Congress passes.)  Losses are inevitable.  The question is how many.  I am fairly confident that gerrymandering won't prevent the Republicans from losing the majority in the House.  The U.S. Senate is another story because the Republicans are protecting so few seats in swing states while several Democratic Senators face re-election from districts Trump won in 2018.  Still, after last night, I think the Trump brand is so toxic that the Democrats do have an realistic, albeit still a long-shot, chance of winning control of the Senate.

Donald Trump is not the savior of the Republican Party.  He is GOP cancer and the sooner he is gone the sooner my party, and the conservative ideas it stands for, can start the long process of recovering.

7 comments:

True Republican said...

Apparently Mike Pence having campaigned with Gillespie didn’t move the needle his way at all. Pence is now forever tarnished as a Trump stooge

Sheila Kennedy said...

Excellent, Paul.

The worst part of the Trump fiasco is that this country desperately needs two principled, ADULT parties. Liberals need to hear from voters who are genuine conservatives with thoughtful positions (and vice-versa). The GOP you and I used to be part of was not the resentful, anti-intellectual gang of racists and misogynists of today, and we need that party back.

Greg Bowes said...

Sheila and Paul,
I am hoping we can see the rise of third parties. I know gerrymandering is a tough nut to crack, and expect the two major parties to want to protect themselves even more against third parties, but it seems like a strong third party, or even a fourth or fifth, would temper the extremism and polarization we have been seeing. Of course, the two parties would quickly unite to protect against third parties. We already see it in ballot access laws.

True Republican said...

Shelia,

You need to criticize Mike Pence and Donald Trump more. Your writing sometimes sounds too Pro-Trump or Pro-Pence.

True Republican said...

Paul,

Who is more toxic to our Grand Old Party Donald Trump or Roy Moore?

TR

Anonymous said...

Donald Trump’s tweets are so childish that Roy Moore wants to date them!

Veterans for Peace Indianapolis said...

Ha!