Saturday, October 17, 2020

Trumpism Will Leave an Indelible Stain on the GOP and Lead to Democratic Party Domination

This is my "I told you so" column.

A few years ago, I was giving a ride to a conservative law school professor.  Our discussion quickly turned to politics.  He asked me why I was so unhappy about the newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump.  The words reflexively came out of my mouth before I could even ponder the question.

"Because I know what is coming."

Unlike many people, I  knew on election night 2016 Trump had a decent chance to win the election  The website FiveThirtyEight was giving Trump a 29% chance of winning, which (.290) would be a good batting average for a major league hitter.  While the odds were that Hillary Clinton would end Trump's political career that night, I was aware there was an outside chance Trump might win.  The FiveThirtyEight 29% estimate was a good calculation on Trump's odds.

Having long followed Trump's career, I knew well before 2016 that he was, contrary to the role he played in The Apprentice, a terrible businessman.  He regularly led his companies into bankruptcy and used other tactics to not pay vendors and lenders.  He became so persistent in not paying loans that American banks stopped lending to "The King of Debt," a moniker Trump actually quite liked.  Trump also had a history of dishonesty, regularly using scams, such as Trump University and the Trump Foundation, to rip people off and personally profit.  Trump's racism, his sexism, his xenophobia were also not unknown traits.  I likewise knew about Trump's ignorance, his incompetence, his lack of fitness for office, the hypocrisy of what he was saying on the campaign trail v. the things he did and said outside the campaign

Even if one were unaware of his private life and business career, Trump's most objectionable traits, recounted above, were on display during the 2016 campaign. By nominating Trump, and associating itself with those traits, the GOP damaged its brand.  But the harm to the Republican Party could have been limited.  The GOP reattaching itself to the conservative principles championed by Ronald Reagan, which undergirded the success of the Republican Party for 36 years, principles for which Trump often displayed hostility, could have started the day after election.  

In short, the damage to the GOP could have been temporary, with recovery only an election away.  

Then November 8, 2016 happened.  Pulling off narrow upsets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, three states Hillary Clinton just assumed, based on history, would fall into her column, Trump was able to eke out a narrow electoral college win. That meant Donald Trump would not only become President, the damage he could do to the Republican Party would be exponentially worse.  

I must say, however, I underestimated how bad a President Trump would be for the GOP.  Certainly I knew of his unfitness for office...that Trump's ignorance and lack of temperament would hurt my Republican Party.  But I thought the, then, Republican-controlled House and, still, Republican-controlled Senate, nevertheless, would stand up for conservative principles and use their authority to keep Trump in line. I thought that the "best people" Trump surrounded himself with in choosing a cabinet, would offer good advice that the inexperienced Trump would listen to and follow.   I thought that the several special elections and the 2018 mid-terms would prove to Republicans that Trump's politics of hate and division could not win general elections.

I thought wrong. 

Republicans in the House and Senate abandoned their principles to enable anything Trump wanted to do.  Meanwhile, Trump ushered the few "best people" who were in his administration, out the door, replacing them with sycophants.  And, even though the GOP was pummeled in the numerous post-2016 special elections and the 2018 mid-terms, most Republicans remained firmly convinced that 2020 would somehow prove to be different, that Trump's toxic brand of politics would suddenly and magically prove to be popular with the voters.  Never mind those pesky polls that consistently said otherwise.  Those polls are fake!  Pollsters are working together to suppress Trump's vote!  Trump will win in a landslide!  MAGA!

Now as the 2020 election looms on the horizon, many Republicans officeholders, particularly those who work in the U.S. Senate, are finally waking up to a reality that in less than three weeks voters are ready to deal the GOP a devastating blow. Whether they are senior citizens, younger people, women, suburbanites or those with college degrees, all are fleeing from the Republican Party, fed up with the antics of President Trump and his sycophantic enablers who failed to ever once hold the President accountable for anything he said or did. 

Moving forward, Trumpism will leave a stain on the GOP and the legacy of Ronald Reagan.  Not the type of stain created when a party guest spills a coke on an artisan throw rug, but rather the type of stain left when that same clumsy guest spills red wine on white shag carpeting.  The former you get out with a little hard scrubbing. The latter...well that stain will fade over time, but it will never completely go away...until the carpet is completely replaced.

I know what is coming.

Lashing itself firmly to Trump's message of hate and division, the GOP has become the party of exclusion instead of inclusion.   Worse yet, the false claims Democrats have lodged against my GOP over the years - that we Republicans are racists, sexists, care only about the rich, and push ballot security measures just to suppress the vote - have been made true by Trump and his allies. 

For that, there will be consequences.  The GOP is almost certain to lose the White House and Senate.  Indeed, two Republican Senators - Ben Sasse and Ted Cruz - say a "bloodbath" may well be coming.  No kidding.  The Republicans are also going to lose, as they did in 2018, scores of state legislative seats and chambers as the the nation moves towards redistricting state legislative seats.  Worse yet, is the indelible stain Trumpism will leave on the GOP for a generation to come.   We are entering a period of Democratic ascendency that will last for a couple decades, at least.  It is not a given that the Republican Party survives.

That is what is coming.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Paul:

I don't know what's coming. I believe if the election day votes aren't there, the Dems will have plenty of global funding to craft the desired results, perhaps this side of the Supreme Court. I voted for Trump in 2016 & will again, again as a lesser of evils choice. However, I'm not turning down accomplishments like missiles not drawing ever-closer from N. Korea, ISIS emasculated, mucho conservative judicial appointments, a more competitive business economy until CV 19, and an attempt (versus none) to unearth hacks at FBI, CIA, DOJ, and the swarth of administrative state that has constantly tried to overturn an election. Imperfect semi-populist candidates wouldn't be elected in the first place if our 'public servants' hadn't done such a bang-up, bipartisan, collective job of selling us down the river.

The good and bad news has always been that Trump's not a life-long politician. I'm glad we've at least attempted to use him to hose out the garage. A future of abject socialism is not a cheery thought.

Thank you for your years of service to the community with your analysis.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 10:45,

Thanks for your comment. So much of what you say I don't agree with, especially "we've at least attempted to use him to hose out the garage." Yeah, the hole "draining the swam" thing was never real. Trump is easily the most corrupt politician in my lifetime. I don't envy the work Biden will have to do to clear out the corruption.

Oh, and I would say that in 2016, both presidential candidates were being investigated, and we knew about only one of those investigations - the one involving Hillary. No person is more responsible for the election of Trump than Jim Comey. As far as the post-election developments, Trump in 2016 warmly accepted the help of a hostile foreign power to win the election and in 2020 he was again at it, trying to withhold aid for a foreign power to get them to announce a fake investigation of Biden. Not sure when we Republicans decided that sort of thing is okay. Trump richly deserved his impeachment.

Anonymous said...

Oh Paul. You forget Americans have the attention span of a knat.
The GOP survived Nixon & Bush.
It will survive Trump.

Anonymous said...

Good post. Although, Mr. Ogden, I don't think you've completely come to terms with the racism and other social ills that were (whether consciously or subconsciously) operating in the American right and the GOP even before Trump descended his escalator and announced his presidential run. Yes, under Trump, the racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-democratic impulses (e.g. voter suppression), paranoid conspiracy theorizing, demonizing of science and expertise, etc. have all become increasingly naked and extreme. But they didn't suddenly spring into existence ex nihilo with Trump a few years ago.

I'm a lifelong Southerner, a Gen Xer who grew up in the Reagan era. Used to love him. I thought of myself as a conservative first and a Republican second. This week, I voted straight-ticket Democratic, with Joe Biden being the first Dem I've ever voted for for president. (I voted write-in in 2016 and then straight-ticket D in the 2018 mid-terms.) I'm not sure how I would describe myself politically these days. I guess as a moderate independent who sees the Dems as now being the only somewhat sane and respectable major party we have.

Whatever "American conservatism" as we've thought of it was, I think historians will look back on it as a mid-20th century Cold War-era phenomenon -- a weird brew of libertarian economics, religiously-informed social traditionalism/reactionism, and hawkish anti-communist militarism and foreign interventionism -- that reached its political apex with Reagan's 1980 election, shifting the whole frame of American politics rightward for a 40-year generation. I suppose it was largely a backlash against FDR's New Deal and the expansion of the Federal government, against de-segregation and the Civil Rights movements, against the sexual revolution, and against the expansionist USSR and the threat of nuclear war. All those things seem so, so long ago now.

Whatever it was, conservatism doesn't seem to have much to offer voters today (especially the rising Millennial and Zoomer generations). I guess that's why it's largely just devolved into being some kind of American heartland redneck lifestyle entertainment brand that, for the most part, is no longer interested in actual policy ideas or even in governing. It's just about grievance, fighting anyone outside the ethno-cultural tribe, and "owning the libs."

Yes, the morally odious Donald Trump will leave a lasting stain on the GOP. (Will he be the first US President in history to be imprisoned after leaving office?) In my opinion, "Republican" is now a busted brand. At a national level, it's a clear negative. Yes, Trump has a lot to do with that, but it's also because of the broader shifts I referenced above.

So I would agree that we're entering at least a decade of Democratic dominance. The question I have is whether forces inside the GOP can reform it into something new and positive and relevant, a party that is both post-Reagan and post-Trump, that can win against the Dems a few years down the road. If not, then I have to think that by the early 2030s, some new third party will rise and do to the GOP what the GOP did to the Whigs nearly two centuries before.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon, Nixon left the political science. Trump won't. He'll stick around and undermine the GOP for years. Might even run again in 2024.

I don't get lumping in Bush (I'm assuming Jr.) with Nixon and Trump. Bush was probably the best President we've had since Reagan. Not great by any stretch, but certainly should not be lumped in with the two most corrupt Presidents we've ever had, Nixon and Trump...the latter being far worse than the former.