After Trump’s Defeat, Republicans Must Purge His Insurgents

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29 (Gage Skidmore)

If, as expected, Hillary Clinton humiliates Donald Trump in America’s presidential election next week, Republicans must quickly stamp out his nativist insurgency — or risk a hostile takeover by his supporters.

The immediate fight will be in Congress, where Republicans could face two big decisions:

  1. Relent and allow Judge Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s relatively centrist nominee, to take Antonin Scalia’s place on the Supreme Court or dig in and risk Hillary Clinton nominating a more left-wing justice in January; and
  2. Approve the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a strategic and trade initiative with eleven other Pacific Rim nations that most Republicans support in principle — assuming Obama sends it to the Senate for ratification — or refuse to give the president a final “win” on his way out and risk the treaty being scuttled as a result of Clinton’s stated opposition to it.

In both cases, Republican lawmakers are torn between doing the right thing and appeasing their hard-right base, which is now in thrall to Trump. Read more

Conservatives Come to Terms with What They’ve Done

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

The one good thing that may come of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is an awareness on the American right that it has done real damage to the Republican Party and indeed the country.

Not all conservatives are ready to admit that Trump is the end of the line for a movement that has for decades fed off people’s anxieties and undermined their faith in institutions. But for some, Trump is making clear what the politics of grievance and anti-government can lead to.

A spat between two right-wing commentators — Sean Hannity of Fox News and Bret Stephens of the The Wall Street Journal — is a preview of the blood feud we can expect on the right post-November if indeed Trump loses the election.

Hannity has preemptively blamed center-right Republicans, arguing that the likes of House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate leader Mitch McConnell have been harsher on Trump “than they’ve ever been in standing up to Barack Obama and his radical agenda.”

He said on his radio show, “You created Donald Trump, all of you. Because of your ineffectiveness, because of your weakness, your spinelessness, your lack of vision, your inability to fight Obama.” Read more

End of the Road for America’s Republicans

View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2009
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 20, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons/Bgwwlm)

NBC News reports that America’s Republican Party finds itself in two binds.

The first is called Donald Trump. The party can either nominate him and lose the general election. Or it can stop him at the convention, infuriate Trump and his nativist supporters, quite possibly split the Republican coalition — and still lose the general election.

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court poses a similar dilemma.

Republicans in the Senate can either relent, knowing that continued opposition to the relatively moderate Garland hurts their vulnerable colleagues in swing states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Or they can satisfy the hard right, which doesn’t want to give an inch — even if it means the court could end up with a more liberal judge when Hillary Clinton wins the election in November.

It looks increasingly likely that the party will surrender to its rightmost voters on both fronts. Read more

Realignment Less Likely Than Republican Split

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz take part in a debate televised by ABC News from Goffstown, New Hampshire, February 6
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz take part in a debate televised by ABC News from Goffstown, New Hampshire, February 6 (ABC/Ida Mae Astute)

Donald Trump’s seemingly unstoppable march to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination could be the harbinger of a political realignment in the United States.

Lee Drutman argues at Vox that the Republicans are split between a growing nationalist-populist wing and a pragmatic, pro-business wing. The latter is often called the “establishment” and has prevailed in every presidential contest since Barry Goldwater won the nomination in 1964.

This year could be its undoing. Read more

Donald Trump and the Republican Schism of 2016

A portrait of businessman Donald Trump is seen in West Des Moines, Iowa, January 23
A portrait of businessman Donald Trump is seen in West Des Moines, Iowa, January 23 (Tony Webster)

Unless Donald Trump were to unexpectedly suffer losses across the dozen states that hold their presidential nominating contests on Tuesday, it is hard to imagine how the property tycoon’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party could lead to anything but a schism on the American right.

The last 72 hours saw an escalation of the farce that the Republican presidential contest has descended into. Trump traded his most vulgar barbs yet with his closest competitor, Marco Rubio. He unwittingly quoted Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini and quite deliberately refused to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, despite being asked to several times on a Sunday morning news program.

NBC News argues that the Republican Party is “coming apart before our very eyes.” The Cook Political Report‘s Amy Walter agrees. “It’s been divided for years,” she tweets, “but Trump is [the] catalyst for its ‘creative destruction’.” Read more

Rubio Is the Last Hurrah of Bush Republicanism

Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida is interviewed at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida is interviewed at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Marco Rubio’s chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination have undoubtedly increased this weekend. But he still looks like a weak candidate.

With Jeb Bush out of the race and every serious Republican in the country determined to stop Donald Trump — and Ted Cruz, if they can help it — Rubio is the obvious consensus candidate. He got almost a quarter of the votes in Iowa and South Carolina. He has both establishment and Tea Party appeal. Rubio may not be many Republicans’ first choice; almost everybody can live with him.

The argument for Rubio is that, of the remaining candidates, only he can unify the party after what is now almost certain to be a long and contentious three-way nominating contest and only he can defeat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the fall.

That first claim may be right. The second is probably wrong. Read more

Something Is Rotten in the Republican Party

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush walks off the stage of a presidential debate televised by Fox News from Des Moines, Iowa, January 28
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush walks off the stage of a presidential debate televised by Fox News from Des Moines, Iowa, January 28 (Gage Skidmore)

Jeb Bush’s failure in the Republican Party’s presidential nominating contest does not just reflect poorly on the man’s political skills; it is an indictment of what his party has become.

The obituaries of Bush’s ill-fated campaign had already been written before the brother and son of former presidents got less than 8 percent support in South Carolina on Saturday and pulled the plug that very night. He had governing experience when voters wanted someone to shake up Washington DC; he was the establishment favorite when voters wanted an outsider; he was reasonable and soft-spoken when voters preferred a loudmouth.

None of which seems wrong. But just how did it happen that one of the two biggest political parties in the world’s most powerful democracy would rather elect a demagogue like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump than the former governor of a swing state with a very conservative record? Read more