After Trump’s Defeat, Republicans Must Purge His Insurgents

Donald Trump
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.
  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.

Principled conservatives should be able to justify approving Garland (Clinton’s pick would be worse) and TPP (there was a time when Republicans supported free trade and containing China).

But principled conservatism is not what Trump and his movement are about. Read more “After Trump’s Defeat, Republicans Must Purge His Insurgents”

Conservatives Come to Terms with What They’ve Done

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 “Conservatives Come to Terms with What They’ve Done”

End of the Road for America’s Republicans

United States Capitol Washington
United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014 (Thomas Hawk)

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 “End of the Road for America’s Republicans”

Realignment Less Likely Than Republican Split

Republican National Convention Tampa Florida
Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012 (Think Out Loud)

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 “Realignment Less Likely Than Republican Split”

Donald Trump and the Republican Schism of 2016

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 “Donald Trump and the Republican Schism of 2016”

Rubio Is the Last Hurrah of Bush Republicanism

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 “Rubio Is the Last Hurrah of Bush Republicanism”

Something Is Rotten in the Republican Party

Jeb Bush
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush walks off the stage of a Republican presidential debate in 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 “Something Is Rotten in the Republican Party”

Republicans Yet to Banish Ghost of George W. Bush

The shouting match that passed for a presidential debate on Saturday cannot have inspired much confidence in the Republican Party’s ability to regroup in time for November’s election.

Seldom has a televised debate been so rancorous. Candidates openly accused each other of lying. The crowd cheered and booed. Donald Trump, the property tycoon who won the New Hampshire primary last week, not only repudiated the foreign policy misadventures of the last Republican administration; he took umbrage at the suggestion that George W. Bush — whose brother, Jeb, is running for president this year — at least kept Americans safe from terror.

“The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush,” the New York businessman said. “He kept us safe? That is not safe.”

The Atlantic‘s David Frum compares the event to a horrible Thanksgiving where “one too many bottles of wine is opened and the family members begin shouting what they really think of each other.” Read more “Republicans Yet to Banish Ghost of George W. Bush”

Republicans Overpromised (And Some Know It)

Joshua Green suggests at Bloomberg Politics that there may be a realignment going on inside the Republican Party. Mostly working-class voters are fed up with the broken promises of a Washington “establishment,” he argues, and rallying behind presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump who each in their own way promise to radically shake up the system.

Cruz and Trump between them command the support of just one in two Republicans nationwide, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls. Neither man is likely to win the presidential nomination, let alone the presidency.

In the end, more reasonable, middle-class voters will almost certainly decide the general election and probably the Republican nominating contest as well. They always have.

But their control is slipping. Read more “Republicans Overpromised (And Some Know It)”

Republicans Push Back Against Trump’s Pessimism

Listen to their presidential candidates and you may be forgiven for thinking America’s Republicans see only doom and gloom on the horizon. But there are party leaders with a more hopeful message.

At their most recent debate, broadcast from Charleston, South Carolina by the Fox Business Network, property tycoon Donald Trump, the frontrunner, declared, “Our country is being run by incompetent people.” Health care is a “horror show,” he said. “We have no borders.”

For months, he has said, “Nothing works in our country.”

Ted Cruz, the far-right Texas senator who seems on track to win the first nominating contest in Iowa next month, has spoken in even more apocalyptic terms.

Marco Rubio, another senator, appears to have abandoned the optimism of his earlier campaign. He now maintains that “there may be no turning back for America” if it doesn’t get the 2016 election “right”.

We’re on the verge of being the first generation of Americans that leave our children worse off than ourselves.

The Atlantic Sentinel has argued that such fearmongering may work in a Republican primary election where voters are disproportionately pessimistic after eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Gallup has found that four out of five self-described social conservatives believe America is in moral decline. These are the kind of voters who are motivated to turn out. Read more “Republicans Push Back Against Trump’s Pessimism”