I think it might be.
Here is something which seems quite obvious – both political parties are cracking up.
The Democrats are perhaps better at papering over the fissures within their party, but the fact Bernie Sanders continues to win state after state with what is nothing more than a protest candidacy from the far left is a good indication that the Democrat establishment is just as loathed and out of ideas as the Republican establishment is. Either the Democrats embrace full-on socialism under that explicit banner, which about half their members would prefer, or they’re going to struggle. Building their party off racial animus and an embrace of the Left’s progressively loonier cultural aggressions is not a project destined for long-term success.
Remember that while it’s exceedingly likely Hillary Clinton will be your next president, the Democrats are more or less a rump party at the state and local level outside of a few strongholds on the east and west coasts and in the upper Midwest. They’re in trouble in state legislatures, they struggle to elect statewide officials and when they do their candidates fail badly to govern and even in the worst possible scenarios it’s unlikely they can retake the House this year (the Senate they will likely retake, but just as likely they would lose it again in the 2018 midterms).
The Democrats also lack anything meaningful as an animating 21st century principle. Bringing in as many immigrants from the Third World and stuffing American wallets with as much government swag as possible has certainly worked for them for a long time, but were it not for the Republican crackup in the primaries this would very likely have been the wave election year where that approach was completely repudiated.
That party will limp along a little further, but Hillary Clinton makes a mess of things. That’s her record. She will surely make a mess of that party and if she’s president she’ll kill it in four years. Of that we can be confident.
But what of the GOP?
Much has been written of Donald Trump’s rise to the party’s presidential nomination, and much of that punditry claiming that Trump merely climbed aboard some political trends and claimed them as his own is correct. Trump saw a vast swath of the electorate left behind by the increasing tyranny of the political correctness movement, with the same people similarly left behind by the economic dislocation of globalism coupled with a lost decade of virtually zero growth, and decided he would position himself as the champion of those people…and promptly became a political juggernaut.
Trump didn’t create Trumpism, he just gave it a name. There has been a growing “alt-right” movement, or if you will a white nationalist set, for a while which the Republican political elite refused to acknowledge. Well, now those people have stormed the castle and are holding it under Trump’s banner.
I expect that project to end in tears. I expect Trump’s campaign to collapse by November, for a host of reasons.
But I don’t expect the white nationalists to be driven out of the GOP. I think the party is stuck with them – and the fact they’re inside the tent means lots of other people who belong in it will reside there no longer. I don’t think a party which embraces that crowd as part of its coalition can get to 50 percent unless it figures out a way to placate and marginalize them at the same time the way the Democrats have managed to do so far with La Raza and the #BlackLivesMatter crowd and, before them, the KKK.
I don’t know that the Republican Party contains the political skill to manage such a project. The GOP lacks something the Democrats have depended on for their success; namely, that the members of the Democrat coalition all want something from government, and are willing to support each other’s claims in hopes that they’ll all feed at the trough. The Republican coalition by and large is made up of people who don’t want something from government other than limits on it, and it’s much harder to placate folks who don’t have concrete demands.
And this might be the cycle when the GOP comes apart.
Trump has made it nearly impossible for conservatives to stay in the Republican Party. He makes it impossible when he stakes out positions in the primary designed to bring aboard elements of the conservative movement – his largely supply-side tax plan, for example, or his immigration policy – and then abandons them once he secures the nomination. You then have to choose your conservatism or your party loyalty. That’s something conservatives, who have felt badly abused by the GOP for decades now and who struggle to accept the inability of the Republican Party to recognize the only successful president in a half-century it has had was a conservative president, that being Reagan, are becoming incapable of tolerating any further.
That’s why you’re seeing a trickle of Mary Matalins. She bolted for the Libertarian Party two weeks ago. But the fact is the LP, for all the virtues it does have, is a deeply unserious and flawed party. Libertarians suffer from the same disease Ron Paul struggled with; namely a deep phobia of the political mainstream. Every time that mainstream moves closer to Libertarian thought, its leaders run further for the fringe. That makes it very hard for the LP to constitute a mass movement, though poll after poll shows its likely nominee Gary Johnson could manage something north of 10 percent this fall. At five percent the Libertarians get to major party status, and there will be a Libertarian on the debate stage with the Republican and the Democrat in 2020.
That’s a good thing, and from a Republican perspective it shouldn’t be feared. The Libertarians might actually grow just as much at the Democrats’ expense; Libertarian isolationism and pacifism, and Libertarian social leftism are both reasonably strong magnets for Bernie Sanders voters who are currently with him less for his economic policies (those people don’t understand anything about economics anyway) than for his crunchy anti-establishmentarian style.
The problem is that if America is to have three political parties, the GOP as reflected by Trump as its standard-bearer is likely the one least friendly to the average voter – while the Democrats are selling free government swag and the libertarians are selling peace, love and weed, what are the Republicans selling that the others aren’t? Militarism and war? Corporatism? Racism? Theocracy?
Branding has become a problem, and with Trump it’s become a severe one. Trump validates decades of Democrat stereotyping of the Republican Party, and with him as the nominee it’s going to be impossible to dispel the notion that the GOP is a party of angry old rich white guys who want to keep the blacks and Mexicans down, treat women like a “piece of a**” and turn all the national parks into golf courses.
There are lots of red states where locally the perception of the Republican Party and the conservative movement doesn’t reflect that stereotype, or even if it does most voters shrug and say “so what?” at it. But those red states don’t get you to 270.
So maybe what’s needed is a new brand, and that can’t really be achieved without standing up a new party.
A new party which draws from the best of what the GOP achieved but refuses to be known by the Democrats’ defamation of Republicans through the years.
A party which rejects corporatism and crony capitalism but doesn’t exclude corporations or more particularly entrepreneurs, and wants to educate the public on the difference.
A party which embraces a robust immigration policy but rejects the idea that immigration ought to be used as a weapon to change the country’s demographics and voting preferences as the Democrats prefer, or to hold down wage growth as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has wished. There is a happy medium to be found in a policy where immigration can be used to enhance the country’s workforce and culture rather than alter it in ways most Americans aren’t comfortable with.
A party which rejects the redistribution of wealth as the purpose of the tax code or the welfare state and is willing to evangelize on the issue to build a public consensus against envy as the guiding economic principle in Washington.
A party which promotes the Judeo-Christian ethic as the basis of American society but believes in Andrew Breitbart’s admonition that politics is downstream from culture, and commits to fighting cultural battles in the culture and not in the political sphere to the extent possible. That means fighting social issues at the state and local level and not at the federal level, and it also means fighting those social issues on the basis of freedom. It means defending the cake baker without trying to stop the gay couple from getting married.
A party which is unflinching in its defense of private property and the right of people to resolve their problems independent of government where practicable. That means an absolute defense of the 2nd Amendment, it means an assault on the regulatory state, it means tight restrictions on the use of eminent domain, it means lots of land auctions in Western states where the federal government holds far too much real estate.
A party which welcomes people of all kinds of colors, shapes and sizes, but is resistant to the use of behavior as the definition of a protected class. No, transgendered people are not an oppressed minority. Neither are pedophiles or people who get over-friendly with the livestock. We can see those people lining up to become the Left’s latest cultural aggression, and standing up to those on the basis of principle and rejecting the inevitable calls of “bigotry” as illegitimate is a service to the American people the GOP has hitherto failed to provide.
What to call this thing, how to bring it about, how to manage its growth, how to fund it – I can’t say. I can say it’s time to begin those discussions. The GOP might be fatally wounded and its collapse could sustain the Democrat Party for longer than it deserves, while something new and worthy on the Right could well be the basis for forming a new, and healthier, 21st century politics.
– Since this has gone longer than most Battlefields, let’s just skip to Today’s Last Thing. We don’t care much about hockey here, but we can appreciate what the bitter disappointment of your team’s postseason failure can bring.
And that’s what motivated this D.C. sports anchor to get loaded during a broadcast. We found it interesting, in a Ron Burgundy kind of way.