"Jesus Enters Washington" by Joel Pelletier

“Jesus Enters Washington” by Joel Pelletier

Tod is kicking off a series on how to fix the Republican Party. Less than entirely interested in getting into the debate Over There, I thought I would briefly share some of my thoughts over here:

1) Some of it, I suppose, depends on what one considers so objectionable about Trump. There’s so many things, that it’s like the thing about touching an elephant (no pun intended) in the dark. One guy is touching the leg, another the nozzle, another the ear, and they’re all describing something different. But for my part, the totality of Trump is pretty singular. I reject notions that “If it hadn’t been Trump, it would have still been something just about as bad.” There was no more than one other candidate in the field who was, to my mind, potentially comparably as bad. There was no one on the horizon who could have done what he did.

2) That’s not to argue that without Trump, everything would be peaches and cream. Something like Trump doesn’t happen to a healthy party. Most of the things Tod refers to are things that created a very weak immune system. Trump is a particularly pernicious virus, and one that’s bad for the party in particular because he’s going to be so difficult to recover from. I maintain, though, that the logical next step in the GOP failing a successful intervention still wasn’t Trump, but Ted Cruz. Had Trump taken a pass and had Cruz caught the lightning, I’d probably be here saying he is The Worst Ever (the combination of sanctimonious and phony, and a Mack Truck of empty bluster), but they still aren’t comparable.

3) The one comparable entity is Ben Carson. I think his characterization is somewhat off, though. He wasn’t asked to be Speaker by House Republicans like all he had to do was say yes. He was asked to run by some house member. Which is bad enough, but not the same thing. It was actually indicative, though, of some desperation on the part of anti-establishment critics. Desperation that was revealed when they finally toppled Boehner and had no one to replace him with. But absent Trump, I don’t think Carson would have been able to do what he did.

4) Trump remains the virus, and absent that the party definitely still has an immune system problem. That includes Fox News and Talk Radio. If there has been an upside to Trump, he has revealed a lot about them. Not to me, since my only surprise is that they are even more awful than I thought, but I already thought that they were pretty awful.

5) One of the challenges of #NeverTrump is that it includes an awful lot of people that otherwise hate one another. I’ve commented on this in the past, though less so here. Erickson is a pretty great example. He and I each consider one another to be The Problem. Now, I am of the mind that pretty much everybody has done something to give rise to this, even me and mine, but I think he’s spot-on about Erickson (Williamson is just a different bird, and not especially influential or indicative of much). A lot of the opposition to Trump involved the holding of fire in these conflicts, but the conflicts themselves lead to an ineffective response. And a lot of people, in my view, still don’t recognize the problem. (Which… sigh… there are so many.)

6) I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time arguing counterfactuals, apart from what I said in #1. But I will simply note that there were a lot of dismissals of the likelihood of a Trump nomination, there is a bit of an overreaction now that Trump was inevitable unless the party had changed everything two years ago. It’s hard to say. But there is a pretty recent example of how much party response can matter. In 2012, the party was caught flatfooted when Akin, Mourdoch, O’Donnell, and Angle cost them potentially winnable senate seats. A lot of people took from that there was nothing the party could do (again, absent Changing Everything). But two years later the party was ready, and the fire was more-or-less put out. The exception was the Cantor challenge, which succeeded in good part because nobody was looking and therefore the party (and Cantor himself) had no response.

7) I was one of the original brainstormers behind The Buckley List, even though I played no part in its implementation. I am likely to agree with a lot of what he says going forward. I’ve agreed with a lot of what he’s said about Fox News, talk radio, and so on. The good news is that more people agree now! The bad news is, per #5, there is a lot less consensus on the nature of the sin.

8) The schisms of #NeverTrump are themselves indicative of the things that gave rise to the things that gave rise to Trump, and that’s going to be a tougher nut to crack: The lack of common purpose. That’s what has me so worried about Trumpism, because the party is right not just for a crack-up but a permanent take-over. It’s not hard to see Trumpism evolve into a permanent philosophy and a moderately cohesive one at that. To which a lot of people will say “It’s always been that!” If my fears come to fruition, the lack of nuance in that view will become clear.

9) And the particularly troubling thing about that, is that this philosophy would, if it took hold and polished somewhat, likely win at some point. I don’t believe Trump can do it, but that’s not the same as believing that it can’t be done.

10) To some extent, I am okay with things until we get to #8 and then especially #9. I mean, okay, if the GOP doesn’t get its act together, I’m a Democrat now. There are worse things. I voted for more Democrats in 2012 than Republicans, and this year I’m voting straight-ticket (possibly third party for president because the Electoral College relieves me of a difficult decision). I thought that was where I was headed in a Trump contingency, but Democrats have done a pretty good job of reminding me why I don’t have a home there, either. But that is a bullet I will bite at some point. However, I think a lot of people (and this is not a reference to Tod at all) are oblivious to the election potential of a populist party that is untethered to the unpopular aspects of the GOP’s economic platform. The Democrats themselves are one or two cycles from their own schism, and the injection of a bunch of center-right voters won’t necessarily help.Photo by DonkeyHotey


Category: Statehouse

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21 Responses to The State of the Busted Pachyderm

  1. RTod says:

    This is quite excellent. Which is not so much of a surprise, really. As you will see, I quote you as a voice of reason and foresight in the upcoming To Do list.

    There’s a lot of places I could push back or clarify here, but since most of that will be in that To Do list, I’ll hold off for now.

  2. aaron david says:

    Uhm, While I am not a conservative (as I keep repeating) I don’t see the R’s as having the problem here. They are winning everything down ticket, meaning that the parties politics are on, they are in touch with the people. And I hesitate to say the problem is you, but really.. I don’t know what else to say. The party is changing, much like my old party did. And I found myself not fitting in anymore. For me that means moving to the libertarians, as they moved in ways that seem to fit me.

    I think Tod is dead wrong over there, and I said so in the post. I don’t think the party was ever for him, and while he has been saying this for years now, he dosn’t get anymore accurate with this. It just isn’t his party (yes, I know he reregistered for the R’s) When a party is delivering votes for its members, and getting 90 odd % of its elections won, they aren’t loosing. They aren’t on the wrong track. They may not win the highest ticket show, but the D’s have only won that two times, and the R’s won the two before that. And the two before that went to the D’s, while the… you get the picture.

    There isn’t a large enough data set to work with any degree of accuracy other than guess work, and that is what we go on. If the party dosn’t feel right for you anymore, by all means move over to the left side of the fence. Start dragging that side back to the middle, ’cause if H looses this, they are gonna need it.

    • trumwill says:

      More than 60 percent of the American public has an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, an increase from last fall and the highest that the party’s negative rating has been since 1992.
      Sixty-two percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of the GOP compared to 33 percent who view the party favorably, according to a Pew Research Center study released Thursday. That’s a more negative image of the party than in October, when there was a split of 58 percent unfavorable to 37 percent favorable
      Story Continued Below

      American opinion of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, stayed about the same: 45 percent view the party favorably and 50 percent unfavorably. That leaves a quarter of the public with a negative view of both parties, an increase from past presidential election years.

      From: Poll: GOP disapproval highest since 1992 – POLITICO

      We also asked specifically how voters would respond to a Senate candidate in their state supporting Trump. It’s a 19 point net negative, with 45% of voters saying they’d be less likely to vote for a Senate hopeful who supported Trump to only 26% who say that would make them more likely to vote for someone. Among independents it’s a 23 point net negative.

      Source: Public Policy Polling: Donald Trump

      Contrary to a lot of Democratic arrogance, this was a winnable election. It may even be that all they had to do was not screw it up (opinions vary). But screw it up they did, with all of the last three candidates being among the worst from either party in recent memory. And so things aren’t looking good, despite running against the second most unpopular nominee in polling history.

      Oh, yeah, and even apart from the poll numbers, he’s also manifestly unfit for the presidency, has little in the way of ideological or pragmatic or moral bearings, and a very weak understanding of how our government works and little interest in finding out.

  3. aaron david says:

    “he’s also manifestly unfit for the presidency, has little in the way of ideological or pragmatic or moral bearings, and a very weak understanding of how our government works and little interest in finding out.”

    Aside from the moral bearings part, he sounds remarkable like our current president. And that is the problem.

    The problem I have with polling such as RCP (which I am generally a fan of in other issues) is that the one poll that matters is the voting booth. Where the R’s have been kicking the piss out of the D’s at everything outside of the presidency since the democrat who is currently in place took office. Trump is currently 5.7 points down in the RCP. What was it a month ago? Or when Trump announced?

    I think one problem is the Likability vs. Actually gets things done. We are seeing much of the D apparatus.. Well… Failing really, in Detroit, Chicago, etc. We are seeing R governers in MA, MI and MD. Which doesn’t mean people like them, but in the end they vote for them. Why?

    Again, I am not a conservative by anymeans. But right now I think that the R’s are Less Wrong, even with some serious issues on the social war front.

    • trumwill says:

      Tsar Nicholas II was terrible. The implications of that are not unlimited.

      But you say that there is no problem here for the GOP. For the Trump coalition, things have never been better! But “the party” (Pontius Priebus aside) is not acting like there is no problem. Because they know that there is. So they endorse “the nominee” and not Trump. They hedge. They talk about whether or not Trump will get better. Even by the anemic standards of 2008 and 2012, this is pretty remarkable.

      Notably, zero (0) of the three governors you mention have endorsed Trump, two have announced unconditionally that they won’t.

      All of this could change if the polling does, and if Trump wins. There’s just little reason to believe that’s the case. There’s no historical precedent to believe that it will. In the primaries, people ignored the polls because of historical precedent. To be optimistic about Trump, you have to disbelieve polling, history, and polling history.

      It’s not impossible, and I was actually worried about “Trump might win” a couple months ago. At this stage in the game, I’m worried he’ll only lose at Romney margins. Despite the fact that, for some of the very reasons you cite, this was likely a winnable race.

  4. aaron david says:

    What I am saying re: polling is that Trump is moving closer to Clinton every time a new poll is anounced. As far as historical presidence, that is only as good as it is in baseball, in other words it is only good until it isn’t good. As far as the party elites, well they had the chance to turn this ship away from populism, but instead moved on issues in ways that irritated the base, such as immigration, and didn’t hold the line, so to speak, until it was too late and the body of the party said “you aren’t giving us what we want.” This is not unlike the D’s with Bernie, whom the powers that be of that party are doing everything they can to tamp down, with new fires erupting every day.

    I am curious as to why you are lessening Trumps chances, as his poll numbers are getting better. What I see right now are dems starting to look scared, in many ways from not knowing how to campaign from someone like Trump. Then again, maybe I am the one who is reading it wrong (if she campaigns like Trump is McCain, she is toast in my book.) As I said in Tess’ thread Over There, mostly what I am seeing is wishful thinking, not real analysis.

    I actually think Hilary is more damaging to the country than Trump is, as he is what our political system is designed to thwart. Trump is why we have the seperation of powers, so that a demogogue can’t acrew to much power. Hilary subverts it in the same way the Obama has, by crying wolf at every bit of politics, calling any oposition evil.

    Mike Dwyer said in the OT thread that someone has to be the bad guy. That might always be the R’s. No matter who they put up for office.

    • trumwill says:

      RCP Trump/Clinton numbers and HuffPo Trump approval aggregation:
      January 1:
      Clinton: 46.3
      Trump: 41.3
      Trump’s approval: 37%/56%

      May 13:
      Clinton: 47.3
      Trump: 41.6
      Trump’s approval: 37%/59%

      Mike Dwyer said in the OT thread that someone has to be the bad guy. That might always be the R’s. No matter who they put up for office.

      “Expect to be called a demagogue, but don’t be a demagogue.” -Calvin Coolidge

  5. aaron david says:

    Ha! So maybe I am the one missreading polls! I can live with that.

    Coligdge might be right, but someone needx to tell that to the R’s who are winning every other race.

    • aaron david says:

      OK, this is what I had been looking at, the timeline:
      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html

      And I can see what you are seeing, but I am also seeing in the last bit, H’s numbers dropping. Not to mention that a few times they have bumped heads in the polling.

      Again, I am going back to the idea of wishful thinking, from everyone, me included.

      • trumwill says:

        To date, they have not come within two points of one another at any point in 2016. Hillary’s 12pt lead from April may not have been sustainable, but her lead has been remarkably consistent. Trump has made some inroads with Republicans, but at the expense of everyone else, and still lags in party support. I expect to see a bit more of a tightening as TVD and company come home, but then at some point the Berners will do the same. This may be enough to prevent a blowout, but I don’t really see anything to suggest it will do more than that.

        Both parties have really made a mess of this election. The Democrats have put up a bad candidate who is widely disliked, has a cloud of scandal, and has run an inept campaign (again!).

        But the Republicans nominated Donald Trump, which means that none of that is likely to actually matter.

        Coligdge might be right, but someone needx to tell that to the R’s who are winning every other race.

        The Republican governors aren’t really the problem. The Republican governors (a few really unpopular ones aside) were cause for (cautious) Republican hope with a serious campaign aimed at challenging the alleged Emerging Democratic Majority. The polling was actually looking good. It looked like it might be a pretty close election. But then the Party’s voters decided to go in a different direction.

  6. I think your no.’s 8, 9, and 10 nail down for me what I see as the problem here, by which I mean those are the points where I as a non-Republican should be concerned.

    I’m probably slightly more comfortable with the Democratic party than you are, at least when it comes to specific policies. But I find them a very uncomfortable home for me, for both good and bad reasons.

    One “good” reason is that some of the Dem’s I know seem to be awaiting Trump’s nomination with glee, believing that it will ensure Clinton’s election in November. They are probably right–although I’m not quite as certain as they seem to be–but even so, it’s kind of an ugly thing, almost like seeing the other party as “the enemy” and not just as “the opposition.” When the other party is “the enemy,” that means you rejoice in their misfortune regardless of collateral damage.

    Maybe a Trumpist party really needs to be considered an enemy. (For that matter, maybe the pre-Trumpist party that had already begun to “sail away to irrelevance” also qualifies.) Sometimes there really is such a thing as an enemy. But when we start thinking in terms of “enemies,” we are admitting that we have lost something important and valuable. It’s not a good place to be.

    • I hasten to add one more thing. The “enemyization of the opposition” (to use an awkward phrase) has precedents. I wouldn’t blame anyone concerned about human dignity for seeing the Jim-Crow era Democratic party as “the enemy,” for example. So in that sense, sometimes acknowledging one faction or party to be “the enemy” is simply calling things as they are. I don’t think I’m trying to–or I hope I’m not trying to–hearken to an imagined past where everything was better.

  7. Michael Cain says:

    (8) and (9) are problematic in the sense that we don’t know what parts of the many (conflicting) things Trump says will be the new foundation. If one of the new planks is some sort of neo-isolationism, to choose an example, there are follow-on effects: the US no longer needs 2,500 shiny new F-35s or as many carrier strike groups; Japan has to think hard about whether they need their own nuclear option to balance China’s; Europe has to decide about a much bigger role in NATO. I admit to a certain attractiveness to those. I’ve long thought the US had enough domestic problems to occupy its time, energy, and money without taking on problems from the rest of the world. I know a lot of people who think I’m a pinko hippie lunatic for saying that (okay, demonstration of age there).

    • greginak says:

      Or of course Trump could be serious about saying we have become weak and need to be even stronger so he doubles the order of F-35’s and wants to add carriers.

      • Michael Cain says:

        Exactly. All we know for sure at present is that there are a bunch of disgruntled Republican voters. When I look at Bernie Sanders’s numbers, I’m inclined to drop the “Republican” from that statement. I’m not sure that you can find enough of them that are disgruntled about the same few things to build anything cohesive enough to win.

        • greginak says:

          People, who are Trumpy curious, are still in the phase of projecting onto His Trumpness ideas they like and ignore the things they don’t like.

        • trumwill says:

          Trump may indicate the lack of coherence required for a successful political movement, apart from a broad theme of who hit whom over the head with the guitar.

        • greginak says:

          Trump/El Kabong 2016

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