“It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”
That’s what Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted after a weekend of disavowals and retracted endorsements by his party’s officials. Trump proceeded to lash out at House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders who distanced themselves from the embattled candidate, who now trails Democrat Hillary Clinton in most polls.
Meantime, Ryan and congressional Republicans hope to preserve majorities in both houses in the face of a Clinton presidency.
Given the chaos seemingly engulfing Republican ranks, can the party survive the November election? What might a post-Trump GOP look like? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, weigh in.
Here’s what a weird, silly election year this has been: A week or so back, Erick Erickson retweeted me.
I’m a liberal. Erickson, a blogger and radio host, is a red-meat conservative. I’ve frankly held him in a bit of disdain for a few years, going back to some unprintably vulgar comments he made about former Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
But this election, Erickson has loomed large among Republican holdouts against Trump and, as a result, has suffered the wrath of many former allies. In recent months, then, my view of Erickson has transformed. He looks more like a man of integrity to me, even if I still don’t agree with many of his stances.
So when he retweeted my snarky comment about the GOP’s sudden celebration of infidelity, it didn’t seem that weird.
What’s the point here? Only this: A GOP crackup isn’t necessarily coming after the election. Republicans may decide to have a convenient case of amnesia and simply put Trump’s candidacy behind them. To quote Don Draper: “It will shock you how much it never happened.”
But if a crackup does come, the fallout probably won’t be contained to the Republican Party. If so-called Never Trumpers escape and form their own party - or reclaim the GOP and force the Trumpers to form their own party - a realignment will occur. Subsequently, other coalitions may break up and seek out new attachments. Folks who currently make their home in the Democratic Party might find new allies outside of it.
There’s no real reason, for example, that the Democratic Party should have near-universal support from African-Americans. There are plenty of folks who might find themselves more comfortable in a small-government, religiously centered party - and who just might find that party if Trump’s more racist supporters desert the GOP after the election.
In other words, Democrats: Be careful what you wish for here. And remember the law of unintended consequences. A breakup of the Republican Party would reverberate throughout politics for decades to come.
Realignment is already underway in the Republican Party. It was happening before Trump entered the presidential sweepstakes and accelerated the closer he came to the nomination. Realignment will play out no matter who wins the election in a few weeks.
The Republican Party is changing. Its survival will depend upon how the party’s leaders come to terms with Trump voters. They can either extend a hand or give millions of voters the back of the hand. The temptation to choose the latter will be strong.
Conservatives won’t like what’s coming either way. Trump’s nomination was a punch in the face to the conservative movement. Remember what Trump said during the primaries: “Don’t forget, this is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.” People laughed. He wasn’t joking.
When you look past Trump’s pomposity and the bluster, it’s impossible not to notice that the man has tapped into a powerful current of public sentiment that is anything but conservative. And he did it from a Republican perch.
If the Republican Party was once synonymous with what some of us on the political right have come to call Conservatism Inc. - a vast network of entertainers and fundraisers - that’s the case no longer.
Conservatives have always been a faction within the Republican Party. Sometimes they’ve been strong. Other times they’ve been quite weak. Conservatives will have to come to terms with the fact that most of their countrymen don’t believe privatizing Social Security and preserving low marginal income tax rates on upper-incomes are matters of life and death.
Turns out, the Republican Party is not what conservatives thought it was. It now includes - or could conceivably include - many millions of blue-collar people who don’t consider themselves conservative for whatever reason. They may like the safety net, or they aren’t especially religious and don’t care about the culture wars.
The Republican Party might yet live if it can embrace those voters even if Trump loses. Of course, the GOP establishment will fight realignment and might even hold on to power. If so, expect the Republican Party to be a minority party again - and deservedly so.
Joel Mathis is an award-winning writer in Kansas. Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness.