As a Republican, I watched the Nevada caucus with dread. The results were clear to anyone who paid attention to the polls prior to election day: Donald Trump would be declared the victor by a “yugeee” margin.
Donald Trump’s meteoric rise from laughable pariah to the Republican frontrunner has alarmed many both inside and outside the Grand Old Party — and for good reason. His demagoguery has been an embarrassment to Republicans and to the nation at large. Moderate Republicans like myself now have to come to terms with the very real possibility that Donald Trump might become our nominee come July. But a Trump nomination may not be such a bad thing after all. In fact, I would venture to say it might just be what the GOP needs.
His demagoguery has been an embarrassment to Republicans and to the nation at large.
It isn’t necessarily a ludicrous idea since something similar has happened before. In 1964, the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party staged a revolt against the establishment wing of the party and nominated a hawkish, hardline conservative in Barry Goldwater. He was the perfect conservative candidate: unwavering, uncompromising, headstrong. His most famous line of the election was, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And … moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” But the attributes that attracted conservative Republicans repulsed the rest of the country. That year, Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party pummeled Goldwater in an electoral landslide, winning 44 states and over 60 percent of the popular vote.
It demonstrated that the extremist brand of politics was simply unpalatable to voters. That lesson stuck. Republicans nominated moderates in the years that followed, and won five of the next six presidential contests. Even Ronald Reagan, the conservative hero of many Republicans, placed pragmatism over politics. Though he painted himself as a conservative, he raised taxes numerous times and granted amnesty to nearly three million undocumented immigrants.
The lesson of moderate politics slowly became unlearned again. In the aftermath of Obama’s victory in 2008, Republicans made a Faustian bargain by allowing the Tea Party to take hold. The movement tapped into a deep-seated anger towards government and allowed the Republican Party to sweep congressional and state office nationwide in the years that followed. But it came at the cost of accepting a radical, anti-intellectual, ultra-conservative ideology, with elements of nativism and xenophobia that left no room for compromise. Anyone too moderate was deemed a RINO, or a Republican In Name Only, and cast aside as a heretic. The effects of that takeover showed in the 2012 election as Mitt Romney played ideological twister in his attempts to steer hard to the right in order to placate Tea Party primary voters, and then towards to middle in a vain attempt to placate moderate voters. Throughout the election, Romney was plastered with accusations of “RINO” from the right and “out-of-touch millionaire” from the left.
But it [accepting the Tea Party movement] came at the cost of accepting a radical, anti-intellectual, ultra-conservative ideology, with elements of nativism and xenophobia that left no room for compromise.
After defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee released a memo stating, “Unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” It advocated that the party adopt more moderate policy ideas and candidates in order to appeal to a broader audience. Tea Party Republicans rejected the diagnosis, believing instead that they had lost because their candidate was not conservative enough.
That lingering anger has shown in this year’s election cycle. The establishment moderates have lost their sway, as evidenced by the rejection of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and John Kasich by the Republican voters in numerous states. They were/are the best hope the GOP had to avoid a third consecutive presidential defeat. Republican voters have rejected that hope in favor of a reality TV star who promises to make America great again by sheer force of personality.
Recent polls have consistently suggested that in a general election matchup, Trump would be the only major Republican candidate who would lose to Hillary Clinton. It would be no surprise. After all, Trump’s brand of misogynist, nativist demagoguery hardly endears him to women or minority voters, two groups absolutely necessary in winning presidential elections. Given that Republican candidates have already struggled to gain traction with nonwhite voters in recent elections, a Trump nomination would only exacerbate the problem. 62 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, the highest of any candidate in the election, Republican or Democrat.
Against all odds, his bluster has not cost him heavily yet, but his luck can only hold for so long.
Trump’s worst enemy, however, is not Hillary Clinton, but himself. His bombastic rhetoric has included insulting women and Latinos, voicing his desire to punch people in the face, killing civilians to combat ISIS and bragging that he could shoot someone without losing a single supporter. Against all odds, his bluster has not cost him heavily yet, but his luck can only hold for so long. Having already shown his inability to keep a calm temperament against candidates within his own party, it seems likely that the problem would be even worse against a Democratic one with the very real potential to defeat him.
All this paves the way for a potential thrashing in the general election if he becomes the Republican nominee. His defeat would send a message to the radicals that the existing Tea Party-controlled coalition of Republican voters simply cannot win elections. Only a public shaming of their chosen candidate can bring about that change. A repeat of the 1964 may be the antidote to the toxic mix of close-minded conservatism that has plagued the Republican Party. Maybe then, and only then, can we make the Republican Party great again.
Mr. Chiu, I agree with your central premise. 2016 is effectively the end of the Republican establishment. Regardless of whether Trump beats Hillary Clinton, the establishment of both parties has been exposed. It will not be “business as usual” in the GOP whether he wins or loses. On the other hand, if Hillary is the nominee, the Democratic Party will have elected the very embodiment of everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party, and which has driven so many to Bernie Sanders and even to cross the line and vote for Trump. So the Democrat establishment’s reduction in power… Read more »
If you’re going to get along with your fellow students at UCSB, I was warned, you have to agree to leave your principles at the door and go along with the leftwing narrative that Republicans are cruel and evil, Democrats are compassion and loving, Trump is crazy and racist, tea party is crazy and racist, and Obama is God’s gift. Unfortunately, thinking so hatefully liberal is unnatural for most of us with a conscience and a mind of our own. Everything about this article reeks of condescension, paranoia, il-will, cynicism, and regurgitated leftwing pablum with which the average American has… Read more »
I see only one condescending viewpoint here, and it isn’t the author’s.
Trump has insulted multiple demographic (incl. blacks, hispanics, veterans, the disabled, etc.) in order to appeal to bigots.
He has advocated killing the families of ISIS members; he said so in an on-air phone interview with Fox News.
He says he “loves” the poorly-educated, wants to prevent Muslims from entering the country and wants to monitor mosques.
I recommend doing at least basic research before you decide to insult the author of an opinion article before you criticize them.
Dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help conclude World War II killed many innocents. Yet even the Japanese themselves admit that it saved the lives of tens of millions more innocents since the war would have continued years and years. You would have likely told them all to do “basic research”, whatever that means, if you even intended it to mean anything at all. Trump also explained the rationale behind his statement of killing the families. It was to create deterrent. I suspect you do not know what “deterrent” means. If you do, you likely do not comprehend… Read more »
Barry… Goldwater? Back from the dead to stir the pot, aren’t you, you crazy bastard?
I didn’t like Donald Trump last year. But, now that he has been the victim of unprecedented criticism from all sides — Democrats, Republicans and media — I admire his guts, andI now understand why millions around the world admire him. I also respect the Trump supporters who are constantly attacked for merely believing in enforcement of immigration law; in a Supreme Court that interprets the law as the Founders wrote it and intended it (leaving it to later Congresses to amend it as the voice of the People); in a strong military to combat radical Islamic nation-states intent with… Read more »
BERNIE SANDERS TWEET: “Today, people living in Bucharest have access to much faster internet than most of the US. That’s unacceptable and must change.”
PAUL MARCO RESPONSE: “In Romania we have faster internet b/c we killed our commie dictator on Christmas morning in 1989 Then we open up the markets.”