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February 27, 2016


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Here's the long-term problem. Given that Trump is the likely nominee, what's the best case scenario?

Trump is visibly pursuing a strategy that ensures limited non-white votes for the GOP. I assume he wants to win the presidency. That means he'll likely pursue a white-max strategy similar to the one Sean Trende has suggested. It means giving up Nevada and New Mexico, but trying to put Rust Belt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and (sigh) Wisconsin into play.

Clinton beats him, soundly. The Democrats regain the Senate and get close to the maximum number of plausible seats in the House.

That leaves... sixty million people who voted for Donald Trump in the general election, against the overwhelming evidence that he's unfit to lead anything politically, let alone the most powerful nation in human history.

What do 2018 and 2020 look like?

(I'm imagining near-future conversations: "oh but Trump went to Flint when your precious Hillary was meeting with cop killers" etc. It's unpleasant.)

Well, if Cruz is the timing traveling Zodiac Killer, then what's Trump?


Actually, as you guys know, I've been neurotic and scared of Trump since last summer...oy. California is probably too late to stop a StormTrumper Imperial March though.

It seems unlikely with current polling that Rubio can win Florida, which is a winner-take-all state. Even if he does, it seems likely that Trump will still win Illinois and Missouri that same day, and then Arizona the next week. If Trump has Northeastern appeal -- and that seems likely -- April 19 (NY) and April 26 (CT, DE, MD, PA, and RI) will nail shut Rubio's coffin, since they're all winner-take-all except for Rhode Island. California is June.

Rubio is hoping for a stop in Virginia and Georgia to reverse Trump's momentum, based on his suburban appeal. He has to try, but it's at least 14 points to make up, and I am not sure that all the panic in the world among the establishment Republicans of northern Virginia will do it -- and it's the same state that preferred Brat to Cantor in a primary with similar energy.

Okay, so let's say Trump DOES become President in November. What's the likely scenario and likely actions over the next 4 years?

The best case scenario: Hillary beats Trump soundly, which would mean the Obama '12 map plus NC, GA, AZ and that one vote in Nebraska. (In theory Missouri, Indiana and Montana could also come into play but I'll believe it when I see it.) Democrats regain control of the Senate, pick up some governors' chairs, and cut the GOP lead in the house to low double digits. Also, the upcoming recession holds off until 2017, and is mild and short. (That last one is a stretch, because I'm worried that our fundamentals are shaky, but never mind.)

And... yeah, well, umpty million Americans voted for W. in 2004. That was pretty depressing in and of itself, but also W. *won*.

And from a long-term electoral POV, I'm perfectly okay with the GOP collectively deciding that Trump Was The Problem. That would be the path of least resistance, yes? So next time, we just nominate a career politician who is genteel, has great hair, and can use subtext: problem solved!

(And now it very belatedly occurs to me that Trump is the anti-Romney, in everything from affect to family life. I *think* that's a coincidence, but, huh.)

Doug M.

Sixty million Trump-ized voters in a Trump-ized Party, Doug. The current institutional Republican Party has been badly outmaneuvered, and is almost impotent. There is no sign that it will be able to learn from its mistakes. In fact, after 2016, it might not consider them mistakes.

I've read the GOP's 2012 postmortem, signed off by Priebus and others. It called for a demographically inclusive party of the far right, basically what Rubio tried to show the world when he appeared on stage in South Carolina with Haley and Scott. Very obviously, that strategy has not been effective in appealing to enough Republican voters. What strategy has?

Note that Trump energy isn't quite Tea energy. It's not so-called "constitutional conservatism", that admiralty flag pseudo-ideology. It's actually worse. Trump's immediate reflex in calling for the libel prosecution of hostile journalists means that he doesn't think that constitutional protections are valid. The law will be what he wants it to be. And his followers like this, because they fundamentally agree with it. (And they think it's what is happening under Obama, but that's a different strand of the story.)

Trump has been able to create an organized insurgency in the Republican Party larger than the Tea Party movement. He's coopted a cadre of what I suspect are mercenaries, but there might be a few true believers. Lewandowski of Americans for Prosperity is high among them. Are these people going to be shut out in 2018, when midterms naturally favor the extremist GOP vote? I doubt it.

Similarly, are Christie, LePage, and Brewer going to be shut out? The New Jersey Republican Party is certainly trying, but my hunch is that Trump will handily win there in June, should current trends continue, and the Keay types will be helpless. And Brewer reflects Republican popular will in Arizona -- if anything, many view her as something of a squish.

Remember, Grassley and Sessions have already made overtures to Trump. If the only people holding back the deluge are McConnell and Ryan, then they're going to drown.

My guess is that the Republican "high church" types will not be able to say "I told you so" in November, because they'll be too wounded to have much say at all. The party nominee becomes the de facto leader of the party, and they won't be able to ignore Trump's legacy for a very long time afterward.

(Kean, not Keay. need more coffee.)

If Trump loses in November, I bet he runs again, gawd help us all.

Whitman (Christie's ex campaign finance chair) just blasted Christie.

She sounds as shocked and horrified as you do, Noel.

Just a general meta-comment on the lack of commenters: a private email chain acts like an equivalent to Chatham House rules. It's private. Some people in the chain may not want to participate in parts of this discussion in public.

Since I am well known to be just a guy in Brooklyn, I can and will shoot my mouth off. Other people might not have that option.

Yeah. I'm fine with commenting on US politics, but there are topics -- development generally, the post-Soviet sphere in particular -- about which I might not want to bloviate too publicly.

Doug M.

Carlos, let's say you're right. What then? Is your hypothetical Trump-ized GOP more likely to win elections?

Doug M.

Will the Trump GOP keep much of the 'establishment' Republicans?

In 2018, they're not going to lose significantly in the House. It'll be a midterm election under a Democratic president. They're not going to lose state elections, since at the local level, the GOP is already a cesspit where cesspits are popular. Here are the Senate elections:

AZ: Flake (R)
CA: Feinstein (D)
CT: Murphy (D)
DE: Carper (D)
FL: Nelson (D)
HI: Hirono (D)
IN: Donnelly (D)
ME: King (I)
MD: Cardin (D)
MA: Warren (D)
MI: Stabenow (D)
MN: Klobuchar (D)
MS: Wicker (R)
MO: McCaskill (D)
MT: Tester (D)
NE: Fischer (R)
NV: Heller (R)
NJ: Menendez (D)
NM: Heinrich (D)
NY: Gillibrand (D)
ND: Heitkamp (D)
OH: Brown (D)
PA: Casey (D)
RI: Whitehouse (D)
TN: Corker (R)
TX: Cruz (R)
UT: Hatch (R)
VT: Sanders (I)
VA: Kaine (D)
WA: Cantwell (D)
WV: Manchin (D)
WI: Baldwin (D)
WY: Barrasso (R)

Do you really want to tell me that a Trump-ized GOP wouldn't be able to threaten Donnelly, McCaskill (who is ill), Tester, Heitkamp, or Manchin? The Democrats might be able to pick up Nevada, sure. Maybe Flake will be primaried by a lunatic, and Arizona gains a Democrat. Not the way to bet.

So a Trump-ized party will still look viable in 2018.

... and Sessions just endorsed Trump.

wth is wrong with these people.

very aggressive campaign contributions or something?

So I'll explain why I'm still more on the side of Trump than Cruz by way of a CS Lewis quote:

I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme — whose highest claim is to reasonable prudence — the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.

no offense, Andrew, but I see how Anscombe beat Lewis like a drum.

Consider, for example, the robber baron who thinks the death squad is a good thing, versus the inquisitor who does not. We've seen that example play out in the New World repeatedly. We're seeing that example play out today.

Lewis likes using the force of his rhetorical figures as a substitute for evidence, often making an argument that, when applied to his own reasoning, suggests that there's something wrong with Lewis. His infamous trilemma, of course, is the classic example, but this one will do too.

So... what exactly would a "Trump-ized" GOP look like, then? Are you thinking a GOP that would be willing to let its racist freak flag fly, at least in states where it wouldn't hurt them electorally? That would be nasty, but OTOH it would just be an acceleration of existing trends. So, we get more Paul LePages and Don Youngs, and overt racism becomes more or less mainstreamed. That's bad, sure enough, but what's the net effect?

Doug M.

“It’s scary,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has endorsed Rubio, said on ABC’s “This Week.” She added: “I think what he’ll do to the Republican Party is really make us question who we are and what we’re about. And that’s something we don’t want to see happen.”

This may not be a bad thing, Gov Haley. IF we can find a silver lining to the Imperial StormTrooper March, it is this.


See, Will, I'm still not convinced that the Establishment (whatever that means anymore) is really all that bothered by Trump's turning the subtext into text, his xenophobic buffoonery, his demagoguery, etc. Even now, most of the Trump "critiques" are that he's okay with the New Deal and will not take part in the Great Work of eliminating Social Security.

Basically, the same way that Movement Conservatism was Deeply Troubled by Pat Buchanan's anti-Semitism but actually his questioning the economic tenets of Movement Conservatism.

A Trump-ized party compared to the institutional GOP:

a) many traditional interest groups with current large say at the table will be cut out. For example, why is the institutional GOP schizophrenic on immigration? In significant part, because many business interests want that labor. But it's unrepresentative of the desires of much of the base, and in particular, the Trump base. (The institutional GOP calls this "populist", meaning to diminish it.) However, immigration policy is only the most visible difference.

b) similarly, groups who have been deliberately kept from the table will have now an open channel. By this I mean white nationalists, white identity politicians, and white supremacists. It used to be, any connections had to be coded and deniable. Perhaps House Majority Whip Scalise was an earlier turning point, perhaps the election of Brat over Cantor was another. It's hard to deny, however, that it's now much more open in 2016 as a result of Trump. Doubtless we will see mainstreaming of slogans like "anti-racist means anti-white" and "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" in some form.

But these are consequences of:

c) the destruction of the organizational safeguards within the institutional Republican Party previously used to maintain its coalition. We'll see the rise of new brokers within the party, ones who will be able to yoke the new, openly racist energy to big money donors, and for a while, relationships within the organization will be much more feudal.

These trends were in place before, yes, but trends can be reversed. I am tired of the phrase "tipping point", but should Trump win the nomination, it's one of those.

Note: a good chunk of damage has already been done. If Trump were to keel over today, the GOP would still be bleeding in multiple places. It's been too public and too raw. We're seeing the stuff that makes into the press and leaks into the Twitter-sphere. Do you think the private meetings and conversations and emails are better?

... man, I was hoping for someone to jump in and tell me my analysis is flawed.

No, you're not wrong as far as I can tell.

That makes me sad.

I was hoping he'd be a wake up call to the Party and make it look itself in the mirror, seriously rather than that shifty, sideways glance it does some times.

From what you said, it probably won't.

So. Will those interests shift to the Democratic Party? And what effect will that have if they do?

Carlos: there may be some positive fallout from a Drumpfized GOP. (Oh, Christ, I'm doing it again, aren't I? Looking for a bright side. But I'm trying to rise to your challenge.)

The current GOP religiosity on tax hikes will break in a Drumpfized party, which might make legislative compromise possible in a way that it currently is not. In fact, a lot of current Republican pet rocks (save climate change denialism) will fall away as the groups that currently maintain orthodoxy prove powerless.

Big money donors overall should be weakened, although they will maintain their power over small-bore issues.

I'm not sure I follow you about feudal relationships within the party.

Basically, positions on the org chart will mean much less than personal connections with the largest gainers after the takeover. There will be little dramas of loyalty to test these connections.

As an example, will anyone try to establish a relationship with the members of the Republican National Committee in order to influence the direction of the party after it becomes Trump-ized? I'm sure those positions will still exist, even if Priebus finds himself running a Culver's in Silver Spring as a result of this election. But they will be correspondingly less important, at least at first.

The decline of the RNC wasn't preordained. My impression is that it never recovered from Michael Steele -- Priebus got the donors back, but never was able to re-establish strong institutional control (and may not have even tried; he doesn't seem to be wired that way). That said, the RNC looks from a distance like an institution that could be a serious power base for someone -- if a particular sort of personality was in charge.

Doug M.

I'll disagree with one part: big money can't be kept away from the table for long. Business wants friendly legislation, lighter regulation, a cheap docile labor force, and tax breaks. You can get some of that on the blue side, but historically it's just been much easier to work with Republicans. That doesn't seem likely to change.

It doesn't make *much* difference, though, because big money doesn't generally care much about the racial stuff one way or the other. There are professional-class cultural imperatives against overt racism -- and, let me add, those are great. We think of them as inevitable, but they're really not; over large swathes of Europe they're much weaker than in the US. But they're not going to be strong enough to override economic interests. Pecunia non olet.

Doug M.

So what does this America look like? Well, the bad news is that open racism is more acceptable. In general, it's a nastier place to live. And that's going to suck.

On the plus side, the nonwhite share of the electorate was 21% in 2004, 24% in 2008, and 26% in 2012. This cycle it should be around 28%, rising to around 30% by 2020. The GOP has been facing a steepening slope since 1990 or so, but this makes it so much worse. There is almost literally no path to the White House for a party that's openly white nationalist.

At the state and local level... well, I'd like to be optimistic. But we might see several cycles where race and demographics become more important than ever: places with enough nonwhites go blue, places without stay red. The demographic shift will very gradually work in the Democrat's favor even at the state level, but the pace there will be glacial and there will be a lot of places it never touches.

So a US where open racism is pretty okay for many elected politicians right up to the Senatorial level, but where the Executive branch is firmly hostile to white nationalism. Oh hey, it's 1964 again -- back to the future we go.

Doug M.

For your amusement, here's a familiar name -- a lively young fellow who's positively champing at the bit.

"To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy. Something new will replace the old order, and there are a host of smart, young leaders..."

(that weird thing where folks on the right keep getting metaphors backwards? in the movie, the dude with the weird hair and the facemask was the villain, guys. you're supposed to want to be Max or the one-armed chick, not the Bullet Farmer or the fat dude with the fake nose.)


Doug M.

If Sean Trende's demographic electoral calculator is accurate, all that would be needed for the Republicans to win the presidency over 2012 would be to gain 27% of the black vote, everything else staying constant. That's it.

That's sharply limited party appeal to a a demographic group, a little less than Romney's share with Latinos.

But the internal dynamics of the GOP made even that small appeal impossible. No, let me rephrase that: "internal dynamics" is a mealy-mouthed way of saying "systemic racism". And that was the mostly covert, deniable form, expressed more often statistically than personally.

What would the United States look like if the black vote were the swing presidential vote?

As for open racism, I'm a professional in the prime of life, right? Not a flibbertigibbet on Tumblr attending Oberlin. I recently had dinner with my fiancée's family in white upscale Florida. Dinner was fine. Afterwards, though, a family member hoped I wasn't offended by the conversation at a nearby table, older women making pointed comments about interracial relationships.

You know me, I hadn't heard. I would have made a ruckus. Of course, that's probably why they kept it out of my particular earshot.

Worthless people.

Doug, while we are supposed to want to be Max or the one-armed chick there are two things to keep in mind:

1. the essence of freedom of choice means we can choose to like (or be) the villain

2. often in movies, villains are undeniably cool. After all who WOULDN'T want to play death metal on a flame-throwing guitar? Or to be Darth Vader (episodes IV and V Darth Vader specifically)?

Also, the quote can be read not as "we are happy playing the villain" but more as "we are misunderstood and viewed as villains".

Domenech has a track record.

Since the top post is on security implications, let's consider the security implications of a major political party where white nationalism / supremacism is normalized, but thankfully, is not electorally supported by the federal executive branch.

Unhappy, right? Violence is mostly a young person's game. Nevertheless, while the GOP has limited demographic appeal to the young, limited does not mean "none." And there are always outliers, like that old Nazi (at this point, I think we can drop the "neo") who killed the guard at the Holocaust museum. That's going to increase. How it will tie into current problems -- the opioid epidemic, rural unemployment, cultural despair in the boondocks, et cetera -- I think Noel's expertise might be more applicable than mine.

Note that I said "federal executive branch". Local executive branches may very well return to the bad old days of being white identity paramilitaries. In some places, perhaps they already are. I look at what I thought was a non-story about police forces refusing to guard Beyoncé through the lens of an ascending Trump-ized "law and order" party -- selective law and order, depending on how the local white identity paramilitary feels about your presence, even to people of otherwise high socioeconomic status.

Of course, that happens today, rather more than is generally acknowledged, but imagine that as normalized behavior, defended or promoted by leading figures in a major party.

Then there are the preppers, the militias, the apocalyptic types, and so on, but I wonder if they will be seen as a little old-fashioned. Why hunker down when you can let it all hang out.

"What would the United States look like if the black vote were the swing presidential vote?"

Here's a hot take: 2000, 2004 were in some ways that world. Faith-based initiatives, gay marriage, compassionate conservatism, and school vouchers.

Back in 2003-2007 I was still willing to call myself a libertarian (although pragmatic one) while affiliating with the Democratic Party. I saw even then that the GOP was a tribal group on social issues, working out the various cultural anxieties of their in-group supporters. This has clearly held water, far more so than a theory that they simply have concern for constitutional process (courts vs. legislatures, protecting religious liberty, etc.)

The Bush era introduced the Trump approach to economics. For a while, circa 2010 Tea Party, it looked like maybe the GOP would return to a more consistent small government economic platform, but it's pretty clear now that there's no coherent ideology behind the party on economics, just a cobbling of interest group management and populist rage.

I guess for 2018, a Trump-ified GOP will be one that's working out how to bind together its new coalition politics. Will it mellow out and walk back some of its authoritarian rage? Will it unite up with reformist tendencies elsewhere? I'm not particularly optimistic.

I'm also not particularly optimistic that the establishment folks will figure out how to organize and purge the GOP from its Trump influences.

What if a deep economic recession occurs after the election? I think the situation on the right was largely brought about by the last recession and the economic insecurity that remained. That economic insecurity is blamed on outsiders (bankers, billionaires, corporations, immigrants, elites, foreign nations, etc).

If this insecurity gets worse a more unifying set of scapegoats may arise. Because of this election millions of people will be made ready for a demagogue that could succeed.

I'm very, very afraid of the dynamics of the GOP under a Clinton administration. Another recession is possible. Midterm elections suck for the party in the White House. Clinton could be looking at a 2019/2020 that's even worse than what Obama had in 2011/2012. It will matter A LOT if the GOP establishment has cured themselves of Trump, or if Trump is running again. Or a Trump-like candidate.

Frankly though I don't know what to do. I'm not a GOP insider. I can't help push a reform agenda within the Republican Party. I'm just watching with concern.

March 2016 is much too late for the Republican Party to develop a bright line, and their last bright line, criticizing open birther sentiments, was half-hearted, perhaps because they sensed it would exclude too many voters. Now the likely future leader of the party is a birther.

Some conservatives are tentatively bringing up the idea of a "Republican Party in exile." I don't know what that would entail, but exile is not often a place of power. There may be a few high profile defections to the Democrats as well, probably not many legislators since the parties are already too polarized, but perhaps former Republican administration officials.

(A distant but I think real possibility: perhaps Chief Justice Roberts will send out feelers that maybe dismantling parts of the Voting Rights Act was a bad idea. The hypothesis has been falsified, after all.)

Anyhow, the point is mostly moot since Ryan has decided on a "hate the sin (of the Klan), vote for the winner" platform. Real profile in courage there, Paul.

That leaves McConnell.

(As I said elsewhere, I'd call this a hostile takeover except where's the hostile part? Men's Wearhouse had a thousand times the fight.)


Scalzi seems to be missing the point. He's right that it's too late to stop Trump. He's wrong that Rubio (or Cruz) offers and equal threat to the Republic. And he seems to be assuming that Rubio would be harder to beat in the general than Trump, which is not at all proven.

In other words, he should have written: "Beinart is being silly, because there is no way to stop Trump from getting the GOP nomination at this point." But he didn't say that. He just called Beinart names.

Unless I missed something, which is possible.

I would bet money against Roberts changing his mind. On that particular issue, he's a true believer. He doesn't even see it as partisan afaict.

I would not expect many defections to the Democrats. For elected officials currently in office, the two attractors will be "vote for Hillary, once, while ostentatiously holding my nose" and "sit it out". I expect the first group to be very small, and I'm not actually all that hopeful about the second. There will be enough that it's a thing, but probably not enough to have much practical effect.

Doug M.

Justices think about their legacy perhaps even more than presidents. "The Chief Justice who enabled the rise of the Klan 3.0 as the second party of the US" is a hell of a legacy. History has failed to love McReynolds.

There is evidence that Roberts (unlike Alito) worries quite a bit about the possibility that SCOTUS will lose what's left of its nonpartisan prestige.

I am not sure what that says about his willingness to revisit the Voting Rights Act. On the other hand, I suspect he feels quite fine with Citizens United right now --- billionaires financing campaigns has not been the problem so far.

Sure. Except he thinks his legacy will be "the man who fixed America's racial relations by ending affirmative action".

Doug M.

I know the Supreme Court is a bubble, but all evidence indicates that Roberts is an establishment Republican, and establishment Republicans are realizing that their strategy perhaps had unintended consequences not entirely favorable to the survival of their legacy.

This video was released by the Club for Growth in Florida. Note that the terms of the argument are still Trump's -- hostility to China and Mexico, a pro-worker sentiment -- they're simply rejecting Trump as standard-bearer.

This is how policy positions will get Trump-ized. He's controlling the terms of the discussion, which is more than half of winning a debate.


PS you can imagine how I feel about those specific demonizations. It's rather like being named Django Goldstein in another time and place. Systemic racism is being at the mercy of any jackass's homeschooled degree in race-ology, and Trump has just expanded the curriculum.

Carlos, if that's the best the Club for Growth could come up with, they should change their name to Club for Arithmetic Increase. It repeats the Trump anchors, do "something" about China, Mexico, so all he has to do is claim that C4G supports his agenda.

If establishment Republican messaging were competent, it wouldn't be in this mess.

The reaction over the last day has surprised me --- I doubt that Romney just kiboshed a Drumpf nomination, but it is increasingly easy to see the establishment going into opposition if he gets the nomination.

Which is heartening, in a way, since every indication is that (save trade) Drumpf would support standard-issue GOP prescriptions rather than bring back Richard Nixon's policy mix. There seem to be some admirable principles at work, no?

And then we watched the debate, and realized that the country would be better off to pick a hundred Republicans at random and stuff them in that little white schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin until they come up with a better version of the Republican Party. Shouldn't take too long, if only because the bar is so low right now, it's in the grass.

Seriously, what the hell was that? It was something out of a Paul Verhoeven movie.

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