By Nicholas Riebel || Staff Writer
Last Tuesday was Super Tuesday. It can probably be admitted that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had good nights. The former seems to be well on the way to her coronation, albeit with the potential for Senator Bernie Sanders to upset her, as his somewhat surprising victories in Minnesota, Colorado, and Oklahoma demonstrated.
Donald Trump, I think it can safely be said, is now the undisputed Republican frontrunner for president. And why not? Trump obviously has a great appeal to the Republican base. He is the candidate that they want. Kasich knows that he won’t win, and has no viable path to the nomination (unlike Cruz or Rubio who have an increasingly small chance of winning the necessary delegates), and is hoping that the Republican Establishment will gift him the nomination at a brokered convention.
I understand that many who read this may consider themselves to be a moderate, reasonable Republican or Independent who usually votes for the GOP nominee, but argue that I mischaracterize the base of the Republican Party, or the Republican Party itself. They would likely argue that the Party of Lincoln is opposed to everything Trump says and stands for. And I have been told that it is unfair to lump them together with Trump, that Trump is not a “true” Republican (whatever that means), and that he will ultimately lose the nomination anyway, because I suppose the rest of the Republican primary electorate will spontaneously and suddenly wake up, and realize that they must vote for Rubio or Cruz, or, as Romney suggested, vote strategically so that the nomination can be stolen from Trump at a divided nominating convention.
I think that the only way Trump loses, or at least by far the most likely way, barring a highly improbable Trump meltdown or implosion during the primaries is by him being deprived of the nomination at the Republican convention. Yet, the GOP would be unwise to do this, in my opinion. It would be seen as undemocratic, and illegitimate, if Trump heads into the convention with a large plurality of delegates, but someone like Rubio or Kasich, someone who dropped out, or was never running (like Paul Ryan) was selected as the nominee instead. And that nominee, in addition to being seen as an illegitimate contender for the presidency, would also be perceived as the puppet of party bosses.
If I were an elite in the GOP, I would allow Trump to win the nomination, tell Republican candidates on the ballot to disassociate from him if politically convenient, and be willing to lose the White House, knowing that Trump would be unlikely to seek or win the nomination of the GOP for president in 2020 or later. In the meantime, between the 2016 election and the 2020 primaries, they can add rules to prevent another “Trump” from happening again (although the reforms they would use, likely involving some sort of “super delegate” system, would likely also be seen as undemocratic). And this overlooks the possibility of Trump actually winning in November. He would likely fundamentally transform the Republican party. Or, to be more specific, he would transform the Republican party into one that rejects extreme fiscal conservatism in exchange for one that embraces economic protectionism, one which was more explicitly nativist and nationalistic, and one where social conservatism would play perhaps a less important (although still influential) role. The Republican leaders and elites would be routed, and would likely be removed from their leadership positions by Trump himself, or in primaries.
Yet, the base would essentially stay the same, possibly hemorrhaging minorities, but possibly gaining older Americans and dominating blue collar workers more than the GOP is now. Perhaps the midwest could become more Republican under a Trump GOP. Yet, I think that (assuming Trump’s rhetoric about attracting record-breaking minority support is nonsense) the Democrats would stand to accelerate favorable trends for them in the South and southwestern states. As it stands now, though, Democrats are, through demographic changes and the accelerating collapse of the Republican party (which actually can be traced back to the Tea Party movement, or the Bush presidency, if not earlier) right now standing to improve nationally, except in Appalachia. No matter what happens with Trump, the GOP seems to be in trouble.
It’s their own fault though. They’ve been inciting fear, hatred, bigotry, and paranoia for decades, going back to Nixon’s Southern Strategy. They don’t get to complain now when their strategy, which used to pay them handsome political dividends as recently as the 2014 midterm elections, begins to backfire on them. And it seems that many Republicans either did not know this, or did not care, until now. It’s unfortunate that it took a Trump to start to make some “moderate” Republicans begin to see the light.
Junior Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is nriebel@fandm.