No matter how the election turns out, our political landscape will never be the same. We seem to hear that during every Presidential Election, but this time it really will be true. Clinton or Trump in the White House, the future will see major changes in party alignments and maybe even names. Let’s look at the Republicans first because win or lose the party’s traditional coalition of small government free market classical liberals, internationalists, cultural conservatives, small business and some but not all big business, simply has degenerated into a circular firing squad. Trump’s base Cultural Conservatives simply are 180 degrees from the rest of the party. While party loyalties and animus towards Hillary Clinton has provided some unity in this election, the divisions can only become more apparent and unbridgeable in the future.
Cultural Conservatives spearheaded by Evangelicals form the base of the Trump movement but unlike cultural conservatives in the past, these are actually reactionaries. They long for a bygone era that never existed except maybe on old TV programs. “Make America Great Again” is the slogan but what does it mean? By any measure, the United States presently surpasses other nations in any of the major comparison such as wealth, military power and even athletic prowess as evidenced by this years summer Olympics. Sure things can always be better and we should always aim higher, but the world that the Trump’s people are yearning to return is at best is the short period between the end of World War II and 1970. Pent up savings purchased, autos, housing and new technology such as TVs. US Companies & labor faced little competition from abroad and overseas markets were in need of almost everything we could deliver. A unique time in history. How exactly do we return to those “thrilling Days of Yesteryear” when a semi skilled steelworker made twice as much as school teachers? When our auto makers turned out self-destructing cars, and white Christian males ruled the roost? Never mind the state of minorities, women and non-union labor. We can’t go back and most wouldn’t want to.
If Trumps wins he will face a real choice, does he actually try to keep his campaign promises or does he change his spots for the umpteenth time. Build the wall, kick millions of people out of the country and retreat from the world behind a tariff wall or suddenly find his way with either Ryan or Pelosi? The only thing certain is that Trump will try to get even with those who failed bend over and support him. Just ask his henchman, Sean Hannity. Don’t think so? Ted Cruz who made what appeared to be a principled stand by not endorsing Trump at the Republican Convention, suddenly crumbled and endorsed Trump. He says it was because he’s against Clinton but nothing has changed since before the convention. Yes,Trump added his friend Sen.Mike Lee to his expanded list of possible Supreme Court nominees. One of 21. Really? More likely Trump threatened to support former Texas Governor Rick Perry in a primary fight for Cruz’s senate seat. You remember Perry, the one that blasted Trump in no uncertain terms as unfit. That is until he rolled over and begged to be considered as Trump’s VP. These Republican “Profiles in Courage” just keep on coming. In his Presidential run Cruz counted on evangelicals to stand with him figuring he was in line with their primary concerns, abortion, gay marriage and “family values”. Silly him. Major Evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress abandoned him and led their flocks to the antithesis of family values, Donald Trump. Apparently the nativism of their followers was more important than the values they heretofore demanded Republicans strictly adhere. Cruz lost his base and with Trump owning it, Cruz had no choice but to capitulate. Believing in the Evangelical convictions.was his undoing. Let future politicians beware and take Evangelical religious views with a large grain of salt. Any person of the cloth that’s OK with rounding up and marching millions of men, women and children out of the country can hardly make any claims to humanity or moral superiority. The other still “Never Trump” people, Sasse, Flake Et al, look out or look for a different party. Even if Trump loses, he and his cohorts will blame and come after you . Hannity has warned you.
Win or lose the now nativist Republican Party is on a death march. Trump can only win with 65% of the white vote of a greater white turnout. He might get this last great white hurrah but what then? Non-whites are growing faster. Republicans always lose women and the young are avoiding Trump and Republicans in record numbers. Even if Trump doesn’t force you out, the hand writing is on the wall. It is going to get harder or impossible to win unless you can appeal to these expanding groups. Right now Trump through the pathetic Reince Priebus controls the Republican party and has it set on a reactionary course that just doesn’t appeal to these growing groups.(You might remember Priebus’ autopsy of the ’12 election that made these exact points even if he doesn’t). Removing this leadership would involve a long bloody battle with no assurance of success. Primary fights and threats to run as independents would be rampant. Instead of just a disagreement on how to reach common goals, these are people with completely different goals.
For those unable to be Cruz or Perry or any of the other Republicans that bowed to Trump, a look for a new political alliance would be in order. This could prove quite liberating. No longer would you have to pass litmus tests for say pro-life anti gay marriage positions. It turns out these weren’t that important to Evangelicals anyway. Adopting more nuanced more inclusive positions could appeal to the voters of the future. A reasonable position for immigration reform that conforms to our national needs could be espoused. A pro growth program that shrinks the reach of government and recognizes the key contribution of trade to that endeavor. Shedding a label that repels people of color could allow programs to increase educational and other opportunities for those left behind.
The real question is can the party leaders that went along with Trump have any credibility going forward with the expanding voter groups. When we talk about leaders, we include not only the office holders, but their entourages and media types. Anyone on tape hawking Trump’s virtues will have little appeal to, for instance, the expanding better educated, whatever their color, sex or ethnic background. Rush Limbaugh whatever his faults served in his earlier years to popularize conservative principles. Now he just panders to the nativists with no effort to appeal to other groups. He knows he already lost them. He along with the others such as Fox News, most of the failed ’16 challengers and other pro-trump talk show hosts will be locked in a room with the like-minded fighting over a receding market. For a party that has a poor record of winning national elections, you can’t look to these people to lead you to a growing future. Only a few Republican office holders such as Gov. Kasich, Senators Sasse, Collins and Flake avoided the taint of endorsing Trump. They have some credibility to make contact with the expanding parts of the electorate. There are few others. Same with conservative media. Most radio and TV talkers ultimately went for Trump. Listen to their callers now and you find they’re preaching to the choir. Those “rapists and criminals” of Mexican heritage aren’t listening to them and they won’t in the future. This is a church that can’t make new converts.
If you’re a pastor of an aging declining flock, you might look at the upstart church around the corner that’s drawing in young people. The pastor there talks to the young and minorities and they actually listen. Women are treated equally. Whatever people do in their bedroom or who they want to be with or just be is their business. The Republicans are the aging church. The Libertarians are the new church making contact with the growing groups. Gary Johnson already has much greater appeal among the young than Trump. More importantly he and other libertarians can get a hearing by these groups. If you’re an up and comer in politics or political media or for that matter any other business do you go for the declining market or the expanding one?
So how does the non-nativist Republican move in the Libertarian direction? One could adopt libertarian positions, but that might not work. Take a bright upcoming Senator like Jeff Flake of Arizona. He hasn’t endorsed Trump and as a result been threatened with a primary fight by Trump and the Trumpsters. Now he could have bloody costly primary fight with an alt-right opponent which he might win but be so weakened he gets killed in the general election. But what if he reaches out and seeks the Libertarian nomination as well as the Republican. (This type of duel nominations has been practiced in New York for Ages) If he wins both he has an opening to a wider group of voters thereby having a much better chance of winning. Even if he loses the Republican Primary he still is on the General election ballot leaving the nativist Republican candidate with little chance of winning. Flake showing independence and character ,however, could still win. Why would Libertarians want Flake? Libertarians moving to a 50 state party by greatly increasing their ’16 Presidential Election showing will want to keep their momentum going. Flake’s positions broadly mirror the theirs. Taking William Weld as Vice Presidential showed Libertarians will accept less than ideological purity in order to expand their reach. Giving like-minded candidates leverage against the Alt-Right candidates while gaining increasing viability and maybe a senate seat should have great appeal to Libertarians. For Flake and similar candidates the Libertarian option may discourage natavist challenges in the first place.
If Trump loses, this alliance would work just as well at the Presidential level and maybe this has already been noticed. Romney came out in favor of Johnson being on the debate stage gaining favor among Libertarians. However, the person who really gained Libertarian favor is Mitch Daniels. The former successful two term Indiana governor and present Purdue University President, hosted Johnson for an hour-long Q & A at Purdue, while as an actual member of the Debate Commission pushed for his inclusion on the debate stage. Daniels was prominently mentioned as Republican 2012 presidential candidate but ultimately chose not to run due to family problems. Another possible contributing factor to that decision was cultural conservative ire over his suggestion the party d-emphasize cultural issues. While this hurt him with some, in 2010 Nick Gillespie in the Libertarian Reason Magazine called Daniels “a smart and effective leader who is a serious thinker about history, politics, and policy,”and wrote that “Daniels, like former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is a Republican who knows how to govern and can do it well.” With his family problems behind him and so much of the old cultural conservatism discredited by its support of Trump, Daniels just might be looking to add the presidency to his impressive resume. It’s the only thing missing.
Having the Libertarian option changes the landscape. If Trump wins it gives voters who dislike him but would fear the inevitable far left Democratic candidate a viable alternative. Gary Johnson, an imperfect candidate, showed there is growing openness to the idea of a successful governor espousing a smaller more effective inclusive government. One that’s inclusive to the nth and will stay out your bedroom and most anywhere else. This is appealing especially among the growing number of young voters. It is no denigration of Johnson-Weld fine work greatly expanding the Libertarian Party reach to note that the Republicans needed John C. Fremont before they moved up to Abe Lincoln. Yielding the torch to someone such as Mitch Daniels would be a quantum move forward. He would be impossible to push to the side or off the debate stage. Simply, he could appeal to the wide middle of the electorate. Running as a ticket with a young appealing like-minded person for both the Libertarian and Republican nominations would put him in a strong strategic position. If Republicans reject him for an Alt-right candidate and he still there on all 50 ballots.
Of course,the under siege Republican conservatives could form their own 3rd Party but their Odyssey in search of a candidate and ballot place ending up with Evan McMullin on few state ballots shows how difficult this is. With no historic opening to the expanding parts of the electorate, at best it would be a spoiler to the old nativist remainder Republican Party. This would simply improve the Democrats chances of victory. To what purpose? Continuing culture wars over things like gay marriage and abortion the Evangelicals in the old Republican Party abandoned to follow Trump? Nation building abroad? Better to forget the culture stuff. Compromise based on historic American Foreign Policy. John-Weld never campaigned as isolationists but for a strong defense. Just no more ill thought out interventions and attempts at nation building. We tamed the Barbary Pirates but never tried to convert them to democracy. Keeping trade routes open was and still is the goal. With the Monroe Doctrine we protected the New World from foreign domination but we left everyone early on to determine how they were governed. British cooperation helped make the doctrine highly successful. Our later interventions in our hemisphere didn’t turn out well and should’ve warned us off our ill-fated massive interventions in Vietnam and Iraq. Avoiding more of these ventures has wide support with most of the electorate..Keeping friendly neighbors and trading partners free of foreign domination as with the Monroe Doctrine or NATO is historically consistent with both conservative and libertarian principles. A coalescing of the two is in easy reach in a way cohabitation with the alt-right can never be..
Of course not every conservative would be acceptable to Libertarians. Trump endorsers would find the door closed. Those who chose party over principle could hardly join with two parties on principle. Rand Paul might be an exception. His Reince Priebus forced pledge to endorse the party’s candidate was honored and Rand seemingly hasn’t mentioned Trump since. His long association with libertarian principles could still get him a real hearing. Never Trumpers may suffer in the short-term but haven’t blocked the possible libertarian path forward. A good example is Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. The young attractive air force vet was encouraged to run for congress by among others Mike Pence, but refuses to back Trump on principle. Under 40, just where does he think his future lies? Kasich, Sasse, Flake and others now have the luxury of acting on principle while still retaining their opening to expanding voter groups available to the libertarians.
Could more middle of the road Democrats similarly move away from the far left. If Hillary loses they too will have to do a lot of soul-searching. Maybe even if she wins. Where do they go? We’ll take that up in a future post.