When a campaign collapses, we usually call it an implosion. With Donald Trump, it is an explosion. He has proven that he cannot be shackled and that has only enhanced his position among the Trumpkins. Either he is the most genius politician in a long time (unlikely) and knows something the rest of the political world does not know, OR he is the dolt and charlatan many of us believed him to be.
As we enter these final weeks, there is no pretense of politeness. He is furthering the resentment that defined his candidacy. It is a circle-the-wagon mentality where it is “us (the Trumpkins) against the elites.” It is redemption for the masses who feel ignored. People like Paul Ryan and all those other so-called Republican leaders are in some grand conspiracy with the elites to keep these people down. It is pure resentment now.
As scary as Donald Trump is a candidate, Hillary Clinton would face a daunting midterm election in 2018. The electoral map alone along with history dictates such. Throw in the low-turnout affairs that midterms are, one can see a triumph of Trumpism just without Donald Trump.
All that anger that has been building in the electorate that fueled Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP heap has been there all along. With a Trump defeat- even if a thorough repudiation in a landslide Clinton victory- will not make that anger go away. If anything, it will become more deeply embedded. It’s easy to focus on Trump and his personality. But, he is not so much a phenomena as he is a symptom of something wrong in society, a deep division that widened under Obama. His administration truly was “transformative.”
If Trump truly were a conservative and a Republican, he would adopt the Goldwater standard- look around and see the situation is hopeless, but try to save as many GOP seats in Congress as possible. But, he is not Barry Goldwater, he is not conservative and he is no Republican. What may result in the aftermath of this election is a Republican Party in shambles, Hillary Clinton staggering into the White House with Bill royally pissed off and Paul Ryan reduced to rubble. Somewhere along the line, I think Trump may still attack Bush.
Some candidates will take Trumpism and try to parlay it into electoral success. Dave Brat’s gentlemanly take down of Paul Cantor, which took Trumpism for a test ride before Trump, should have been a signal. Conservatism and the GOP can live with Dave Brat. The silver lining is the fact that a Trumpkin like Paul Nehlen, who received the backing of Trump in his primary bid against Paul Ryan, went down to embarrassing defeat. The silver lining is that Rene Ellmers, a North Carolina Republican incumbent member of Congress endorsed by Trump, went down to embarrassing defeat and will no longer represent the GOP in the House. The silver lining is that a 73-year-old Jeff Sessions will offer an opportunity to purge him from political life.
The silver lining is that despite her likely victory, Clinton will likewise face a fractured, albeit less so, Democratic Party. There will be the inevitable clash between their donor class and the vocal and more progressive wing of her party that flocked to Bernie Sanders and who see Elizabeth Warren as the second coming of Christ.
And here is a scary proposition: What if Trump’s authoritarian populism somehow merges with the progressive populists to form some viable third party? Although unlikely, the result is a scary scenario. In which case everyone who has ever thought that a third party was needed may just be eating crow at the end of the day.
NO! The best vehicle for advancing conservatism is the Republican Party, or what is left of it. This writer refuses to accept the position that the GOP is dead. It can be rebuilt and it can be reformed. But, first it must find a leader, an inspirational voice in the wilderness who will lead it ideologically into the strange new world of politics that Trump has engendered.