The damage Donald Trump has wreaked on the Republican Party and conservatism will be debated for years to come. Some have called for abandoning the GOP and starting a third party because of a belief that the GOP cannot be salvaged. There are many who believe that the establishment of the party have paid lip service to conservative ideals, but when the chips were down they capitulated. Then there are the Trumpkins who feel not only this way about the GOP power structure, but many of whom have no iota of what conservatism is.
Above all else, conservatism needs a political home and the most viable home is not in some mythical Utopian conservative third party, but in the existing GOP.
A gentle defeat for those who supported and capitulated to Trump was a best case scenario. Instead, we got the worst case possible with the Party being burnt to the ground by many Republican voters jumping on the Trump train and joyfully throwing gasoline on the fire. Many trusted Trump to live up to his bargain. But given his noted business dealings, why would anyone ever expect him to live up to any bargain?
But what about those who fell for the charade and looked to Trump to save them? Despite the bombast and the disgust of Trump, there is a contingent of the population that has been overlooked in the past by both parties- the angry white voter in a sea of multiculturalism where a hard-working honest man (and woman) cannot seem to earn a decent living. These will be the most hurt by Trump. He retires to whatever his plans are and the comfort of Trump Towers while those he misled are even further shunned than now.
My guess is that the election results will convince them that they surely are being dismissed by the powers that be. They will become angrier. They will have all those things Trump said confirmed in their minds- their economic woes are attributable to cheap illegal labor pouring across the border. Their anxieties against Muslims will be stoked by the next inevitable act of terrorism. Trump has summoned forth the deepest and darkest and most angry demons that were always lurking on some level within the electorate.
The fallout will be inevitable. The consultants and the establishment will blame the alt-right and talk radio for sowing the seeds of discontent. A new GOP autopsy will be prepared and completed. Reince Priebus is the obvious and most deserved fall guy. Conservative organizations will blame the Party for Trump and shift the attack to McConnell and Ryan after Priebus was been dispatched. The Trumpkins will dig in their heels and blame everyone for not supporting Trump, tell everyone that nothing was learned from 2016, attack Washington for not addressing their real and perceived concerns and be back in 2020. One thing is certain: like their messiah, they will not go back silently into the night and slink into the dark recesses of the Internet.
Trumpkins already believe that a cabal of elites- Democrats, Republican “traitors,” the media, academia, etc.- are out to get them. As in most things political, there is a shred of truth. Democrats are natural and historic enemies. There have always been same-party “traitors.” The media is certainly slanted and liberals occupy positions of power in academia.
Unfortunately, Trumpism has enabled the Nation to suppress the Trumpkin and ignore the millions living on the edge of the economy. They run the risk of being written off and their very real concerns, anxieties and pain they may experience will be ignored. “Just another Trump supporter…you know about them…” But, it ignores the reality of their existence.
Non-Trump America will return to our normal lives after the lectures and self-flagellation for letting this happen. Left in the wake will be a disappointed and sizable slice of the electorate fuming and still sitting on the sidelines. Trump will be looking down on them from his penthouse in Trump Towers none the worse for wear.
A new GOP will be torn in two directions. Trumpkins may abandon it blaming the party for not supporting Trump. Some may abandon it for allowing Trump to emerge in the first place. That is why the GOP must send a clear ideological message that it is changing. Otherwise, the party is doomed to successive electoral defeats. There must be a change in leadership, policy and personnel without abandoning core principles.
Hillary Clinton faces an angry minority who rejects not only her legitimacy, but that of the Federal government. She may have won an election, but she inherited a severely fractured Nation akin not unlike 1850’s. And although not as vivid in the GOP, the Democrats are not one happy family either.
The only silver lining is that there is a large portion of the electorate hostile to Clinton- disaffected Sanders supporters and moderate Republicans. They will form the core of holding Clinton’s agenda in check while pulling her in opposite directions. They could conceivably form a weird coalition. Unfortunately, that may involve using that dirty word: compromise. This writer does not see that happening.
The worst case scenario for the GOP is to allow the party to become one of populist nationalists. But to do that, we have to face reality. Demographics alone require that the Republican Party, to be a viable party in the future, must disavow Trumpism.
This writer views “Trumpism” in terms of cult behavior. The Trumpkins must be reprogrammed, but the program has to be defined first. More than the media, more than the Democratic Party and more than academia and all those Leftists out there, the Republican strayed from core principles and a defined program. The question at this point is whether Hillary Clinton is correct: Are the Trumpkins redeemable?