It seems like every few days, yet another GOP has-been or some other establishment tool chimes in to inform the GOP that it has sold out to “Trumpism.” That not only does it not have any principles, but it is quite likely racist in the bargain. Today’s entrant is Stuart Stevens. Stevens is a long time GOP political consultant who is most famous for being Mitt Romney’s “chief strategist” during his somnambulist 2012 campaign. The op-ed he writes is Wake up, Republicans. Your party stands for all the wrong things now.
In a long-forgotten era — say, four years ago — such a question would have elicited a very different answer. Though there was disagreement over specific issues, most Republicans would have said the party stood for some basic principles: fiscal sanity, free trade, strong on Russia, and that character and personal responsibility count. Today it’s not that the Republican Party has forgotten these issues and values; instead, it actively opposes all of them.
Republicans are now officially the character doesn’t count party, the personal responsibility just proves you have failed to blame the other guy party, the deficit doesn’t matter party, the Russia is our ally party, and the I’m-right-and-you-are-human-scum party. Yes, it’s President Trump’s party now, but it stands only for what he has just tweeted.
A party without a governing theory, a higher purpose or a clear moral direction is nothing more than a cartel, a syndicate that exists only to advance itself. There is no organized, coherent purpose other than the acquisition and maintenance of power.
Charitably, this is bullsh**. Stuart obviously confuses standing for something with moral preening. When has the GOP actually stood for fiscal sanity? I’m not talking about cheap campaign rhetoric, I’m talking about hard votes in the House and Senate? The GOP establishment has stood for “free trade” because they were grifting off of the results of unfair trade and labor and economic practices of Communist China. They were making money offshoring US jobs or importing H1B serfs to replace US workers. They were in favor of illegal immigration and lax internal enforcement of immigration laws because their Chamber of Commerce pals benefited from an endless supply of cheap, disposable labor that was unable to complain about work conditions or even about not getting paid. You can make all the claims you wish about Trump’s character but I have yet to see how he was inferior to Hillary Clinton. I think most of us would have preferred a man who was more personally admirable but that was not the option that we had and we weren’t voting for Pope.
To follow up on Stevens’ snivel about Russia, the Trump Administration has been much, much tougher on Russia than Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, or Obama. During the past two administrations, Russia created a non-ending series of “gray zone” conflicts with its neighbors. There was an open invasion of Georgia (to be clear for Media Matters goons, I’m talking about the country, not the state), Moldova and Ukraine were basically invaded, Crimea was seized and annexed, Belarus was made into a client state, and Russia was throwing its weight around in the Baltic States. In response, we did nothing…well, we did do something, we pulled SDI sites out of Eastern Europe because the Russians objected and we let the Russians blatantly violate at least two arms control treaties with no consequences. It was the Obama administration that chose to use Russia as our intermediary to negotiate a stupidly corrupt nuclear agreement with Iran.
A final point on Russia. In the words of Lord Palmerston, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” George Washington cautioned us against habitual enmity towards any nation. Our relationship with Russia should be transactional, all the while keeping in mind that they are not a competitor but a spoiler. Russia has the GDP of New York. It is not a world power. It is the geopolitical equivalent of a Twitter troll.
Trump didn’t hijack the GOP and bend it to his will. He did something far easier: He looked at the party, saw its fault lines and then offered himself as a pure distillation of accumulated white grievance and anger. He bet that Republican voters didn’t really care about free trade or mutual security, or about the environment or Europe, much less deficits. He rebranded kindness and compassion as “PC” and elevated division and bigotry as the admirable goals of just being politically incorrect. Trump didn’t make Americans more racist; he just normalized the resentments that were simmering in many households. In short, he let a lot of long-suppressed demons out of the box.
Here is where Stevens comes closest to getting it right but doesn’t quite understand what he’s saying and even then gets a lot dead wrong.
The GOP and conservative base voters haven’t given a flying whatever about Europe since the USSR went belly up and for good reason. It isn’t terribly relevant. Stevens seems to have hopped on the anti-science global warming bandwagon with his whinging about “the environment” and he’s right that sane people really aren’t all that concerned. On the other hand, the GOP has argued against the use of environmental laws to restructure the economy for years and did nothing. Trump has acted on power plant emissions, the Waters of the United States, and numerous other ways in which environmental laws were harassing American citizens or choosing economic winners and losers. The GOP still cares about mutual security but we care about our “partners” actually contributing to that security. Trump has actually made NATO increase spending. It has been obvious to nearly everyone that “free trade” was a rigged game that worked against the greater economic interests of the United States and its workers. Trump has forced key concessions that have US manufacturing jobs increasing along with hourly wages and annual incomes…and the Dow Jones average.
Trump has struck a needed blow against a faux civility that was weaponized to attack anyone not subscribing to the progressive agenda. But where Stevens really gets it wrong is in making the claim that Trump’s appeal is racist. Poll after poll shows that Trump is doing better with black and Hispanic voters than traditional Republicans. The data from the Trump rallies indicate that Trump’s appeal is based on economic and social class, not race.
Data from Broward Florida rally:
✅ 31,177 voters identified
✅ 19% voted once or less in last 4 elections (8% in zero)
✅ 24% Democrat
✅ 27% Hispanic
Incredible data from a county that is predominantly blue. Put Florida in the win column for 2020!
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) November 27, 2019
Incredible data from last night’s Dallas rally:
✅ 53,985 voters identified
✅ 12% have not voted in the last 4 elections
✅ 21.4% Democrat
✅ 11% Latino
We continue to outperform 2016.
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) October 18, 2019
The El Paso rally had thousands of people from New Mexico. 70% Hispanic. 50% Democrat. 25% Independent. 25% Republican. 25% Didn’t vote in 2016. The left’s narrative isn’t working, Latinos support @realDonaldTrump in epic numbers. https://t.co/UZYF6c8iud
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) February 14, 2019
Data from Friday’s Mississippi rally:
✅ 16,432 voters identified
✅ 24% voted once or less in last 4 elections (12% in zero)
✅ 27% Democrat
✅ 20% Black
Continue to outperform 2016.
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) November 4, 2019
This kind of stuff is the mainstay of The Bulwark and the like. It has always struck me as more than a little self-serving, in fact, little more than virtue-signaling of nonexistent virtue. The argument is not likely to convert a single Trump supporter and is quite likely to push Trump-neutral people into the Trump supporter category. Who, after all, is going to read an op-ed and think, “you know, I’m a racist and the only way I can cleanse myself of the sin of racism is by voting for a Democrat.” No, the argument is simply part of a grift. It gets you invitations onto CNN and MSNBC and maybe some of the Sunday Shows to allow you to showcase your anti-Trump epiphany. It gets you a gig at one of Pierre Omidyar’s NeverTrump outlets. It lets the “right” people know that you aren’t one of “those” people who live in mud huts and eat dirt and vote for Trump.
These are the facts. For years, we supported traditional GOP candidates who promised to secure the border, to help American workers, to balance the budget, to end abortion, etc. We got none of that, not a whit. And we could see that the people we voted for didn’t believe in that stuff, they just wanted the votes. We supported candidates, like Mitt Romney and John McCain, who were much more focused on being good losers than doing whatever it took to win. And unlike them, most Americans know that winning is all that really counts and winning ugly is just as much of a win as any other.
Stevens is a has-been who represents a rapidly vanishing number of GOP grifters who are more concerned with their personal image than they are with their candidate winning or what the outcome of an election means for America. He can signal his virtue all he wants and publicly flaunt his sacred principles ’til the cows come home, but we know he’s a fraud and poseur and we don’t care what he thinks.