Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Republican Party in Light of a Trump Presidency

I didn't vote for Trump. I have family and friends who did, all of whom I tried to dissuade.

I do have a slimmer of hope that whatever it was - power, attention, legacy, ego, or even interest - that pushed him to run for office will push him to want to stay in office for four more years, which would seemingly require him to actually do something on behalf of his constituency in this first term: things pertaining to court nominations, social conservativism, health care, the economy, and/or foreign and domestic relations.

With a Republican majority, he'll have no excuses not to. If he can't work with them, he'll be looking at facing the political pendulum - a re-energized Democratic party in a pluralistic society trending left - with a deflated base in 2020. If he can and does work with them, I don't lose hope for an electable, conservative candidate in the future. Pence could be an example of how a segue back to that could occur. This would presuppose Trump exceeds most people's expectations.

I also think Trump has the benefit of a something like a blank slate. The expectations of him are the lowest of any President in recent memory. Further, if he wants to run in 2020, even if Democrats nominate a candidate without Hillary's baggage - they won't have to look far, perhaps a Latino woman - his baggage could be overlooked [by the Republican party, not necessarily by me] if he does well enough and also says something like being President changed him, that he regrets the comments he made in the past, etc. He seems to know just the rights words to convince just the right audience. In this society and given his target audience, it really might be as simple as that. Well, at least his acceptance speech was Presidential, not that I hold my breath he can resist being the person he has consistently exposed himself to be.

Of course, all of this short-term hope is predicated on the idea that he will even care enough to attempt to run for a second term, that he would do so on a conservative platform, and that he will be successful in terms of representing Republican values, and so forth. Sadly, Trump can't and likely won't be blamed for failing to represent his constituency in ways which he now could. In particular, I have in mind social conservativism, which is really where I think Republicans have forfeited any chance of change for the next decade or so. Because so many people justified a Trump vote as a Hillary block, Trump can simply be content to leave things here as they are. Fat chance he will look to revise abortion or marriage laws any time soon, in which case we are very likely stuck for the 8 years at least. This is the real problem I had with Trump all along. And the worst of it is, Republicans can't blame him for not changing anything, because that's what they, as a majority, clearly wanted.

Instead, Trump will face an uphill battle unifying the country as the most divisive candidate I've seen in my short lifetime. Perhaps he will surround himself with people qualified to balance or reverse the trend of our national budget - he's supposed to be a businessman, after all - and inform him regarding foreign diplomacy. Slightly more likely, I think, is that court nominations and healthcare might swing back toward the right, but who really knows what he'll do. I do have something of a hard time believing he will completely abandon the country to play golf and produce reality TV shows, as I think he likes proving doubters wrong.

But even if that's true, he's in a position where those doubters whom he represents now includes the whole of the country. With that in mind, I can easily imagine that he might take a leftist turn in some respects. For the same reason I told people I wouldn't be surprised if he won, I now say I won't be surprised by anything he does or doesn't do. His unpredictability is undeniably a strength in some sense - it could work in his favor regarding foreign relations, for example - but in the end, it is only a strength for him. Coupling that with his moral character is precisely why I think it is unfortunately more likely than not that Republicans who voted for him were taken for short-sighted, gambling fools.

[For full disclosure, I voted for Gary Johnson, although I considered Darrell Castle or abstaining. If Johnson had been electable in the first place, I would have judged him by different criteria. But I learned quite a bit in this electoral cycle. Knowing what I know now, I likely would have opted for either Castle, a write-in, or abstaining.

My motivation for voting for Johnson was a combination of 1) a desire to register the maximum amount of recognizable protest against a two-party system which could produce such an awful pair of electable candidates, and 2) the slight hope that Johnson would hit the 5% of the popular vote necessary for the Libertarian Party to be eligible to receive federal funding in 2020 - although as the Libertarian Party, I don't know that it would make much sense for them to accept that. On the other hand, that might have made for a compelling argument for inclusion in future debate coverage and more public exposure.

In any case, Johnson only got around 3%, and given the high public discontent regarding Hillary and Trump, I really can't see a path for a legitimate third-party to emerge in America's political climate. In the future, I would need to see pre-election polls in which a third-party candidate greatly exceeded those from this cycle (which, if I'm not mistaken, fluctuated around 5% for Johnson) in addition to equally awful Democrat and Republican nominees as Trump and Hillary to be tempted to again think it practical to vote for someone whose ideals don't mirror my own to a more significant degree than did Johnson's.]

1 comment:

steve said...

"Sadly, Trump can't and likely won't be blamed for failing to represent his constituency in ways which he now could. In particular, I have in mind social conservativism, which is really where I think Republicans have forfeited any chance of change for the next decade or so. Because so many people justified a Trump vote as a Hillary block, Trump can simply be content to leave things here as they are. Fat chance he will look to revise abortion or marriage laws any time soon, in which case we are very likely stuck for the 8 years at least. This is the real problem I had with Trump all along. And the worst of it is, Republicans can't blame him for not changing anything, because that's what they, as a majority, clearly wanted."

That's basically true. Problem is, once he became the nominee, the best argument one could make for him was blocking Hillary. Trump doesn't have it in him to be a rightwing culture warrior. So, yes, it's status quo at best on that front.

So it's really about choosing a different candidate in the primaries, not retooling Trump. But having passed up the opportunity to pick a superior alternative candidate in the primaries, one can't make a better case for the candidate if the candidate isn't any better than the case we can honestly make for him.