As a chronicler of the Republican Civil Wars I’ve gotten a lot of entertainment value at watching the various factions come apart at the scenes. One day, this will make a great PBS special narrated by Keith David. Until then, I’ll do my best to jot down my observations in the hopes that screenshots of my blog will be shown while Mr. David narrates.
So I was listening to the Ricochet podcast and they were interviewing Avik Roy, a Republican health policy analyst who was with the Romney campaign and has written extensively on Obamacare. The subject was his recent interview with Vox about the soon to be death of the Republican Party. That’s certainly a provocative and legitimate case to argue, but in this case I found it extremely self serving. Roy blames nationalism, which he conflates with white nationalism as the reason for the GOP’s decline. Roy recounts one of the founding myths of the identity politics left; the “southern strategy” going all the way back to 1964 and the nomination of Barry Goldwater. This leads him to the conclusion that the bulk of the GOP electorate is motivated by white identity politics rather than conservative principles.
As someone who’s been on political forums for years, the subject of the southern strategy comes up every few weeks as providing the imprimatur that Conservatives in general and Republicans in particular are racists, motivated by race, and thinking of nothing other than race. Considering that’s a good description of the left, there is a lot of projection involved, but this is standard fare for the left. What’s new is it becoming standard fare for Republicans.
Or should I say a certain type of Republican, the #nevertrumpers who’ve fought Trump all the way to the nomination, in a way they’ve never fought Obama or the Democrats. But nothing seems to bring joy to the #nevertrump crowd like calling their fellow Republicans racists. So establishment types like Roy, who didn’t seem bothered by either the southern strategy or Goldwater’s nomination until the past year, are reaching for the same racial playbook that the left has used. Now they can finally call someone racists, and if they’re lucky, win the approval of teen writers at Vox or some MSNBC reporter. Roy isn’t the first GOPe who’s decided to throw the entire non-establishment GOP under the bus as racists. Paul Ryan, Erick Erickson, and Senator Ben Sasse among others also tossed out the racist charge against fellow Republicans.
Noted anti-Trumpist and National Review writer Jonah Goldberg doubled down on Roy’s nationalism=white racism thesis last week in ‘New Nationalism” Amounts to Generic White Identity Politics. Goldberg, a writer I’ve often admired and enjoyed his witty writing style, boils down his argument into probably the dumbest thing published in NR (not counting anything written by Katherine Timpf). The argument basically boils down to observing that Trump’s support is mostly white.
Now it’s interesting to note that for both Roy and Goldberg (among many others) the keyword here is “Nationalism” as in nationalism being just another code word for white racism. It’s almost mind-blowing that these arguments are coming from ostensibly conservative pundits. So I’m really unclear on what basis these two sides ever come back together again.
Imagine a scenario in which Trump loses and loses big, say more than Romney’s defeat, with a voter percentage of over 4% and an electoral blowout where Trump wins less than 200 electoral votes. Will the #nevertrump crowd cackle with glee and then reach out their hand to everyone they’ve called ignorant hate filled racists for the past year and say, “On to 2020?”
Or imagine a scenario where Trump loses narrowly by #nevertrump margins such as Trump losing the vote in Utah due to Independent candidate Evan McMullin. When it’s clear that the margin of victory was lost due to Republican establishment intransigence, on what basis would the people who voted Trump and really wanted to win this year, ever forgive those who spent a year trying to not only sabotage his campaign but denigrate his supporters?
Or this: Trump wins. The establishment and #nevertrump is discredited, but now that Trump has won they want to jump on the bandwagon. Again, you have people who not only tried to sabotage victory and called everyone racist to boot, but now want to resume what they feel is their God given leadership roles in a movement they tried to destroy. Is that going to be forgiven?
My feeling is whatever the electoral scenario; there is a divide in the GOP that is now permanent. In 21st century America, calling someone a racist is throwing down the gauntlet. Politicians are used to hurling invective at each other and then hammering out deals, but these are attacks on the voting public; by presumably the same side. How are commentators like Roy and Goldberg ever going to support anything having to do with the GOP again when they’ve just smeared the majority of its voters as white identity racists? And more to the point, why would they want to? They’ve just identified the GOP as the racist party after all.
So whatever happens on Election Day, in a certain sense it’s over between these two factions of the GOP. These are factions that, bad names and invective aside, have polar opposite policy goals. The GOPe wants amnesty, open borders, and unlimited “free” trade; no matter how many US jobs are lost. The Trump faction (which is numerically the far bigger faction) wants exactly the opposite. Where do they meet in the middle on policy?
These issues seem so fundamental that it’s hard to not see a major political realignment coming out of this clash. The Republican establishment could find itself fleeing to the Democrats, turning it into an overtly free trade party. Or maybe the Republican Party just splits into two parties (although I find that unlikely due to the US’s first past the post elections). Maybe the old left/right paradigm is breaking down into a new globalist/nationalist one.