This has certainly been a summer of a crack up and civil war within the conservative movement. It started out as the summer of the Cuckservative, in which conservatives attacked each other over who was giving in and trying to please leftists and their media. It’s ending as the Summer of Trump; the domination of Donald Trump over all other Republican Primary candidates.
Something is radically changing in conservative politics and the fault lines seem to be radically changing every few months, but there seems to be a current divide that explains a lot of the conservative on conservative conflict: Red Pill vs. Blue Pill Conservatives. If you’re not familiar with the term, a simple trip to Mister Google will solve that since Blue Pill/Red Pill is a fairly common internet meme, based of course on The Matrix movies. Blue Pill is living your life under a delusion, and the Red Pill is when you finally wake up to the sometimes bitter reality.
I first started to have the fog lift out of my blue pill haze after the 2012 elections. Although I expected Obama to win, I was fascinated by the post election armchair quarterbacking that was trying to pin every other imaginary reason on Romney’s loss other than the fact that, as NBC Political Analyst Chuck Todd put it, “The demographic time bomb went off.” It was a turning point election because it demonstrated that policy positions, the state of the economy, the unemployment rate, or winning the independents; none of the old rules applied. As I wrote after the 2012 election:
Even if Romney had won, it would have been the last gasp of an archaic idea in US politics; political parties that are more or less based on policy decisions and ideas and to a lesser degree, ideology and the left/right continuum Eventually, I suspect that we will be voting according to our ethnic, gender, and sexual preferences. In other words, our politics will become more tribal.
What that means in 2015 is that the Republican Party, which is dependent on white votes, is seeing a steady decline in their voter base. As the Washington Post reported:
The total number of white voters decreased by roughly 2 million in 2012 as compared to 2008, the first time since 1996 that a “race group” (as they describe it) has seen a diminution in net votes cast. And, in the last five presidential elections, the white share of the electorate has dipped by nine points…
That coincides with the factoid that Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six elections.
So if you put the increased tribalism of American politics with the decline of the white “tribe” you end up with a more or less inevitable decline in chances for the Republican Party to win the White House. Each Presidential election will have whites, the mainstay of the Republican Party, as a declining percentage of the electorate. The result of this is that for 2016, the Democrats start out with an advantage of 217 electoral votes more or less locked up. When you need 270 electoral votes to win, most of the race is already over before the first primary or caucus vote is cast. The Democratic electoral vote advantage is only likely to widen for each Presidential election. Every four years the Republican base contracts and the Democratic base expands to fill in the gaps.
So how does the Republican Party Inc plan to address this? Their 2012 Autopsy Report boiled down to go big on amnesty and then Hispanics will love Republicans since they are “natural conservatives.” This is so counterintuitive to common sense that I honestly can’t believe that the autopsy report writers believe it. It sounds that it’s a justification of a policy that the establishment of the party is already committed to based on donor desires. Certainly passing Amnesty didn’t help either Reagan or Bush Senior.
Pro amnesty John McCain got only 4 percentage points more of the Hispanic vote than self deporter Mitt Romney got. Considering that Romney would have needed 73% of the Hispanic vote to win, there is no path to Republican victory counting on Hispanic votes. In fact, if you consider the Electoral College math, the increased tribalism of American politics, and the declining percentage of the Republican base it’s easy to conclude that all things being equal, conservatism, as it’s currently formed, is doomed.
As a conservative, when you finally come to that conclusion, you’ve taken the red pill.
This really shouldn’t be that much of a shocker. The Republican Party was a secondary party for much of the 20th Century. After being caught holding the bag after the Great Depression, the Democrats were the American political party for decades. Republicans only got a shot at the Presidency again by nominating a national hero and celebrity, Dwight Eisenhower, for President. Eisenhower’s status made it OK to try voting for a Republican again. That coincided with the rising post war middle class that found themselves more comfortable with Republican Party values.
Much of the Republican Party is still under the blue pill, and thinks that each election, the slate is wiped clean and they have a 50-50 chance to make their case to the American people (who must be devoid of party preferences and are willing to listen to Republican arguments on an equal footing with Democratic ones) with a promise of tax cuts and smaller government, just like they’ve promised every election for decades.
Red Pill Conservatives think this is a path to continued failure and realizes that something big has to change. There has to be a massive shaking up of the old order, since it’s on a glide path to obsolescence. What will that look like? I’m not sure, but the Republican Party needs to be ripped apart and put back together with a 21st Century sensibility. Maybe we’ll get a glimpse this election season.