drwex (drwex) wrote,

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Politics, or Let's Watch the Republican Party freak its sh*t

Some separate, but related, thoughts on primary season, particularly Republican.

In my previous post I argued that one of Cruz or Rubio should drop out, but neither are likely to do so. Here's the logic: although the states that vote in tomorrow's primaries are all favoring Trump, they are all (?) proportional-award states. So anyone who stays in picks up some delegates, which is important for remaining competitive. The next round of states (which includes Florida and Texas) are winner-take-all states. All Rubio or Cruz have to do is beat Trump by one vote in order to walk away with a huge chunk of delegates. Arguably, Rubio's best shot at that is Florida and Cruz's is Texas.

Both men have come out swinging hard at Trump, trying to land telling blows. As I mentioned last time I don't think it's possible for them to erode significantly Trump's base of support but Rubio in particular has shown he can sway late deciders and if running Trump down is his path to doing that, so be it. Trump spent the weekend flirting with Mussolini and David Duke and seems to have come out none the worse for it so I remain dubious. But you gotta have some strategy.

By attacking this hard, I think both men have kissed goodbye any chance of a VP slot on the ticket, which leaves the question open of who. Why not Kasich? Like Cruz and Rubio I think Kasich is going to stick it out. But his reasons for doing so seem to be to show that he can garner support, particularly from groups that aren't Trump's natural core. If Trump does take the convention then Kasich will be able to point to his group on the hall floor and say, "You want those people? I bring them." It may sound awfully cold-blooded but it has a certain logic. Right now Kasich is running the best campaign for VP I've ever seen.

Meanwhile, pretty much every down-ticket Republican with any opposition in the next election is having fits. I can't see any significant fraction of Republican voters breaking ranks and pulling a lever for Sanders or Clinton, but there's a very real chance they will stay home. If the Democrats smell blood and get energized (and those of us who aren't are still willing to hold our noses and vote for Clinton) then every other Republican candidate in a purple district/state could be in trouble. After the convention their options are going to devolve to "suck it up and ride the populist coattails" or "put as much genteel distance as possible between themselves and Trump." Neither option is likely to be appealing.


Hypothesis: the fall of the Soviet Union is what doomed the Republican party. That is, without a common great external enemy, the natural fracture lines between religious conservatives, nationalistic populist conservatives, and fiscal conservatives start to widen.

Coalition-building is hard. The Democrats have floundered more times than I can count in the past couple decades trying to paste together women's rights advocates with environmentalists with LGBTQ persons with union members (maybe excluding Teamsters or maybe not) with rich liberal coastal elites (mostly Hollywood and university/think-tank types). Pretty much every Democrat can reel off a list of things that they don't like about what their party does or stands for. In any given election that dislike might or might not be more powerful than their feelings for their candidate. But the fractious Democrats have a lot of experience at coalition building, horse-trading, and finding common ground.

I think the Republicans lack that and what we're seeing is a deep fundamental argument about what it means to be an American Republican conservative. Those who've held the reins of party power are freaking about the weight of change toward jingoistic populism, but maybe the current faction's time of defining conservatism is just reaching its natural end. I've long argued that Trump is a symptom, not the disease, but now I may be changing my mind about the nature of the disease. Perhaps the nature is that conservatives have for too long defined themselves as "not that" where "that" was the external threat (USSR) and the domestic threat (scary black man in the White House).

They have not been strongly challenged to articulate what a conservative vision is. I think one clear sign of this is that despite some ridiculous number (37? 58?) votes to repeal Obamacare there has yet to emerge a plan for what the Republicans would do instead. Likewise the Republicans have refused to take up Obama's request for an authorization of the use of force in Syria. If you're a conservative, are you for or against bombing in Syria (ignore idiot pronouncements about carpet-bombing)?

If you ask any conservative to articulate what conservatives are for you get a list of things that Trump clearly is not. So what does that mean for the party's future? Stay tuned; I think we'll know a lot more in two weeks or so.
Tags: politics

Posts from This Journal “politics” Tag

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