The Republican Party is dead in its current form. The coalition of classical liberals, country club business types; and since Reagan religious conservatives, neocons, and populists, has been irrevocably broken. The man who gave it its final coup de grace is a toupeed billionaire blowhard named Donald Trump.
Trump has run a campaign that more resembles the National Front of France than anything else that has been in American politics for decades. Ben Domenech at The Federalist says that Trump could transform the GOP into a party based on identity politics for white guys. He’s right and it’s terrible for the country.
Over the next few months, even if Trump fails to win the Republican nomination, three parts of the old Republican party coalition: classical liberals (whether they self-identify as conservative, Constitutionalist, or libertarian), religious conservatives, and the country clubbers; will have to decide if they can be a part of a Trump-influenced party. Trump’s xenophobic populism is anti-free market and anti-Christian.
Let’s first examine how we got here. Since the Cold War ended, the Republican coalition lost a sense of purpose. It briefly got it back in the 1990s with the Contract With America, but the election of George W. Bush in 2000 knocked the party off track. The party that believed in limited government spent more than LBJ. The party that was once skeptical of foreign interventions launched a war of choice in Iraq. The party that claimed federalism as a principle expanded the role of Washington in everything from education to gay marriage. With the failures of the Iraq War and an economic crash on the minds of Amerians, Democrats were able to easily take control of the entire Federal government.
In the Obama era, we’ve seen even more Federal government intrusions in everything from the food we eat to religious freedom. The Tea Party was inspired as a backlash against the intrusive Federal government of both the Obama and Bush eras. Meanwhile, some Republicans saw it as an opportunity to rebrand from the disasterous Bush era. Still much of the opposition to Obama took on an ugly racial overtone that was a prelude to the current culture war.
Which brings us to the end of the prequel of this terrible tale. The country has erupted in a cultural cold war. The left, which is now fully embracing cultural Marxism, is pushing the politics of racial and cultural grievance. They’re not only content to defeat what they see is white, conservative privilege but they also want to shoot the wounded survivors of the battle. We see this with Christian wedding businesses who refuse to service gay weddings for example. Much of the reason why people support Trump is because they want to take part in a backlash against the uber-PC, cultural Marxist crowd. They see a Republican Party and conservative movement that is not defending their freedom and not fufulling their campaign promises. They’re angry and they’re going to Trump because “he fights.”
But when you delve into the substance of Trumpism, it’s fascism. Classical liberals will not go along with it. Religious conservatives are more interesting. There is definitely an age divide. Older religious conservatives may go along with Trump, but I have a hard time believing younger ones will. Polls show that younger evangelical Christians are more politically tolerant, even if they’re still socially conservative. As the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore points out, there’s not a lot of evangelical support for Trump. Finally, I have a hard time believing my neocon and country club friends will buy into a man who wants to retreat America from the world.
What could this anti-Trump coalition look like? An anti-statist movement that rejects nationalism, but still believes in a strong America playing a leading role in the world. History shows that a liberal democratic society can only exist if it is protected by a great power. It will be unapologetially for free markets, anti-crony capitalist, and a realistic approach on immigration. It will be federalist in nature returning as much power as possible from Washington D.C. and to states, communities, and individuals.
Whether this anti-Trump coalition will be a new political party or built upon the ruins of the Republican Party is yet to be determined. Who could be attracted to it are classical liberals, non-statist religious conservatives, some neocons who can see limits on American power but still want America to play an active role in the world, and many others who were previously not a part of the Republican Party such as independents, moderates, and perhaps some of the old left.
I think that Trump will kill the Republican Party as we know it, but in its place could be something that could be bad for American politics or it could be the birth of a new classical liberal movement. Only time will tell which one will it be.