Will an out-of-control, out-of-touch with reality Donald Trump administration finally “kill off” the Republican Party? Don’t laugh; this “prediction” has been an on-going “expectation” by many political analysts for years. In the 75th Congress during the FDR administration, there were only 16 Republican senators out of 96 total, and 88 out of 435 representatives. Back then in the middle of the Great Depression, the Republicans were regarded as completely out-of-touch with the problems of most Americans. Yet the Republicans regained control of both chambers in the 80th Congress, the one that President Harry S. Truman called the “do-nothing” Congress—which must have worked, because he won a “surprise” victory in the 1948 presidential election, and the Democrats regained control in both houses.
After the 2008 presidential election, there were again boasts that the Republican Party was “dead,” at least on the national stage. Why? Because Republican voters tended to be older and on their way to the retirement home and eventual “extinction,” while “naturally” Democratic constituencies were younger and growing—particularly minorities. Younger white voters tended to vote more “progressively” than their parents and grandparents, or so the theory went. But how could anyone seriously come to this conclusion when the Republicans controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006, the longest period since before the Great Depression? The relatively brief Democratic control of Congress from 2006 to 2010 was due more to the malaise created by the mounting death toll in an increasingly unpopular Iraq war, and the Great Recession, both blamed on the Republicans.
But analysts who were again proclaiming that the Republican Party was “dead” once more misunderstood the dynamics at work. People voted for Barack Obama because people wanted something to feel “good” about, by electing someone who embodied “change,” although perhaps not the kind that people wanted, and because he was less “blah” and more “in touch” than his opponents. Yet during the first two years of his administration, white voters seemed less enamored with the good that Obama did desire to do than with the fear and paranoia being concocted by racist fringe extremists, particularly those belonging to the so-called “Tea Party,” a “movement” which strangely disappeared after the 2012 election. The new era of paranoia allowed the Republicans to regain control of Congress, and with Republicans dominating state government, redistricting will likely entrench Republican power in the U.S. House of Representatives for decades to come, unless some great “catastrophe” blamed on the Republicans occurs.
In the 2016 election, the political analysts and “experts” again assumed that the Republican Party suffered a mortal wound by nominating Donald Trump as its presidential candidate. Indeed, it was difficult to see otherwise; even to me it appeared that far-right fringe fanatics who viewed the world through a racial prism had been mesmerized by a candidate who spoke their “language.” Surely the majority of white Americans wouldn’t align themselves with this outspoken bigot and the fringe element that was his most vocal support. But what couldn’t be predicted was the lack of shame and embarrassment among a majority of white voters about Trump’s numerous racial and gender demerits. White voters saw the media coverage as “unfair” to Trump, a desperate effort to insure the election of Hillary Clinton. Trump’s utter lack of self-consciousness about his own demerits seemed more “honest” than Clinton’s continuous denials of her own faults; if she had only come forward, admitted to making errors but promised to do her utmost to do right by the country and have an honest and transparent administration, she would have convinced enough white voters in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that she was the better “option.” But she kept denying and denying and denying, complaining about leaked emails instead of explaining them.
In the end, the political analysts and “experts” should have spent more time examining the voting trends of whites, and why they voted as they did. Since Clinton had nullified her advantage as a “history maker” by her own self-inflicted mistakes—which included alienating white male voters by making this a “gender” election—white voters moved back toward their natural voting trends. In fact, the 43 percent of white women who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 was no better than the percent who voted for Obama in 2012. I frankly see an apartheid-like voting trend as minorities become a greater proportion of the population; much as we see in Southern states, political party voting will almost precisely be along racial lines.
The Republican Party as it was once constituted—by fiscal conservatism and moderate social policies—may be “dead” for now, but not in name. The voters who helped reactionize the Republican-dominated House of Representatives now have their “voice” in the White House. The question is if Trump’s administrative “style,” with a cabinet filled with people who have no qualifications to run their prospective departments, will be defined by a hopeless deficiency in competence and credibility. If so, will that “kill” this new reactionary version of the Party—and will it be the catalyst to a “reaction” back to a more “traditional” conservatism. But as long as we have white voters who feel that their “rights” and “privileges” are under “threat,” they will insure that the “white people’s party” will survive to serve their “interests.”