The GOP’s Lost Boys
Monday, August 29th, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: Don’t ever invite a vampire into your house, you silly boy. It renders you powerless.” Max (Edward Hermmann)/The Lost Boys
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Last week in Reno, Nevada, Hillary Clinton gave what may be the most impactful speech of this General Election; and one that may have illuminated the long-term fate of the Republican party in the United States. She said of Donald Trump, “He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.” The “radical fringe” she speaks of is the so-called alt-right movement, a self-described group of largely disassociated people whose basis in belief is white nationalism and nativism. By calling out Trump, the alt-right, and the GOP together, she not only made undecided or “soft” moderate Republicans and independents pause in their decision this November, she also began the process of delegitamizing her rival, the American conservative movement.
This construction can be no mistake, no happenstance, no lucky turn-of-phrase. Clinton’s strategists and speech writers know of the immense discomfort many Republicans (this one included) have with the prospect of Donald Trump as President of the United States. But were they right? Is the alt-right now the dominant movement within the GOP? Where the national security hawks, fiscal conservatives and religious right once jockeyed for dominance in an uneasy three-way dance, have they each been usurped by an unruly band of political vampires that the GOP itself created, left to gestate and then ultimately invited into the house?
Alt Right + The Donald + The RNC = The End
What’s left of the Republican Establishment (GOPe) and the alt right will not live together. They cannot live together. The latter is the by-product of the former’s ignorance and complacency. The former is a twisted vision of what many small government, conservertarians hoped could serve as a reliable opponent of the Washington-centric, Chamber of Commerce party, that too often enjoyed the trappings of office over hewing to the principles on which they’d been elected. The alt-right is not the Tea Party. The alt-right is a strain of American conservatism that stayed largely in the background, and underground for years, if not decades, lacking the legitimate host they needed to spring upon the American political system.
The work that the Establishment tried to do with outreach to younger and minority voters after the 2012 campaign has seen the alt-right douse with gasoline and joyfully throw a match. The ensuing political inferno continues to this day and once it burns itself out after November, the alt-right will dance around the dying embers despite their favored candidate losing badly. They will have come of age in America — and we’ll have to work hard to put this ugly genie back in the bottle.
Is it even possible to reconstruct the Grand Old Party in which one of its most vocal constituencies is repellant to so many Republicans specifically and Americans (voters and not) generally? Republicans have been hounded by a branding probably for years, largely brought on by its policy positions. The party, oft-derided as that of the “old white guy” has now in fact become that very thing. Donald Trump’s ham-handed, ill-timed and a times flat out offensive attempts at “outreach” to minority communities will further push those same voters away from the conservative line on Election Day; and there weren’t many pulling the lever for Republicans to begin with.
A very smart, long-time Republican leader told me my recent pessimism around the future of the Party is overstated. They noted that at the state and local level Republicans control more governorships, statewide offices and legislatures than they ever have. This is true. When not voting for presidents, many states have elected Republicans to office. Those same office-holders have used gerrymandering to their distinct advantage — drawing favorable lines for themselves at the expense of Democratic districts.
This local success casts a disturbing shadow. In many red states, candidates are now running as far to the right as they can in primary campaigns, knowing there are not enough Democrats to overcome them in the General. We have seen policies enacted in states like North Carolina and Indiana, that purport to salvage religious freedom or protect electoral integrity, but have the distinct impression of being either anti-gay or anti-minority.
While those passing said legislation may honestly believe in it, national media outlets and advocacy groups pounce on the presumed discrimination, causing minority groups and dissenting politicians alike to threaten boycotts and file federal lawsuits. When it comes time to choose a president, all those voters who neglected to vote in a primary or mid-term election, suddenly rise up and vote for the Democrat: Wisconsin and the aforementioned North Carolina are likely battlefields for such an outcome this year.
It is the very success of ultra-conservative candidates that should have national Republicans alarmed. More and more of these politicians will win elections as the political spectrum further stratifies. In turn, this new generation will ultimately serve as the farm team for statewide and national candidates. If old-school Republicans want to find success, it may likely mean finding a new home — and quickly.
Republican leaders and Federal office holders have several difficult tasks ahead of them in the next 70+ days. They must do their best to hold onto the US Senate, mitigate losses in the US House and find a way to piece the GOP back together. To do so, they will need to start executing on promises they’ve made and broken for decades. Otherwise this army of political succubi they’ve helped create will only grow, and scatter non-alt-right conservatives to the four winds.
Copyright 2016. Jedburghs, LLC.