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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why the GOP should break up, post-Nov.

If mad scientists in a lab had tried to design a monster that could destroy the Republican Party, it's hard to see how they could have come up with something better than Donald Trump. Not only did he gain the nomination by appealing to all the worse impulses of a primary electorate addled by talk radio and cable TV; not only did he debase the other candidates who ended up endorsing him, leaving only some dignity for those handful who passive-aggressively declined to make an endorsement; not only did his abominable personality, record and positions set the party up for what will be a defeat of historically disastrous proportions in November; not only did he enable the racism and authoritarianism of the alt-right to become a significant part of Republican ideology and culture; but he also cut off avenues whereby the party could potentially have reformed itself, by convincing a number of moderates and reformicons that underneath the squalor, bluster and stupidity of Trump and Trumpism are some ideas that should be preserved and developed in a future remaking of the party.

Last May, I became an ex-Republican, shedding an identity I'd held since the early 1980s (i.e., my entire adult life), and thus relinquished my onetime hopes of helping in some small way to improve the party; instead I began musing about what a future party I might want to be part of would look like. A Bloomberg poll that just came out reinforces for me that it is realistic and advisable to think of a future in which the GOP is no longer one of two major parties, and perhaps no longer in one piece.

Consider this bit of polling data (click to enlarge):


This is a party divided, to say the least. A majority--barely--thinks the Trump-Pence ticket was a good enough idea that one of the two people on it should be the party's champion going forward. Among those who don't, there's no consensus as to who the leader should be, or by extension what direction the party should go. (From what I can tell, by the way, these names were suggested to the poll respondents, as opposed to being responses to an open-ended question. In a differently structured question, I wouldn't be surprised if Rubio or Sasse or any number of others had made the cut.)

Now, despite what I said earlier about no longer wanting to help the Republican Party, I also do not want the political system to be dominated by one party, and as a centrist independent I am not particularly sympathetic to that party, the Democrats, even though this year I will vote for their candidates against Trump and against my awful congressman, Scott Garrett. So, focusing on what would make for a healthier political scene, I suggest the Republican Party do something that, as it happens, could turn out to be an electoral winner for some, which is: break itself up.

Trying to hold the fractious and angry GOP coalition together has now become an impossible undertaking that involves simultaneous minority outreach and white identity politics; knee-jerk hostility to immigration and trade and a pro- or at least balanced approach to immigration and trade; firmness toward Russia and supplication toward Russia; libertarianism and authoritarianism. Not even a political genius could do it, let alone the people who plausibly will be running the GOP.

On the other hand, the party can't be broken into numerous fragments without being fully destroyed, and so I would suggest just two. Let's call them Federalists and Nationalists. The Federalists could be something like what I sketched out in my new party post months ago. It would be a coalition of conservatives and moderates, essentially unified by a pronounced aversion to the ignorance and irresponsibility of Trumpism. The Nationalists would be for those who think Trumpism was, in some substantial way, a good thing. Alt-right extremists would gravitate to the Nationalist Party, dreaming of their ethnostate, but so would many others who don't espouse racism but do think Trump hit on something valuable in his trade and immigration policies or other aspects; some people considered moderates might be among them.

I am not predicting this will happen, but the coming electoral cataclysm makes it more plausible than prospects for revamping the party system have been in our lifetimes. And as difficult as forming and building these new parties would be, it may well be less so than holding together the Republicans. Speaking for myself, I would be likely to join something like the Federalist Party, if it came into existence; by contrast, with the view from 2016, I see little prospect of ever wanting to rejoin the GOP.

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