Trump has left Washington, but everyone is still abuzz about the future for the Republican party. What happens after Donald Trump. Does Donald Trump admit that this is there is an “after”? Or will the Republicans be stuck in limbo until Trump says otherwise? Trump’s core followers are not typical Republicans. Old school Republicans are signaling that they don’t want to be in the same party as the new kids on the block. Whatever the population of the party, who’s in charge? Trump and McConnell are about to go to war over who is in control. Will they split into a Republican AND a Trumpublican party? The next few years may be quite a mess for conservative America! Let’s dive right in and see what the future holds!
Something… something big… is going on in the Republican party. It may shift to the right, it may splinter into two or more groups, or they may simply be so overwhelmed by internal power struggles that when the mid-term elections arrive the Republicans will have no strategy… and get trounced! After that? Well, there could be an entirely new landscape, with a completely dominant Democratic party, and a Republican party that can only win regional races.
If you’re a Republican, don’t lose heart. At least not yet! America seems to want a two-party split. No single part can hold… at least not for long… the diversity and occasional insanity of our voting public. That’s why we split into at least two big parties. But big changes have happened before. Terminology changes over time. Today we talk about Liberals and Conservatives. In the past we had Progressives, Radicals, and other groups. But back in 1854, when the Republican party was created, the world was quite a bit different.
Republicans were born as a “carve-out” of the Whig party. Their first goal? Lead the anti-slavery movement! Back then, Democrats were the party of slavery, they were largely anti-trade, and most of their beliefs would horrify modern Democrats. Pro-slavery Democrats threatened to leave the Union if a Republican won the 1860 Presidential election. In case you missed it, Abraham Lincoln won, the Democratic South seceded, and the Civil War was ignited.
After the Civil War, American politics were cemented into the “Big Two”. Yes, there are always independents, smaller parties, and even regional groups. But for more than a century and a half, Republicans and Democrats ruled America. By today’s standards, perhaps the single most baffling element of the Republican party was that African Americas, largely due to Abraham Lincoln, were solidly Republican voters. Pretty hard to believe today, but other changes were to come.
Like the Progressive party. In 1912, after losing the Presidential election Teddy Roosevelt gathered together Republican followers, left the party and formed the new Progressive (or Bull Moose) party. It’s hard to not see the parallels with Trump. Teddy was a physically large, loud, larger than life, media genius, with a rabid following. We remember Teddy for saying like, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, and his aggressive military policies. But Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressives pushed through a lot more policies that are often forgotten.
Roosevelt was fanatical about preserving the environment. He loved to hunt, and so he wanted to preserve pristine forests. Roosevelt had the government set aside huge tracts of land for our national park system. He fought for the rights of labor unions and supported a woman’s right to vote. If it wasn’t for the Republican party, the 19th Amendment would never have been passed, and a woman’s right to vote might have been put off for years, if not decades. Roosevelt and the Progressives made the first serious proposal for a modern welfare state. It would take another 50 years for Democrats to be associated with such “socialist” policies.
Not long after Roosevelt, the Progressives dissolved, and most returned to the Republican party. Which may also be a lesson for the Republicans. When a party is formed around a personality rather than a set of policies, that party may not be able to survive the founder. Donald Trump is already 74 years old. Then again, Donald’s father lived to be 93. Hmmm… any Vegas gamblers out there to rate this bet?
The next big change was started by the Democrats. In 1960, John Kennedy ran for President and won. For the first time since the 14th Amendment, the Democrats became THE party for African American voters. The Democrats made a 180-degree turn, and became the party for civil rights, the party of labor unions, and other policies that were despised by old-time Southern Democrats. The Dixie Democrats began a migration to the Republican party that would be become a flood under… Ronald Regan.
Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election victory pretty much wrote the modern Red/Blue political map. The last of the old southern conservatives began the migration from the Democrats to the Republicans. Southern states flipped from blue to red, and have stayed that way. Consider Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. From Kentucky. Kentucky was once a solidly Democratic state. Now their representative was the minority leader of the house for 8 years, and then another 5 years as the majority leader. Mitch McConnell is the very image of the early 21st century Republican. But as we enter the 3rd decade of the 21st century, are republicans looking for anew style? A new Leader? Will Donald Trump re-invigorate their party, or destroy it?
The real question is, what does the Republican party want to be? For the last 40 years, Republicans stood for big business, big military, small government budgets, deregulation, globalization, outsourcing, fewer unions, and an America that leads the world. But Trump wants big tariffs, limits on trade, less outsourcing, more union protection, limited international engagement, greater military involvement by other nations… rather Un-Republican policies.
This is what makes this strange alliance so… ironic. Many Trumpublicans follow Trump and the Republican party in the hope of solving their grievances. Yet these “grievances” are the core policies of earlier Reagan era Republicans (deregulation, globalization, outsourcing, etc.). Can pre and post Trump Republicans be in the same party? And will that party have a coherent enough message to attract donors and voters?
It looks like we are about to find out. Since the election, Trump has been turning on former allies, who he feels have slighted him. If the last 4 years have taught us nothing else, we have learned that Trump is VERY good at vengeance. His latest attacks are on Mitch McConnell. In non-Trumpian times, McConnell would be the head of the Republican party. It was inevitable, slighted or not, that McConnell would be a roadblock to Trump’s control of the Republican party.
What do you think? Will the Republicans snap back to their old policies and a more center-of-the-road platform? Or will Trump’s followers take control? I wonder if Vegas is laying odds on this one! Lets keep an eye on Washington (and Mar a Lago), there will surely be much more to come!