Even If Trump Loses, Trumpism Will Remain A Powerful Force In The GOP

Even if Donald Trump loses next month, the political forces inside the GOP he tapped into are likely to remain very powerful.

Elephants Fighting

A new poll suggests that hard-line immigration positions and economic nationalism that have been at the core of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign since it began last June will likely continue to have a big influence on Republican politics for some time to come even if Donald Trump loses the General Election:

One of the big policy questions for the Republican Party, in the heat of this presidential election, is what it will do if Donald Trump loses come November. Will it retrench to its traditional positions and focus, stressing free markets, low taxes and social conservatism? Or will it continue along Trump’s more populist path, critiquing globalization and, in particular, immigration, at increasingly high volume?

Newly-released polling from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs suggests the populism is here to stay. Concerns about immigration, refugees and globalization predate Trump in the GOP – and thus appear unlikely to dissipate whether he wins or loses.

It is a cycle of nativism and economic pessimism that has been building for years among Republicans, particularly those who form the core of Trump’s support. As the Council puts it, “Those Americans who feel more threatened by immigration, favor deportation, and feel unfavorably toward immigrants believe that the next generation will be economically worse off than adults today. Unease with immigration and pessimism about the next generation’s economic prospects reinforce each other and have proven to be key factors in support for Donald Trump.”

Republican disillusionment with globalization and trade has been building for a decade. In 2006, more Republicans than Democrats said globalization had been good for America. Soon after, that flipped: Democrats today are substantially more likely to view globalization positively than Republicans do, 74 to 59 percent, and half-again as likely to do so as core Trump voters are (49 percent).

Immigration concerns are even more pronounced. A large majority of Republicans saw immigrants and refugees entering the U.S. as a “critical threat” even before Trump’s candidacy (the 2015 survey was conducted almost entirely prior to Trump’s campaign launch). What’s notable is that concern about immigrants and refugees was similarly high across party lines in the late 1990s and after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but concern dropped off substantially among both groups since then. Republicans have continued to be concerned.

Perceptions of immigrants and refugees as a “critical threat” peaks at 80 percent among Core Trump supporters, those who wanted him to become president more than all Republican or Democratic candidates.

Or consider the breakdown over time of Americans who think controlling and reducing illegal immigration is a very important foreign policy goal. Just like the “threat” question, Trump did not need to convince Republicans to be prioritize blocking illegal immigration – they already thought it was a major issue. And also similar to above, Republican concerns have been steady since rising after the 2001 terrorist attacks, while Democrats and independents have become less likely to say the issue is important over time. Also similar to the threat question, Trump’s core supporters are significantly more likely to prioritize controlling illegal immigration than Republicans overall, 83 vs. 68 percent.

In a finding that won’t surprise core Trump voters, the polling shows a divide between partisan opinion leaders and the GOP rank and file on the issue – a big divide. Republicans this year are 48 points more likely than Republican foreign policy leaders were in 2014 to say controlling and reducing illegal immigration is a “very important” foreign policy goal (68 percent for Republican adults vs. 20 percent for elites). Rank and file Republicans are also 51 points more likely to say large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming to the U.S. is a critical threat (67 vs. 16 percent).

International trade is one issue where Trump’s campaign appears to have influenced public opinion in a significant way. The share of Republicans who said international trade is a “good thing” for the U.S. economy dropped from 60 percent in 2006 to 51 percent in 2016, though this was met by a slightly larger increase in the share of Democrats saying trade is a “good thing.”

This isn’t entirely surprising, of course, the attitudes toward immigration and trade that Trump has spent the better part of the past sixteen months exploiting didn’t just appear out of thin air when Donald Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015. They have been a long-simmering issue inside the party and have had a real impact on internal Republican Party politics going back to the Bush Administration when conservatives ended up scuttling a bipartisan effort at immigration reform that seemed as though it had more than enough support from members of both parties to make it through Congress, as well as the support of President Bush. Additionally, as this chart shows, opinion polling was showing that Republicans have long been far more inclined than Democrats or Independents to see immigration as a threat to the interests of the United States:

Immigration Poll One

Additionally, Republicans are far more likely to believe that controlling and reducing illegal immigration is an important foreign policy goal for the United States:

Immigration Poll Two

Given these numbers it’s not surprising that Donald Trump’s message has resonated so strongly with rank and file Republican voters,, nor is it surprising that so many Republicans have ended up rallying behind him since he clinched the nomination in May. It isn’t because Trump is convincing Republicans to take positions that they hadn’t previously considered, it’s because Donald Trump is saying things that Republicans largely agree with notwithstanding the fact that he often peppers those positions with other things that are juvenile, inane, or downright hateful. Trumpism was a factor in the Republican Party before Donald Trump came along, and it will continue to be a factor even if he loses in November and ends up fading away to his Trump Tower redoubt rather than remain involved in Republican Party politics, In his absence, you can expect others to take his place when it comes to championing the issues that he rode to success during this election cycle. What this means, of course, is that the civil war between the Republican base and the so-called ‘establishment’ when it comes to issues such as immigration and international trade. In fact, we saw that during the Republican primary to the extent that candidates competed with each other to determine which one was the most anti-immigration and attacked each other for previous positions supporting immigration reform. Candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who had once told their party that it needed to change its position on this issue if it was going to have a chance of competing for Latino voters in the future were soundly rejected, and candidates who supported a hard-line position such as Trump and Ted Cruz saw their poll numbers increase. The message that sends is obvious.

In other words, Donald Trump may disappear but his positions, his supporters, and probably even his poisonous rhetoric aren’t going to go anywhere

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2016 Election, Borders and Immigration, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    But…doesn’t Trumpism need a Trump to lead it?

    I have no doubt “trumpism” as an ideology will remain. But behind whom will the Trumpists rally? I have no doubt that there’s some creep waiting in the wings to take over, but will he or she have the galvanic quality that Trump seems to have?

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    Aggressive Trumpism is here to stay I think, which is why the idea of Pence as a viable candidate in 2020 is only an idea in Pence’s mind. He’s too low key in his approach. Cruz will be back and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got the nomination this time.

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    Angry old white Republicans needs their RAGE fix. Pence is to low energy for that..

  4. Slugger says:

    I think if Trump loses by a significant margin, his ideas will take a big hit. Economic policy in the form of trade restrictions and propping up some sectors (like saving coal) are not particularly Republican. Haven’t Republicans at least paid lip service to a more laissez-faire view of the economy? White people are no longer a solid majority, and many white people are not signing up with the sectarian religious views espoused by the nativists.
    I think a rejection of Trump will lead to changes in the party as it seeks to win the allegiance of the voters of 2020, 2030, and beyond. Now, I know that people can dig in and become more extreme in their views in response to adverse factual circumstances, and this is what Dr. Mataconis thinks will happen. It will be interesting.

  5. DrDaveT says:


    I have no doubt “trumpism” as an ideology will remain.

    I object to using “Trumpism” as a label for the bundle of deplorable beliefs Trump is cashing in on. As many others have noted, they aren’t his beliefs — he has no stable beliefs, other than a belief in what’s best for Trump.

    “FOXism” would be more accurate in attributing ‘credit’ where it is due.

  6. CSK says:


    Of course they’re not his beliefs, because, as you point out, he has none except his own self-aggrandizement. But movements or ideologies often take their name from their most influential exponents, who may not necessarily be their originators. And Trump is certainly currently the loudest, ugliest, and most obtrusive of those exponents.

    In any case, “Foxism” appears to be already taken.

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    OT: the pound just hit a new 31 year low yesterday. Thanks Brexit voters

  8. grumpy realist says:

    A really good analysis of Trump’s appeal.

    Just as I expected.

  9. Pch101 says:

    “Trumpism” isn’t an aberration, it’s the Tea Party.

    The Tea Party is the GOP’s reward for converting segregationists into Republicans that has been ongoing for fifty years. What the Republican establishment failed to realize was that the free trade shtick was something that the base could live with but never really care about. Recently, they’ve decided to channel that natural xenophobia into a demand for high-wage blue-collar jobs.

    And it really doesn’t help that the GOP establishment has worked overtime to convince the base that the economy sucks even though it doesn’t. Well, guess what? Now the base is blaming the establishment Republicans for this, not just the Democrats. Congratulations, you’ve earned it.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    The Republican establishment is a coalition of wealthy individuals and corporate interests built around the core desire for low taxes for themselves and minimal regulation for their businesses. No one in their right mind and not in or dependent on the 1% would vote for them. The only way to win elections is to con the rubes, something they’ve turned into a major industry. They’ve also evolved a neat trick in obstructing everything, then blaming the Dems for stuff not getting done.

    Now a candidate came along who could get a good start without the establishment’s money and has been feeding the rubes what they want more blatantly. The rubes are about to find out that they are not a silent majority and lose. But they’re still the voter base of the Republican Party, they’re still the route to the GOP nomination. The most likely outcome is that the establishment will simply tweak the con with some immigrant and trade BS and continue lying to the rubes.

  11. al-Alameda says:

    Illegal immigration is the resentment ticket that Republicans punch these days.

    What’s interesting is that during the Obama administration, net illegal immigration into the country is near zero. Yet to hear Republicans you would think that millions of illegal immigrants (from Mexico and Central America) are streaming across our wall-less borders to pillage and plunder our country.

  12. Ratufa says:

    slatestarcodex succinctly describes the Republican problem:

    If Trump fails, then the situation is – much the same, really, but conservatives can at least get started right now picking up the pieces instead of having to wait four years. There’s a fundamental problem, which is that about 30% of the US population is religious poor southern whites who are generally not very educated, mostly not involved in US intellectual life, but form the biggest and most solid voting bloc in the country. If you try to form two parties with 50% of the vote each, then whichever party gets the religious poor southern whites is going to be dominated by them and end up vulnerable to populism. Since the religious poor southern whites are conservative, that’s always going to be the conservative party’s cross to bear and conservatism is always going to be less intellectual than liberalism in this country.


  13. Lit3Bolt says:

    Shorter Doug Mataconis: Hail Hydra seems to be popular with today’s GOP. Meanwhile, Captain America is still facing investigative questions from Congress (note: GOP control of Congress never mentioned) for his role in slaughtering Bucky Barnes, a decorated war hero. PS: Vote for Gary Johnson, a amiable dunce who is easily controlled.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    So we’re going to have two parties, one made up of dumb white people and the other made up of smart white people plus minorities?

    If white populism ever shed its racist roots it would unite non-college whites with many in minority communities. Then you’d have something. The stumbling block, as ever in American politics, is race. If lower class whites can start seeing themselves as working class first, white second. . .

    But history suggests that will take some time. So in the meantime you have rich white assholes (the old GOP) trying to find a path to power on the back of the poor people they exploit and despise. I’m not seeing it. I do not see how Goldman Sachs retains power with a voting base of religious nuts and bigots. I think Big Money has to find a way to get along with Democrats. In the long run no rational businessman bets the farm on a declining demographic. Big Money needs to dial back on the Shkreli and ramp up the Buffett and the Tim Cook – it’s a better path forward than doubling down on white, rural, poor and uneducated.

  15. Andrew says:


    Has that not been the situation since…long before anyone on this blog was alive?
    (Yes, I know that republicans and democrats flipped in the 1960’s. I am speaking overall. A large block of southern voters. Lacking education, but not religion. )

  16. C. Clavin says:

    Trumpism is a misnomer…it’s not Trumpism…it’s Republicanism.
    Trump is merely a mouthpiece for the xenophobia and racism and misogeny and homophobia that commenters like Jenos and JKB and bill and Eric Florack, and white male Republicans like them all over the country, have been spewing for years. and they are still going to be Republican team players long after Trump loses.
    So no…it’s not going anywhere…whatever you want to call that cesspool of filth.

  17. dxq says:

    Even If Trump Loses, Racism Will Remain A Powerful Force In The GOP


  18. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If lower class whites can start seeing themselves as working class first, white second. . .

    Unamusingly, this was exactly the observation of the first Populist / Progressive movements in the US, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, going back to the Grangers, and of the various communist movements. Those early movements all foundered on the necessity of uniting black and white farmers and laborers against white wealth — it couldn’t be done.

    (American Communists are endlessly frustrated that the white proletarians can’t get over their racism long enough to join forces with their brown class brothers and sisters and actually go control the means of production or something.)

  19. Ratufa says:


    I am speaking overall. A large block of southern voters. Lacking education, but not religion. )

    Over the past few decades, Republicans have been able to win over those voters, via “dog whistles”, being conservative wrt social issues, lowering taxes, flag waving, being in favor of increasing military spending (a good chunk of which is spent in the South) and aggressive foreign policy. But. that strategy has broken down in some key ways:

    – Devout conservative Christians look around at recent events, such as Oberfell. and changes in our culture (e.g. the proliferation of porn) and wonder what Republicans have actually done to prevent those things from happening.

    – Those who are racists look at immigration and the way many GOP leaders try to make deals on immigration, and decide that they are no longer going to settle for dog whistles. This was a major factor in Cantor’s defeat. Even some who are not racists may believe that some immigrants are hurting their job prospects.

    – Pretty much everyone in this set of voters suffered from the financial crisis, and many believe that the Republican leadership, along with the rest of the Washington establishment, was complicit in it (and that belief has some merit).

    – Even many of the pro-military types are disillusioned with the GOP because of Iraq.

    – The proliferation of very polarizing media sites (e.g. Fox news, any number of blogs) has played a role in demonizing Washington, and by implication anyone associated with the Washington establishment.

  20. JR says:

    @C. Clavin: Bingo. The only thing unique about Trump is that he says it aloud, while it used to be said in code.

    Nothing will change with them and given the responses you hear from some establishment types(ex.” if we just nominated so and so, we would win in a landslide”), they are in complete denial about the GOP brand.

  21. Scott F. says:

    Fortunately for the United States, the demagogic authoritarian has been incompetent and personally repugnant in this election. A charismatic and competent demagogic authoritarian could very well win the presidency in this country – a fact that is all together discomfiting.

  22. dxq says:

    Scott, you’ve highlighted the scariest thing about the election–trump’s authoritarian racist garbage will get 40% of the vote, and he’s obviously terrible and gross and incompetent. Put a pretty face and a charming speaking style on it, and the low-information right-wingers could win a terrible victory in the future.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.: In my more cynical moments I think that after 9/11 W. could have become dictator. If he hadn’t been so lazy.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @dxq: Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here” is looking more and more prophetic by the day….

    The fact is, a lot of people are happy to simmer in a stew of rage and discontent and mediocrity and blame “THEM” for all their problems, because it’s certainly easier than getting yourself off your ass and actually doing something about it.

    Trump is just feeding these critters the self-justification that they demand.

    It’s like the old saying: “the only common factor in all your failed relationships is YOU.” But if you can blame your inherent loserdom on blacks/feminists/Asians/affirmative action/the phase of the moon/etc. boy howdoody does it make it easier to live with your life….

  25. MarkedMan says:


    What the Republican establishment failed to realize was that the free trade shtick was something that the base could live with but never really care about. Recently, they’ve decided to channel that natural xenophobia into a demand for high-wage blue-collar jobs.

    The irony of all this is that Republicans have been laser focused for three decades on destroying unions. Like all things, unions have their good points and bad points, but they certainly had the effect of driving working class wages higher, and making sure that the working class had a seat at the table. Of course, to your average Dem, that’s a good thing. To your average Repub, that’s a bad thing.

  26. C. Clavin says:


    Recently, they’ve decided to channel that natural xenophobia into a demand for high-wage blue-collar jobs.

    Good luck with that…the Republican establishment has spent decades making sure high-wage blue collar jobs would never exist again. Talk about voting against your interests.

  27. Andrew says:


    Thanks for your detailed reply.

  28. Grumpy Realist says:

    Oh good grief. Drudge et al are now claiming that the strength of the hurricane isn’t as bad as the government is stating and that people should be monitoring the buoys themselves.

    Next batch of Darwin awards, coming up!

  29. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: “But history suggests that will take some time. ”

    Hey! A new phrase for ‘never’! 🙂

  30. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t think W wanted to be a dictator; Cheney on the other hand…

  31. grumpy realist says:

    Here’s the article I should have linked to above.

    At some point, you have to stop rescuing people from the consequences of their stupidity.

  32. solovaa says:

    Trump’s success has a lot to do with that famous Dylan Thomas refrain: ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the white.’ That rage will not die even if Trump loses. In fact, it might go supernova in 2020.

  33. dxq says:

    right now 70% of elderly whites vote and 35% of the 18-34s vote.

    Even with that advantage, the GOP is about to lose prez pop vote for the 6th time in 7 elections.

    Within a few years, everyone will be able to effortlessly vote by app. Youth voter participation will go from 35% to 90%.

    In 12 years, the big national elections will be between the Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party.

  34. grumpy realist says:

    A comment from one of threads over at Balloon Juice, discussing Ted Cruz’s cunning plans:

    Ted Cruz is no Nixon. He has the political instincts of a potato.

  35. CSK says:

    Well, Trump told his town hall audience in New Hampshire the other night that he wasn’t prepping for the second debate, so I suppose that means he’s taken Pence’s advice to just be himself. That would be the only kind of advice that would appeal to him.

  36. Andrew says:


    Trump hates to practice. I wonder how he is with foreplay?…..his poor wives.

  37. grumpy realist says:

    Results from some of the people who didn’t evacuate;

    Guess we’ll see what percentage of people in Florida are idiots.

  38. Moosebreath says:

    @grumpy realist:

    An early frontrunner for a Darwin Award.

  39. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Well, Matt Drudge told them the hurricane was a global warming hoax, didn’t he? Who you gonna believe–Drudge or NOAA and the National Hurricane Center?

  40. CSK says:


    I don’t want to think about what Trump does or doesn’t do in the sack. It would put me off sex forever.

  41. grumpy realist says:
  42. Andrew says:


    Ha, touche.

  43. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: Well, you know science is a liberal conspiracy…

  44. grumpy realist says:

    I’m wondering if Trump is trying to get himself into negative number territory with black people.

    That, on top of the just-released tape where Trump admits to sexually assaulting women….Whee. Wonder what else is stuffed up the opposition research’s sleeve.

  45. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Oh, probably. What does he care about black people? He already has his 15 million or so drooling acolytes who will religiously tune in to…Trump TV! A message from The Donald every day!