The Perils of a One-Man Political Party

The GOP and Donald Trump are indistinguishable now. But it's not clear what that means.

Many are realizing, as I posted yesterday, that the string of primary defeats for Republicans who got on the wrong side of the President mean the GOP is Donald Trump’s party now.

A POLITICO report (“‘This is the new Republican Party’“) tells of the despair among the non-Trumpers:

The anti-Trump candidates are fleeing, and the ones who stick around are getting trampled. The chill has gone out among whoever’s left: there’s no more speaking up, and if there is, it’s just for the sake of a speech, a protest quote that quickly disappears.

They chalk it up to party loyalty, or staying unified for the midterms. They say they still believe in the principles, but they don’t tend to do more than say the words. Then, when the microphones are off, they confide. They complain. They nurse fantasies that there’s a reckoning coming, that maybe this will all end with the Republican Party nominating someone like Eisenhower. Or at least like Paul Ryan.

And each time they watch another of their own go down, they wince, try to move on. Don’t look back. Try to forget.

[…]

“People become disenchanted with the way democracies work. A strongman comes along, says, ‘You’ve got to give up some freedoms, but if you do, I’ll take care of these problems for you,'” [former South Carolina Governor Mark] Sanford said late Tuesday in his concession speech. “We’ve got to stay true to this notion of the democratic principles that our founding fathers laid out.”

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Trump critic from the start, couldn’t agree more.

“Hell no,” Schwarzenegger said in an interview Wednesday about whether the GOP is lost to Trump. “A party can never be about one person. A party is about principles. Anyone, on either side, whose politics are based on being for or against the president is misguided.

“The focus needs to be on the issues — on keeping our economy booming, on reducing our huge debt, on the inequality of our education system, on cleaning our air,” he added. “Those are the principles that have spanned generations of Republican leaders, from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan, and it’s those principles that will get us back on track.”

That the GOP writ large hasn’t stood for those things in years is worth noting—but so is that fact that the party continued to have room for those, especially outside the Deep South, who were more in the libertarian or Teddy Roosevelt Progressive mold, especially at below the Presidential level.

Much of this complaining is sour grapes. And Trump Republicans can rejoice that, finally, the party of elites is being transformed into a populist party. But, not only does that have a necessarily limiting appeal at the ballot box but the fact that Trump himself is so erratic creates problems. We can see this playing out in multiple reports.

POLITICO (“GOP senators’ frustration with Trump — and each other — boils over“):

GOP infighting reached a new level on Wednesday, with Sen. Lindsey Graham berating Sen. Bob Corker for pushing his amendment that would allow Congress to block President Donald Trump’s tariffs, according to attendees and people briefed on the exchange.

Corker (R-Tenn.) has been on a rampage this week over the Senate GOP’s reluctance to vote on his amendment. And in a private party lunch on Wednesday as most Republicans blamed Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for blocking amendments to a defense bill, Corker defended Paul and argued that his blockade was being used as an excuse for the rest of the party to avoid other amendment votes.

Graham, who has been blocking Paul, then jumped in. The South Carolina senator, who has argued Republicans should give Trump room to negotiate on trade, unloaded on Corker. Graham was irked over Corker’s speech in which he said the GOP doesn’t want to “do anything that might upset the president, according to four sources familiar with the matter.

“You don’t care about the Republican Party because you’re leaving,” Graham told Corker, who is retiring.

This is bizarre on a number of levels. First, the notion that Corker is insufficiently conservative or loyal to the Republican Party is simply bizarre. Second, while GOP leaders have sometimes pushed hard against protectionism (see Ronald Reagan and Japanese subsidies of their steel and auto industries) it has long been a free trade party, pushing back in recent decades against the populist wing of the Democratic Party.  That populism is increasingly ascendant in the GOP is one thing. But that advocating longstanding platform policies suddenly renders one a RINO is baffling.

The combination of Trump being not only outside the normal Republican ideological spectrum but not having an obvious counter-ideology of his own is especially problematic. See, for example, Bloomberg‘s report “Trump Allies Want Immigration Tweet Before They Vote for Bill.”

House Republicans are rushing to assemble a compromise immigration bill for a vote next week alongside an existing conservative proposal, a strategy that a White House official told GOP lawmakers has President Donald Trump’s blessing.

Stephen Miller, the main architect of the Trump administration’s approach on immigration, met with GOP lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday and told them this was probably their last and best chance to pass conservative immigration legislation, according to a person in the room who asked not to be identified when describing private meetings.

The person said Miller assured lawmakers that Trump supports a plan laid out by House leaders late Tuesday that will put two immigration bills on the floor next week: a GOP compromise bill being pulled together by leaders of different Republican factions and one favored by conservatives that is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

Lawmakers from the conservative Republican Study Committee told Miller, however, that immigration is such a hot-button issue in their districts that they need an explicit and public Trump tweet — not just a closed door meeting with a staffer — to give them political cover to vote for legislation that hardliners could label as “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, according to the person in the meeting.

The immigration issue is one that has been divisive for a generation of Republicans now. Reagan himself was chastised for signing an “amnesty” bill back in 1986 and 2008 nominee John McCain, instinctually a moderate on the issue, has been forced to take on hard-line positions in election years. What’s different now, though, is that we have a President who has a tendency to make deals in private and then turn around and renounce them the next time he takes some Twitter time.

The bottom line is that longtime Republican leaders, including rather dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, have no idea what this President is going to do and, consequently, don’t trust him. That’s no way to run a political party.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    Back when we both thought that Trump would not win the primary, I would often say that regardless of the outcome Trump was the Republican Party. At the time you felt that was unduly harsh. I would be interested in a post where you talked about how you got to this position, and where your future political leanings are tending.

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  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    A party can never be about one person. A party is about principles.

    We like to pretend this is true, but this is fundamentally not how people work. People are not in generally loyal to abstract philosophical concepts, they’re loyal to other people.

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  3. CSK says:

    What difference will an “explicit Tweet” from Trump make? He’s explicitly Tweeted a lot of things and then repudiated them.

  4. Yank says:

    The bottom line is that longtime Republican leaders, including rather dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, have no idea what this President is going to do and, consequently, don’t trust him. That’s no way to run a political party.

    Yup.

    Democrats get crap for being unorganized, but the two most productive years in recent congressional history was 2009 and 2010 and that comes down to the fact that most Democrats generally agree on the big picture when it comes to hot button issues like healthcare, financial reform etc.

    The GOP doesn’t and they don’t have a president who actually cares about policy, which makes matters worse. They are going to head into the midterms (and Trump might head into 2020) with just the tax bill as their major accomplishment, which is pathetic given that they control the entire government.

  5. teve tory says:

    “The focus needs to be on the issues — on keeping our economy booming, on reducing our huge debt, on the inequality of our education system, on cleaning our air,” he added. “Those are the principles that have spanned generations of Republican leaders, from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan, and it’s those principles that will get us back on track.”

    Uh no. Reducing the debt, education inequality, and clean air are the opposite of republican principles.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Back when we both thought that Trump would not win the primary, I would often say that regardless of the outcome Trump was the Republican Party. At the time you felt that was unduly harsh. I would be interested in a post where you talked about how you got to this position, and where your future political leanings are tending.

    I still think there are a large number of Americans who support free markets, relatively small government, slow change, and competent leadership. There are still plenty of traditional Republicans in wonk circles and even out in the hustings. But, for the time being at least, the demagogues are running the show. Trump has successfully used his megaphone to run out even the Mark Sanfords of the party.

    It’s going to take a trouncing in November and, quite likely, in 2020 for there to be an opening to get back to a normal political party to oppose the Democrats. It’s going to have to be about more than repeating the lines that got Reagan elected way back in 1980. And, obviously, it has to be more than about nativism and fear of change. I’m not sure what that looks like or when we get it.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    Elites get to be elites because they a) had the good luck to be born into it, b) had the skills to join the elites, or 3) had the dumb luck to stumble into a sweet gig that made them a member of the elites.

    Not a great way to choose one’s elites, is it? Until you consider that the people not in the elites are not in those elites because, a) they didn’t get lucky with their parentage, b) they had no skills enabling them to rise on the merits, and c) lacked the luck to stumble into a sinecure.

    Now, someone explain why I should prefer my country to be run by people lacking either skills or luck.

  8. James Pearce says:

    The anti-Trump candidates are fleeing, and the ones who stick around are getting trampled.

    It is utterly ridiculous that the ones who aren’t fleeing are getting “trampled.”

    Anti-Trump Republicans have natural allies. They’re called every single Democrat in office. And the anti-Trump Republicans are left out there to twist in the wind?

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    We like to pretend this is true, but this is fundamentally not how people work. People are not in generally loyal to abstract philosophical concepts, they’re loyal to other people.

    I’m not. I’m actually interested in the ideas, the principles. But in general you’re right. Humans are tribal and hierarchical and in most cases either too dense or simply too disinterested to deal in abstract ideas. Witness how quickly and easily evangelical Christians threw away everything they claimed to believe and joined a cult of personality.

    I really thought I had more than enough contempt for my fellow man. Turns out no, I was still being generous and a bit chauvinistic. I suppose I felt that Americans would be better than this. Nope.

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  10. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I found the following article at the Atlantic to be very intriguing in understanding what is happening to the Republican party today (sorry James Joyner, I don’t think you will like what it means; namely that the Republican party IS actually returning to a different set of roots and traditions, which have nothing to do with the traditions of the party you grew up with): https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/the-death-of-cold-war-conservatism/562811/?utm_source=feed

  11. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    There are still plenty of traditional Republicans

    I’m honestly puzzled: why is it worth continuing to support a party that, while it has some residual members that hold the same values you do, by and large have moved far, far away from your core values?

    I’ve said this before but it is worth repeating: a political party is not like a sports team, it is more like a plumber. God help me, when Fall comes around I will still have some vague hope for my Chicago Bears. I am loyal (no credit, I am loyal whether I want to be or not.). But if a plumber came into my house and performed like the 2017 Bears I would replace them in a heartbeat. So too with Political Parties. We should support them in order to best achieve specific goals. If they are obviously incapable of pursuing, much less acheiving, those goals we should replace them.

    Better days…

  12. Yank says:

    It’s going to take a trouncing in November and, quite likely, in 2020 for there to be an opening to get back to a normal political party to oppose the Democrats.

    I thought this would happened after 2012 and yet they just doubled down. Even if the GOP gets trounced in 2018 and 2020, I don’t think they will change any time soon. There are a lot of uneducated white voters out there that they can tap into to offset demographic changes for the next couple cycles.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory: Not only that, but Schwarzenegger has to be joking (he isn’t, but he should be) if he thinks there’s any sort of clear ideological line from Lincoln to TR to Reagan. Even without getting into the crucial matter of race, the 19th-century GOP was a party committed to high tariffs and and an expansive role for the federal government. Lincoln was the first president to enact an income tax. TR was the first to propose universal healthcare (albeit after he left office, during his 1912 run on the Progressive Party ticket). For the past several decades the GOP has been the party of the Confederate South, who hate Lincoln.

    Except in the most literal sense, the GOP is not the party of Lincoln anymore than the Dems are the party of Andrew Jackson. Republicans seem unable to grasp that both parties have evolved over time–for better or worse–so that they’re virtually unrecognizable from what they once were. Trump may have made this fact more visible than ever, but it’s been true since long before he came along.

  14. EddIeInCA says:

    Dr. Joyner –

    With all due respect, the current GOP, Trump’s GOP, is EXACTLY what many of us on the left have been saying the GOP has been all along, but with better “cover”. Rather than hide the racism, misogyny, and greed under flowery language and GOP talking points, like a Reagan or GW Bush, Trump has gone right for the id. It’s out there as gross and direct as it can be. And not many of us on the left are surprised. We’ve seen the prologue – with Rush, Boortz, Gallagher, Levin, Hannity, Elder, Prager, Medved, Savage leading the way. Trump is the natural culmination of 20 years of vile, dishonest, antagonistic and combustible rhetoric that many “Americans who support free markets, relatively small government, slow change, and competent leadership” chose to ignore, nor repudiate.

    There are dozens, if not hundreds of posts/comments here at OTB over the years asking you and Mr. Mataconis when you would repudiate so much of the hateful rhetoric being spewed. Way too often, it was….. crickets.

    I’m not singling you out, but pointing out that way too many people on your side of the aisle chose – yes, chose – to ignore the vile commentary coming from “conservative media” and ignored the obvious racial elements to too many GOP candidates.

    The irony is that when you speak of “Americans who support free markets, relatively small government, slow change, and competent leadership.”, it seems that Democratic administrations seem to, over the last 50 years or so, have to clean up the crap that GOP administrations create. Carter to clean up after Nixon. Clinton after Reagan/Bush cratered the economy and crashed the market. Obama after Bush cratered the economy and crashed the market. Now Trump is going to crater the economy and crash the market.

    But, the deplorables, and I’ll continue to call Trump voters deplorable, they won’t care because…
    1. God.
    2. Gays/Trans.
    3. Guns.
    4. Coastal Elites.
    5. Damn Brown Pe0ple.

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  15. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s going to take a trouncing in November and, quite likely, in 2020 for there to be an opening to get back to a normal political party to oppose the Democrats.

    That’s provided that the narrative can land that the party moved too rightward. Otherwise, there’s the risk that as with the trouncing in 2006 and 2008, the party could triple-down on the “tea party” impulse (or white nationalism).

    Of course, the other challenge is that the Party’s success at the state level, and the related changes put in place around Voter ID and purges, not to mention house district lines, makes it difficult to effectively “trounce” them — regardless of the current political climate.

  16. Moosebreath says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    Very good article.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like the Republican Party’s platform has turned into “tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts!” coupled with “do whatever pisses liberals off, updated daily.”

    I don’t know if the white nationalists are going to manage to take over the party entirely, but it’s going to take one whopping huge failure before lunacy leaves the room.

    (P.S. Prepare for a stock market correction sometimes between now and April 2019. I suspect the realization that the Brits are careening towards a Hard Brexit through political infighting and total incompetence will at some point hit the stock market.)

  18. george says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Now, someone explain why I should prefer my country to be run by people lacking either skills or luck.

    Because traditionally its only one generation between the skilled/intelligent/disciplined people that might do a good job (ignoring the problem of evil skilled/intelligent/disciplined people for now), and inheriting elite status without skills/intelligence/discipline. And that unskilled etc elite status tends to be passed on for several generations. Meaning rule by the elite typically means rule by unskilled people who had a skilled ancestor a few generations ago. Of course, everyone tries to make things run to their own benefit, but what’s good for the elite unskilled (large power and wealth imbalance tilted heavily in their favor) tends to be worse for most people than what’s good for the average unskilled person. Which is why Churchill said democracy was the worst of all systems, except for every other system.

    Maybe rule by the elite could work if children weren’t allowed to inherit the wealth and connections of their parents (something Plato pointed out in his Republic if memory serves me properly – he theoretically solved the problem by not letting people know who their parents/children were), but the chances of that ever happening in the real world are pretty much zero.

  19. teve tory says:

    For the past several decades the GOP has been the party of the Confederate South, who hate Lincoln.

    When it was still novel, as I drove around North Florida, I used to take photos of big stupid 4×4 trucks flying confederate flags. And I don’t mean displaying stickers, I mean shit like flying 4’x6′ confederate flags, mounted on poles protruding from the 5th wheel hitch. The Venn diagram of ‘Truck flying confederate flag’ and ‘truck with pro-trump or anti-hillary bumper sticker’ had a LOT of overlap.

    As an aside, there’s a strange lack of NYT stories urging people with TRUMP THAT BITCH bumper stickers to take efforts to understand liberals better.

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  20. teve tory says:

    Now, someone explain why I should prefer my country to be run by people lacking either skills or luck.

    Uday and Qusay Trump are rich elites by virtue of luck. You’d be better off with random names pulled from a phone book.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    Tangential, but all too appropriate: one section of the IG’s report showed that Comey used his personal email for government business, while he was investigating Hillary Clinton for… using her personal email for government business and while he was calling press conferences during a presidential campaign to castigate her for doing so.

    The Republican outrage and slime machine really knew how to play all the Hillary haters for suckers. But then we knew that. They successfully got the public outraged over Gore’s “lies” and Kerry’s “traitorous behavior”. And they will do it with the next Democratic candidate, regardless of who it is.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    So too with Political Parties. We should support them in order to best achieve specific goals. If they are obviously incapable of pursuing, much less acheiving, those goals we should replace them.

    In the 2016 midterms and 2017 Virginia elections I voted straight Democrat, with the possible exception of a moderate Republican House candidate. (I honestly can’t remember if that was 2016 or 2014.) I didn’t bother voting in Tuesday’s primaries but fully expect to vote Democrat again in November. Fundamentally, though, I’m not a Democrat. If I can help steer the Republicans back to being a party I can support, I’ll likely do so. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll pick my spots.

    @Yank:

    I thought this would happened after 2012 and yet they just doubled down.

    But 2012 was a case of the opposite: they picked the one viable moderate out of a crowded primary field that was otherwise yahoos and Jon Huntsman. When they lost, they vowed never to pick a moderate again.

    @EddIeInCA:

    With all due respect, the current GOP, Trump’s GOP, is EXACTLY what many of us on the left have been saying the GOP has been all along, but with better “cover”. Rather than hide the racism, misogyny, and greed under flowery language and GOP talking points, like a Reagan or GW Bush, Trump has gone right for the id.

    I just don’t think that’s true. It’s true that Nixon, and especially Reagan, brought in a lot of the Old South Democrats on a platform of anti-Communism, pandering to their religious values and sense of social alienation, “tough on crime,” and other “values” issues. Most of those people aren’t racists but, alas, most of the racists are among those people.

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  23. teve tory says:

    after reading this boston globe article I want to see Trump vs. Trudeau in The Octagon. Excerpt:

    “In 2012, Brazeau, then a conservative senator from Quebec, squared off with the man President Trump recently called “meek and mild” in a charity boxing match. Back then, “meek and mild” might not have seemed too far off: Trudeau was a Member of Parliament best known for being the son of the former prime minister.

    Brazeau was a big favorite in the fight, and it was easy to see why: He was a muscular former Navy reservist with a black belt in karate. The conventional wisdom was that Trudeau — taller, slender, aggravatingly handsome — wouldn’t be able to take a punch.

    Canada has a well-earned reputation for politeness, but there is no polite way to describe what happened once the bell sounded: Brazeau caught a beat down.

    Trudeau waited out a little flurry in the first round while Brazeau flailed wildly. But when the second round began, Trudeau was landing punches at will. In the third round, after Trudeau had spent several minutes pummeling Brazeau — who appeared to be bleeding from the nose — the referee finally stopped the fight.”

    boston globe

  24. MBunge says:

    The bottom line is that longtime Republican leaders, including rather dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, have no idea what this President is going to do and, consequently, don’t trust him.

    No, the actual bottom line is that longtime Republican leaders, including rather dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, produced the conditions that led to this President. I mean, if you want to talk about blind fealty and craven submission, consider that the only two GOP candidates willing to call the Iraq War a mistake and hold George W. Bush accountable for it in 2016 were Rand Paul and Donald Trump.

    Mike

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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    I didn’t bother voting in Tuesday’s primaries but fully expect to vote Democrat again in November. Fundamentally, though, I’m not a Democrat. If I can help steer the Republicans back to being a party I can support, I’ll likely do so. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll pick my spots.

    Fair enough. I’m not the type of person that feels that a political party is “mine” but I guess I can understand by analogy.

    Most of those people aren’t racists but, alas, most of the racists are among those people.

    Here, I think you are arguing facts not in evidence. The largest change in Republican campaigning and leadership statements following the decision to go all in on the Southern Strategy involved racial issues and racial dog whistles. Reagan’s Philadelphia, MS kickoff wasn’t even the most egregious or obvious. You may wish it wasn’t so, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming both in the north and the south. Ever since the Southern Strategy the Republican Party has grown more and more racist and the Democrats less so. It takes time, as inertia is a powerful thing, but it is happening. The idea that the Trumpoid Republicans are concerned about, what, communism? rather than brown people borders on the absurd. And remember, Trump has 80% support of self identified Republicans.

  26. KM says:

    @teve tory:

    As an aside, there’s a strange lack of NYT stories urging people with TRUMP THAT BITCH bumper stickers to take efforts to understand liberals better.

    Yeah, funny how that works, isn’t it? We’re supposed to take care not to be “condescending” but they can scream “F Your Feels, Snowflake” and that’s perfectly acceptable. Nobody in Trump county is trying to understand liberals or how to work with them but damn you if you don’t consider their (largely self-inflicted) plight!

  27. Kathy says:

    One peril is making the party all about one man. the greater peril is making it about Little Dennison.

    As a party of Trump, it’s unsustainable in the short term. While the Democrat’s “permanent majority” has always been a pipe dream, demographics are heavily against white supremacy. If the GOP remains just that, it won’t be viable in 10 years.

    I wonder if it’s time to start a new party to replace the GOP. The big problem with that idea, aside from a myriad other big problems, is that there isn’t a towering, moral figure on the Republican side to lead his people to the promised land.

  28. teve tory says:

    I wonder if it’s time to start a new party to replace the GOP. The big problem with that idea, aside from a myriad other big problems, is that there isn’t a towering, moral figure on the Republican side to lead his people to the promised land.

    The problem isn’t the name of their party. The problem is their voters. The GOP is the party of people who are rural, whiter, less educated, more christian, and elderly. The Dems are the party of the urban, racially diverse, less religious, more educated, and younger. If the US system weren’t biased toward the rural they’d barely have any power already. Excluding Bush’s 2004 win after 9/11, the GOP hasn’t won the popular vote for president in 30 years.

  29. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just don’t think that’s true. It’s true that Nixon, and especially Reagan, brought in a lot of the Old South Democrats on a platform of anti-Communism, pandering to their religious values and sense of social alienation, “tough on crime,” and other “values” issues. Most of those people aren’t racists but, alas, most of the racists are among those people. [Emphasis added by EddieInCA]

    Again, with respect, I think you are arguing what you wish were true, not what is currently true. Communism hasn’t been an issue since the 80’s. The Tea Party has proven to be nothing more than racists pissed off about a black president. If it wasn’t, they’d be an even louder voice against the current administration. The entire GOP playbook right now is about three things:

    1. Immigration
    2. Voter Disenfranchisement
    3. Gerrymandering.

    It’s sad. But true.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    I mean, if you want to talk about blind fealty and craven submission, consider that the only two GOP candidates willing to call the Iraq War a mistake and hold George W. Bush accountable for it in 2016 were Rand Paul and Donald Trump.

    In 2016 it was real easy to be opposed to the Iraq debacle…but how about before it ever started? Or soon after it started? The Orange Toddler wasn’t nearly as opposed on those occasions…what he said in 2016 only shows that he knew which way the wind was blowing…yeah, a real profile in courage there…

  31. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory:

    The problem isn’t the name of their party. The problem is their voters.

    I agree. It’s always important to realize that there are many healthy democracies in the world with a major center-right party that accepts climate science, gun control, universal health care, and that isn’t in the thrall of religious extremists. But that’s a situation made possible by the electorate in those countries as well as the political systems that house them. Despite all the talk about Trump’s cult of personality, he does not in fact have the power to change his base’s views on issues of importance to them. While he frequently engages in rhetoric that one would think would offend them (as in his gun-seizure proposal earlier this year, or his repeated claims to be protecting DACA recipients), the important thing is that it never goes beyond rhetoric–and at the end of the day, his base realizes it. And without the racially aggrieved base, the GOP would be nothing–a party devoted merely to lower taxes and deregulation while accepting science and a moderate stance on social issues is not one capable of forming an electoral majority in this country. What we need to do to change this situation (which will be extremely difficult if not impossible for now, at least until the older generation dies off) isn’t new leadership, it’s a change in the entire culture.

  32. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It’s inevitable that the “elites” will control the government. All that happens is sometimes you change elites. That’s what was so silly about voting for Trump against the elites. Now we still have K Street, but we have Adelson, Koch, the Mercers, and the seemingly endless number of wealthy car dealers in the Billionaire Boys Club displacing whoever was our previous elite.

    People talk about some mythic wisdom of the people. My opinion is that the rationale for democracy is simply that it forces the elites to pay some small attention to the benefit of the nation as a whole. It ain’t much, but it’s better than you get with the alternatives to democracy.

  33. @teve tory:

    If the US system weren’t biased toward the rural they’d barely have any power already

    This is a major part of this conversation that we, as a country, do not understand or take seriously. We talk like elections produce a representation of public sentiment. Yet, our president was elected with the second most votes, the House of Representatives is elected via a process that does not create a representative outcome (and in a chamber that is too small for our population), and the Senate is consciously designed in such a way as to over-represent low-population areas (a design that has been exacerbated and distorted by the way the country has grown and the way populations are distributed).

    These conditions have, and continue, to disproportionately empower the GOP. This is problematic, not because it is the GOP and I wish it was the Democrats. This is problematic because when a political system claims to be representative, but isn’t, that leads to governance crises. It leads to corruption and politicians who claim to listen to voters, but don’t.

    A simple notion: it is often said that if we don’t like the law, we should change it (e.g., immigration). Yet, what are the prospects that immigration reform, that the majority of the population wants, can pass?

    If issues that large majorities want addressed are forever stonewalled, what kind of representative democracy do you have?

    (And note: I have been saying this long before Trump was an issue).

  34. Kathy says:

    @teve tory:

    he problem isn’t the name of their party. The problem is their voters.

    I meant ideology, not branding.

    During the campaign I thought there was no way Trump would get the nomination, because he rejected plenty of Republican principles like free trade, small government, etc. I was wrong (that’s an understatement).

    I think there are people in the GOP still who favor such things, but the party has been hijacked. First by evangelicals, now by openly racist populists. So perhaps it’s time to found a new party.

    I know third parties tend to do terrible. historically, though, when they succeed, they tend to displace one of the major existing parties.

    This kind of happened in Mexico in the past two years. His Majesty left the PRD to form his own party, and drew many of the more radical elements of his former party, as well as their supporters. This made the PRD better, but also smaller. So it’s on its way to oblivion, or to become a small party that needs to hitch a coalition ride with one of the bigger ones to remain relevant.

  35. george says:

    @teve tory:

    As an aside, there’s a strange lack of NYT stories urging people with TRUMP THAT BITCH bumper stickers to take efforts to understand liberals better.

    I get your point, but I suspect their reply would be that the number of Trump supporters that read the NYT is probably the same as the number of Trump opponents who read Breitbart.

    A very large number of people only read news sources that reflect their own politics; this was probably always the case (ie people who would only read D or R newspapers), but since the Internet its become even more fragmented, to the point where there’s not even a single source which every progressive or conservative think speaks for them (hence Dino and Rino terms).

    Its pointless for the NYT to aim a piece at Trump supporters (telling them to try to understand), because most Trump supporters are never going to see it. What the NYT should be doing is pointing out that Breitbart (which Trump supporters do read) should be telling its readers to try to understand the other side – because I suspect the Breitbart editors do in fact read the NYT and will see it.

    And no I’m not saying the NYT and Breitbart are equivalent in quality; one’s a world class newspaper, the other’s a junk web site. I’m just pointing out that probably very few people read both, and Trump supporters are going to be on the Breitbart side.

  36. Kylopod says:

    @george:

    I get your point, but I suspect their reply would be that the number of Trump supporters that read the NYT is probably the same as the number of Trump opponents who read Breitbart.

    I highly doubt that’s true. Breitbart is an extremely niche-oriented market; basically only conservatives read it regularly. In contrast, despite the high number of conservatives who spurn mainstream media such as NYT or CNN, there are still many who do read or watch these outlets. The rough equivalent of Breitbart on the left might be, say, Daily Kos, not the NYT. Indeed, the attempt to equate hardcore right-wing sites with traditional news sources that aim for neutrality and a broad audience is a significant element of right-wing propaganda that encourages conservatives to distrust the latter.

    But even if we accept your questionable analogy, that still doesn’t answer the question of why conservatives aren’t being implored to try to “understand” the grievances and anxieties of liberal voters. If you’re going to excuse the NYT for failing to do so, do you seriously believe Breitbart has taken up that task? Please. And it’s not as if liberals are all privileged, out-of-touch elites. Despite all the talk about the white working class, Hillary beat Trump among voters making less than 100K and trounced him among those making less than 50K. The power center of the GOP is still that of the wealthy, yet it is only liberals who are accused of condescension toward the other side–and accused not just by conservatives, but also by supposedly “liberal” sources like the NYT. It’s legitimate to ask why.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: No objection to a country run by “the elites;” it’s what our Constitution actually promised would happen. I DO object, however, to Republican elites running the country. First, because they show no inclinations toward effective leadership. Second, because the current “elites” in the GOP are spineless careerists without honor, dignity, or character. Third, because the program that they want to impose will do as the definition of evil until a better example comes along.

    And, NO! Paul Ryan will not be an improvement over what we are experiencing now!

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just don’t think that’s true.

    It’s possible that you’re wrong. I thought like you do for a long time, but it turned out that I finally had to admit that I was wrong; Conservatives (by extension Republicans) had faulty reasoning guiding their agenda in every phase of political doctrine. They are wrong–and also evil at this point–on foreign policy, domestic policy, social policy, and economic policy. Additionally, what they say the believe, they only pay lip service to, so talking about, for example, small government is simply “blah, blah, blah.”

    Give it a thought.

  39. george says:

    @Kylopod:

    But even if we accept your questionable analogy, that still doesn’t answer the question of why conservatives aren’t being implored to try to “understand” the grievances and anxieties of liberal voters. If you’re going to excuse the NYT for failing to do so, do you seriously believe Breitbart has taken up that task?

    Actually re-read what I wrote; that was exactly my point. As I said, NYT is telling its progressive readers to try to understand, Fox news (you’re right that Breitbart is a poor comparison, so a better comparison would be the lack of conservatives reading NYT matching the lack of progressives watching Fox news) has never done the same with its conservative viewers.

    Writing to your actual readers is the only approach that makes sense. An NFL magazine telling soccer fans what they should be doing is wasting its time, as is a soccer magazine telling NFL fans what they should be doing – because NFL fans aren’t reading soccer magazines and vice-versa.

    So once again, NYT is doing what it should be doing, Breitbart (or better Fox news) isn’t. Furthermore, If NYT wants to influence conservatives, or Fox wants to influence progressives, their only real approach is to target the staff on the opposition flag ship, because there are NYT people who will watch Fox to see what they’re reporting, and there are Fox staff who read NYT to see what they’re doing.

    NYT speaking directly to conservatives or Fox speaking directly to progressives is a waste of time, because they’re talking to people who just aren’t reading or watching them.

  40. All countries are run by elites (by definition). The question: what are the processes/social conditions that create those elites? And, what causes elite rotation?