Trump And The GOP Continuing To Implode Among Suburban Voters

Tuesday's elections continued a trend in which Republicans have lost support among suburban voters, even in deeply red states. Guess who's responsible for that.

While Tuesday’s off-off year elections offered few highlights outside of the Governor’s race in Kentucky and the state legislative races in Virginia, both of which contained bad news for the Republican Party, perhaps the one thing that should concern Republicans is the fact they continue to lose support in the suburbs:

New flashes of Democratic electoral strength Tuesday from the outskirts of Memphis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia to the neighborhoods of Northern Virginia marked an advancement of the party’s dominance across America’s fast-changing suburbs.

The results underscored the profound electoral realignment that has been unfolding since President Trump’s ascent upended the nation’s political dynamics, marking the third time since his 2016 victory that Republicans lost ground in those communities while solidifying their hold on rural areas.

An apparent Democratic win Tuesday in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia state legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates.

“It was a rough night,” said Scott Reed, the chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “There is a lot of positive news around President Trump’s governing on the economy, on regulations and judges, and it seems to be overwhelmed by the drama.”

Sky-blue campaign signs in Delaware County, Pa., a historically Republican Philadelphia suburb where Democrats swept the ballot box, told the story of how even local council contests had been nationalized.

“Had enough Trump? Flip Delco Nov. 5th,” said the signs, which were stuck on roadsides and outside polling places.

“The state is flipping its political identity,” said Larry Ceisler, a Democratic media consultant in Philadelphia. “The suburbs that used to be moderate Republican suburbs, controlled by the GOP, are almost totally blue, going all the way down to seats on the school boards. Individuals did not matter.”

Many Republican candidates across the country, meanwhile, fell back on the polarizing campaign style that Trump has embraced, denouncing Democratic rivals as “socialist” and warning of illegal immigrant invasions, a strategy that, while spurned in the suburbs, helped them succeed in more rural places such as southwestern Pennsylvania, where Republicans made gains in local elected offices.

Trump’s rural strength helped him flip Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, traditionally Democratic states, to gain his electoral college victory. But since then, the losses in suburban areas have had far greater electoral impact, driving the nation’s political shift since the 2016 election. As president, Trump has seen a 47-seat Republican advantage in the U.S. House become a 36-seat deficit, largely because of suburban defections. The number of Republican-held governorships has fallen from 33 to 26, and the percentage of state legislative seats controlled by the party has fallen from 57 to 52.

“Republicans aren’t leaning in on the issues that affect suburban, affluent voters like gun safety and the environment,” said former congressman Ryan Costello (R), who retired from his Chester County, Pa., seat in 2018 rather than face reelection. “Plus, Trump is not a benefit but a burden. That forces Republicans to have to ask voters to really hear them out on issues like taxes and school safety even if those voters don’t like Trump and that’s not easy.”

Republican losses in the suburbs could even be seen in the one GOP bright spot of Election night:

The same shift was also evident in Mississippi, where Republican Tate Reeves easily won the governorship. Outside Memphis, Reeves carried 61 percent of the vote, compared with four years ago when the Republican candidate for governor won 80 percent of the vote, according to an analysis by Inside Elections. In Madison County, Miss., which includes tony suburbs of Jackson, the Republican vote margin in the gubernatorial race fell from 69 percent to 49 percent.

The same problems continue to roil Republican politics in other states. Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R) recently announced he would step aside after he was caught on tape admitting to concerns about Trump’s weakness. “With all due respect to Trump, who I love by the way — he’s killing us in the urban-suburban districts,” Bonnen said in the recording, according to a transcript.

It used to be the case that suburban voters were a Republican stronghold, especially in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other states where suburban voters often served as a counterbalance to the far more Democratic-leaning cities that they border. Beginning more than a decade ago, though, that trend of suburban voters being at least somewhat more Republican than their urban counterparts started coming to an end, and it has accelerated significantly since President Trump was elected. While the reasons for this shift vary from state to state, and in many cases, such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia are due at least in part to the fact that the suburbs have taken in residents from more Democratic-leaning states, the fact that the phenomenon is apparently also showing up in states like Mississippi that are about as ruby red as you can get seems to suggest that there’s something that has happened that has caused the suburban exodus to accelerate.

Based on the trends, it seems clear that the primary driver of that exodus now is President Trump himself. This is especially true among suburban women, both married and unmarried, who have been voting Democratic in ever larger numbers in nearly every election that has taken place since the President took office. This can be seen most prominently in the Virginia elections in 2017, the midterm elections nationwide in 2018, and again in Virginia in 2019, all of which saw suburban voters, and especially suburban women abandon the Republican Party in droves. In Virginia, the result of that is that Fairfax County, the state’s most populous county, now has a Richmond state legislative delegation that is entirely Democratic. Similar results can be seen in neighboring counties such as Prince Willam and Loudoun counties, both of which saw Democratic pickups in areas where Republicans at least used to be competitive.

If this continues into 2020, and there’s every reason to believe that it will, then President Trump and the Republican Party will have plenty to worry about. Across the country, at both the Presidential level and in Senate and House races, these suburban districts have in the past been places where Republican candidates were at least competitive. If that’s no longer the case even in a small number of the battleground states, and this is what the trend seems to suggest, then Republicans in general and the President, in particular, could find themselves in serious trouble.

It seems to be without question that the President continues to maintain strong levels of support from rural voters, but those voters are generally not a significant enough part of the population of a given state to make up for the kind of losses the GOP is suffering at the suburban level. Republicans looking for a reason for all of this need only direct their attention to the White House and its current residents, and they need to ask themselves whether the short-term benefit they get from backing this man is worth the damage he’s doing both to the country and to their party.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2019, Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I think Trump’s constant, unceasing lying about everything is having a wearing effect. To wit, this morning, at 10:52, Trump said of Sondland: “I hardly know the gentleman.”

    Seriously? Sondland contributed 1 million to your campaign.

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  2. DrDaveT says:

    Even as a shocking number of my fellow Americans are proving that Hillary Clinton was actually being too kind to Trump and his supporters, I retain some hope that the majority out there will not be able to stomach the in-your-face racism, nativism, corruption, theocratic tendencies, gross incompetence, and treasonous power-at-all-costs destruction of norms by the current GOP. These election results are a good sign, but there’s a looooooong way to go yet to get back to anything resembling functional governance.

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  3. Kit says:

    This article at The New Yorker went up minutes before Doug’s post and explores the same subject.

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  4. Kathy says:

    It’s bad when the party leader makes people not want to vote at all. It’s catastrophic when he makes people want to vote for the other party.

    I’ve a feeling few Trump voters regret their choice, but also that many who voted third party or abstained regret not having voted for Clinton.

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  5. Jay Loren Gischer says:

    The business with Bonnen in Texas seems pretty significant. All he did was say something factual, and for this he is forced to resign.

    That’s not a sign of health. I have no idea how it will play out, but it will end badly, as it always does when unfavorable facts are not only ignored, but reviled.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    they need to ask themselves whether the short-term benefit they get from backing this man is worth the damage he’s doing both to the country and to their party.

    I am reminded of the turtle and the scorpion fable. The GOP decided to give trump a ride across the electoral sea in trade for unquestioned judicial appointments (and the billionaire’s tax cut but any GOP would do that). Now they are 3/4s of the way across the river and drowning from the repeated stings of blatant misogyny, racism, and outright criminal behavior. They really thought they were immune to the scorpion’s nature.

    Sucks to be them.

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  7. An Interested Party says:

    Of particular note in the article that Kit linked to is how all the collar counties around Philadelphia were won by Democrats but there were a number of counties in the western part of the state that were won by Republicans…unfortunately for the GOP, those Republican-won counties have half the population of the Philly collar counties…Toomey and other GOP senators who represent states without a rural majority should be very worried…

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  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: And Trump appointed him as Ambassador to the EU. Somebody has to know him. A rando off the street doesn’t get ambassadorial appointments.

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  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    …they need to ask themselves whether the short-term benefit they get from backing this man is worth the damage he’s doing both to the country and to their party.

    He’s still got 12 months…to make it worse.
    And just try to imagine the rampage he will be on, as a lame duck.

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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton knows about “many relevant meetings and conversations” surrounding Trump’s communications with Ukraine, Bolton’s lawyer told lawmakers Friday.

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  11. senyordave says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Can someone explain from a legal standpoint why Bolton and others can just ignore a legal subpoena and incur no penalty whatsoever? I assume that I would go to jail and/or be fined if I ignored a subpoena.

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  12. Joe says:

    @senyordave: I assume they are moving to “quash” the subpoena (the legal process for having it declared invalid). Most courts will not penalize a witness who has made the motion to quash – even if the testimony date comes and goes – until the Court has an opportunity to hear the argument and make a decision.

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  13. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I know. That’s why the lie is so outrageous. Cult45 will buy it or ignore it. They have no other choice. How do you “barely know” someone you appointed as ambassador?

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  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    I think there’s a lot of Republican representatives and senators who would actually prefer to be in the minority. They can sit in safe rural districts and never be responsible for actually having to do anything, just sit on the fence and heckle the people doing the hard work of running society. When they get in charge, their harebrained scheme never actually work, but in minority they can claim they would and never have to prove it.

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  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @senyordave:

    Can someone explain from a legal standpoint why Bolton and others can just ignore a legal subpoena and incur no penalty whatsoever?

    IANAL…but from what I understand any penalties, ie jail time and/or fines, would require the DOJ’s action. So the answer to your question is…Baghdad Barr.

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  16. Jim says:

    On the one hand I have Trump, and on the other hand, I have a bunch of violent socialists and communists. I will take Trump any day.

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  17. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: According to his lawyer, Bolton will not testify till a court rules that the White House’s claim of immunity is invalid.

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  18. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I think there’s a lot of Republican representatives and senators who would actually prefer to be in the minority.

    Absolutely. There’s a lot of truth in this. The minority gets to squawk about things, majority is actually expected to accomplish things.

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  19. Tyrell says:

    The suburbs around here are getting more people by the week. Most are leaving the urban areas to get away from high taxes, crime, and traffic jams. These people have characteristics that include large homes, drive SUV’s, hire landscapers to take care of their manicured lawns, dogs, children in private schools, swimming pools, US flags in the yard, heavily involved in local sports, and they like to have cookouts – steak and burgers if you please, vegans no thank you. They are helping to drive the growth of the independent churches, with their bands, concert lighting, and conservative preaching. Liberals and socialist they are definitely not. I would be so bold to suggest that many are independent when it comes to political identification.

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  20. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Seriously? Sondland contributed 1 million to your campaign.

    Come, now. do you know how many office-seekers gift small amounts of money to Dear Leader?

    BTW, this reminds me of a TZ episode where a mysterious stranger gives a couple a plain box with a button. He claims if they press the button someone will die, and they’ll be paid a large sum of money. He assures them the person who’d die would be “someone you don’t know.”

    SPOILER ALERT:

    Next day the man comes back to collect the box and pay the couple off. They ask whether someone really died. he answers that of course someone died. They ask then what happens to the box now. He says it will be reset and given to someone else, “someone you don’t know.”

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  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:
    Yes, but imaginary claims of immunity are separate from any subpoenas issued by Congress.
    The only thing stopping the subpoenas from being enforced is Baghdad Barr.

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  22. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: It’s some sort of game Bolton is playing, possibly to torture Trump. Bolton’s lawyer also said today that Bolton has previously unheard “relevant information” about Ukraine.

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  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    Bolton’s lawyer also said today that Bolton has previously unheard “relevant information” about Ukraine.

    I worry that Bolton, who is still a Republican after all, is going to sucker the Democrats.

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  24. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    How do you “barely know” someone you appointed as ambassador?

    By being incredibly incompetent and just not caring? A million dollars, and you too could be an ambassador.

    Alternately, perhaps what Trump meant is that we can never really know anyone, and in the end we all die alone.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell:

    They are helping to drive the growth of the independent churches,

    Independent churches, you say?

    Do they have fancy new gods to worship? All hail the Droll Lord of Palindromes!

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  26. CSK says:

    @Gustopher: Ah, yes. I’m quite sure Trump was being profoundly metaphysical. Not to speak of existential. Or teleological.

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  27. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I’m hoping he hates Trump more.

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  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK:

    How do you “barely know” someone you appointed as ambassador?

    TBH, I think it would be pretty easy. I don’t know how many Ambassadorships there are but I suspect 3 or 400 is not out of the ballpark. A fair number are serious positions (Ambassador to Russia, Ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador to China) that one does not want an amateur filling,. But there are also quite a few that are plum assignments perfect for big name donors (Luxembourg, the Vatican, Curacao)(is Curacao actually a country?) If one is a politician, there are probably thousands of people clamoring, and ponying up, for a nice paid 2 year vacation in Monaco. How they get picked, I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure Obama delegated the vetting process and went with the recommendations of whoever was responsible.

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  29. Kathy says:

    I had a feeling the explanation for Trump would be that he is a hoser.

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  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jim:

    On the one hand I have Trump, and on the other hand, I have a bunch of violent socialists and communists.

    On the one hand, how many have been killed by the “violent socialists and communists” and on the other, how many have been killed by the violent synagogue bombing, Hispanic shooting, Muslim hating, black despising fascist trump supporters?

    Christ on a cracker, you are an idiot.

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  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell:

    These people have characteristics that include large homes, drive SUV’s, hire landscapers to take care of their manicured lawns, dogs, children in private schools, swimming pools, US flags in the yard, heavily involved in local sports, and they like to have cookouts – steak and burgers if you please, vegans no thank you.

    These people have the main characteristic of being an asshole. I couldn’t wait to get away from them. Dawg you are de-luded. I’ve got an old stash, send me your address and I can hook you up.

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  32. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: True. But Sondland’s the ambassador to the European Union.

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jim: Perhaps you need to move to a better neighborhood. In my neighborhood, there are hardly any violent communists and socialists at all, so Trump doesn’t look nearly as appealing. And he’s still just as incompetent as he was when he came down the escalator; he hasn’t grown into the job at all. I’m so sad for the neighborhood you live in (insert crying emoji here).

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  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Until Sondland, I didn’t even know we had an ambassador to the EU. (in retrospect, duuuuuhhhhh) TBH, I rather suspect the Ambassador to the EU ever did very much of anything beyond pushing open markets for US exports, seeing as it’s an economic market. In other words, a perfect position for a “titan of industry”.

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  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Now that Fundamentalists and Evangelicals have poisoned the meaning of the words “Christian” and “Evangelical,” they have moved on to identifying themselves as “independents.” There was a move afoot to change the names of their buildings from “churches” to “meeting houses,” but the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses caught wind of it and blocked them in court.

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  36. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Perhaps you need to move to a better neighborhood. In my neighborhood, there are hardly any violent communists and socialists at all, so Trump doesn’t look nearly as appealing.

    It must be nice to not live in a war zone where communists and socialists are trying to take over through violent revolution.

    I have no idea where Jim is living, but I think our media has failed us if there is a socialist rebellion in Arkansas or somewhere and we’ve never heard about it. Unless he is referring to Bernie Sanders’ fondness for kickboxing and ultimate cage matches… that’s just sport, Jim, Bernie really is a man of peace.

    Sure, he’s the reigning septuagenarian ultimate fighting champion, but it’s just a sport. Almost no one dies in the cage.

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  37. Mister Bluster says:

    There was a move afoot to change the names of their buildings from “churches” to “meeting houses,” but the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses caught wind of it and blocked them in court.

    Sure would like to read this judicial decision.

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  38. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    The media’s hiding it with Fake News.

    Just like they did with the Bowling Green Massacre.

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  39. Teve says:

    steak and burgers if you please, vegans no thank you.

    the guy I know who grills the most, Ed, lives in Michigan and has one of those grills that you have to tow behind a truck. And when he does cookouts he asks people to let him know if they’re vegetarian or vegan so he can cook them veggie items. But then again Ed isn’t an asshole.

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  40. Teve says:

    Do Trumpers even realize when they’re taking pride in being shitty?

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  41. Moosebreath says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    “There was a move afoot to change the names of their buildings from “churches” to “meeting houses,” but the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses caught wind of it and blocked them in court.”

    Sounds like they are oppressing the religious liberty of Quakers to me.

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  42. An Interested Party says:

    I have a bunch of violent socialists and communists.

    You need to lay off the Fox “News” as it is obviously warping your sense of reality…I love it when these people claim that the Democrats are these things…such people wouldn’t know what to do if a real communist walked up to one of them…

    Do Trumpers even realize when they’re taking pride in being shitty?

    Of course they do…they wear shit as a badge of honor…

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  43. MarkedMan says:

    @Kit: I only got as far as the subtitle: “Trump is Poison for Suburban Republicans… So Why Won’t They Quit Him?” I stopped because the answer is blindingly obvious. Since Gingrich Republicans who stay on the gravy train are ones that wake up every morning and read the party talking points and repeat them. Lest anyone think I am exaggerating, just observe. Often within an hour or two of a major event you will find Republicans of all types; Reps, Senators, talking heads on Fox News, Hannity, Ingrahm, AM radio hosts, etc – all using the same exact moderately clever turn of phrase to describe it. Perhaps once in the age of the universe that could be a coincidence, but it happens time after time.

    Sure you say, Gingrich actually used to brag about his effectiveness in promoting these talking points. But that was then, this is now, and it no longer works. But there’s a big “But!” there: the type of people that joined a party like that are not the type of people who respond to their voters or even, god forbid, think for themselves. Even if they are panicking they are not going to break ranks.

    I’ve always thought the best comparison for the national Republicans is the California Republicans. They went from majorities and governorships to minorities, no governorship, and even disavowal by Republican former governors. Then they took their cootie-ness even further and ended up with the Democrats holding the governorship and a supermajority in the California House and Senate. And at no point in this descent was any Republican leader or collection of leaders able to muster enough of the party so as to halt the descent. Instead, they became more and more extreme, driving out of the party anyone who supported reason or decency and eventually driving out anyone who simply wanted to get stuff done rather than sit around hating on the libtards.

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  44. Mistter Bluster says:

    Violence in the name of Trump
    Since Trump embarked on his campaign for the US presidency in June 2015, dozens of attacks or threats involving his supporters have been reported. Here, the Guardian has compiled details of 52 incidents reported since 2015 involving Trump supporters.

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  45. Mister Bluster says:

    Violence in the name of Trump
    Since Trump embarked on his campaign for the US presidency in June 2015, dozens of attacks or threats involving his supporters have been reported. Here, the Guardian has compiled details of 52 incidents reported since 2015 involving Trump supporters.

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  46. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Do you think Republicans would understand if we paraphrased thus: For what is a party profited, if it shall gain the whole government, and lose its own soul?

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  47. Kit says:

    @MarkedMan:

    at no point in this descent was any Republican leader or collection of leaders able to muster enough of the party so as to halt the descent

    It certainly feels like people, parties and countries eventually enter a period of terminal decline.

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  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    There was a move afoot to change the names of their buildings from “churches” to “meeting houses,” but the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses caught wind of it and blocked them in court.

    ???? How do Mormons and JWs have a say in what people of a different religious persuasion call their houses of worship?

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  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    What we’re seeing is political sorting along several axes, one of which is IQ. Education is not a perfect stand-in for intelligence, but it’s close enough and education levels definitely track Trump supporters. Basically Trump is consolidating the stupid people vote while simultaneously alienating the smart vote. Stupid people hang out with other stupid people and reach consensus that Trump is their boy. Smart people hang out with smart people and quickly recognize that to keep their membership in the smart people club they’ll have to reject Trump.

    Doubling down on Trump: The less educated, the old, the rural, the religious, the white.

    The Never-Trumpers: The educated, the young, the urban and suburban, the secular and anyone who is not white.

    Bottom line: stupid people have found their guy. They may never get a chance to have one of their own in power again. So they’re going to ride that turd all the way down the swirling waters.

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  50. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Trump: “I love the poorly educated.” — Feb. 23, 2016, Las Vegas

    Of course.

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  51. Chip Daniels says:

    One of the things that gives me hope is that most people aren’t highly attuned political junkies, like those of us who read and comment on blogs like this.

    There was a famous observation that fascism doesn’t offer the promise of peace and prosperity, but the promise of eternal war and suffering.
    Most people don’t really want that. Most people just want an economy that delivers jobs and goods, and a government that can keep the streets clean and trash collected.

    Trump, and his vision- the Fox News vision of America- has failed to grow its audience. It collects only the fearful, the resentful, those who feel left behind and are looking for a scapegoat.

    I think this explains the collapse of Republicans in places like Orange County, CA. For small businessmen and middle management workers, the promise of a thrilling clash of cultures doesn’t resonate; for most, they are very invested in a society that is peaceful and that works smoothly and efficiently.

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  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Only to the extent that Republicans value their souls over their ability to control… so no, they wouldn’t.

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  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I was going for some hyperbolic snark. I should have prefaced it with “I’ve heard…”

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