Even the most ardent Republican, whether they admit of it or not, knows how the Trump Campaign has come apart, and is losing its ability to appeal to a majority or even a large plurality of the American electorate.
But lost in this entertaining, scary, historical, and dramatic meltdown is just how divided the GOP is, and how the 2016 campaign has done nothing but highlight its weakness and how deep the rot goes in the Party of Lincoln.
We must view the most ardent Trump supporters at this stage as being those of the old Dixiecrat Wing of the old pre Civil Rights Democratic Party. It is the segment of the American right that is the haven of the old Confederacy, white heritage, and the lost cause. It includes the most virulently racist segment of the white Northern population as well. The evidence for it is just how many white nationalists believing still in white supremacy have loudly proclaimed their support for Trump, and view his coming with delight and hope that white supremacy in America will be maintained. Now this is a very large segment of the American electorate. We are actually talking about one in three Americans nationwide. Not all are out and out racists, but they all hold distinctly intolerant views and stereotypes of minorities deeply rooted in their collective psyche.
Then there are the establishment Republicans who make up another ten to fifteen percent of the American electorate. Both wings of the party include conservative leaning independent voters as well. Though many somewhat more moderate Republicans living predominately in the North have out of party loyalty backed the Trump nomination, they have shown distinct signs of being uncomfortable with it. These are the white college educated suburban so called “country club” Republicans who were more comfortable with both John McCain and Mitt Romney. While they have repudiated the so called “Republican Establishment,” they actually represent a more reality based, tolerant wing of the GOP.
Then there is a fragment of the party that wants a more libertarian take on Republicanism that often crosses between both divided wings.
The most obvious indicators of this division electorally are that the libertarian fragment is actively looking now to the Gary Johnson/William Weld ticket of the actual Libertarian Party. There is potential, and likely will be converts for establishment and more educated Republicans who just can’t vote for Trump, and yet who are looking for competent leadership to vote FOR, excluding Hillary Clinton. While a surge in the popularity of Gary Johnson may draw a few Democrats, the overwhelming numbers will be Republicans and conservatives.
Then there are the #NeverTrump establishment figures that now have a long time GOP staffer, and a man who appears to be honest and very conservative. But he is an unknown and is not suited to being President just yet. Essentially, he’d make an ideal candidate for the Congress, and then perhaps a jump for the nation’s highest office. This only further divides the effort.
The 45% of the American electorate that will always vote for a Republican are still there and are as stout and steadfast as ever. Oddly, this election is not about the Tea Party per se. The Tea Party is the Republican Party. The old moderate establishment is not the dog any longer, but only the tail that tries to wag the dog. Their positions have now reversed completely.
And the reliably Republican voter is actually part of the bleeding. Republican women are showing by polling distinct signs of in small, yet significant numbers of crossing over to voting for Hillary Clinton. Her historic campaign, bringing a female candidate to the brink of being President, has influenced them and is influencing them. After all, they are women and control of their bodies and the women’s equal pay issues are real to them. They may be pro-life as to abortion itself, but are not wedded to the pro-life movement on contraception and access to women’s healthcare. And the Democrats emphasis on children and family, once the province of GOP domination has been lost in the apocalyptic convention they had.
As some pundits have already pointed out, you just can’t win a national election with only the older white male vote.
There is an underlying structural fragmentation of an already divided conservative America. And it is not totally due to Donald Trump. The GOP’s long, slow bleeding out is what has produced a Donald Trump candidacy. And here the legacy of Tea Party extremism is central to it. Trump’s effect on the party is, and will continue to be driving a deeper series of wedges into an already fracturing GOP.
This structural weakness will not go away; even should Trump leave the race. It is far too late for anything like that to repair the rifts, the weaknesses that are there. If Trump left, Republicans would begin the recriminations prior to the actual November election. Should he stay the course we already know the disaster he is.
And they would once again be left with undeniable evidence that maintaining a party so hostile to non-white voting blocs is even more untenable than it was in 2008, and 2012. They can still win lower turnout off-year elections, but that window too is closing. There are a great number of non-white voters who cannot stomach the party’s indifference, or outright hostility to people of color. The GOP has not followed the prescription offered in its 2012 assessment of the Obama re-election success.
While the Democratic Party has a structural division within it between the pro-business, and corporate moderate Democrats, and the party’s progressive wing, the fence mending and a distinctly more progressive new sort of platform has kept the party strong and resilient in ways the GOP just is not. Save for a historic scandal that would actually get Hillary Clinton locked up, she will be our next President, and the electoral minds in the GOP know it now.
Against a real top notch and more moderate Republican conservative, Clinton would face an election down to the wire. That just is not going to happen this election cycle. The race may tighten up, but the electoral center of gravity is more likely to keep the race in safe territory for Clinton. Should the lead she has widen at all, we are looking at a landslide, and it will bring the Senate back to the Democrats. It may even give them more seats in a Republican House of Representatives. This mess is affecting down ballot races already, and that may only intensify.
And no matter who goes where among the now three viable candidates for Republican votes, they are not all going to go in the one place needed. It is not the total vote for conservative candidates that wins it. It is who gets a viable 270 electoral votes or more. That path to 270 that was barely there over a month ago for the GOP is now a forlorn hope.
Hillary Clinton and most down ballot Democrats can expect support of at least something distinctly over that 45 % level of in-play viability. The GOP cannot count on that at all; the forces are simply too strong flowing in the other direction.
The deep structural cracks in the GOP look like they will break the party as we have known it, and bring Democrats an even larger victory than in 2012, or perhaps even 2008. Republicans do not have enough fingers to keep holding the cracks in the dike that are bound to bring a flood of disaster in November.
Thomas Martin Saturday
For Struggles for Justice