Can they win without him?
Most Republicans in leadership weren’t big fans of Donald Trump when he first announced his candidacy for the Republican Party primary in 2015. That’s no secret.
Trump spent the majority of his life as a Democrat prior to 2015, after all. He was a reality television star and real estate tycoon with no previous political experience. Plus, Republican Party leadership had other plans for their nominee.
Those plans did not include Donald Trump.
Trump made disliking him easy for leadership Republicans during the 2016 primary, it must be admitted. From insulting nicknames to throwing around the considerable weight of his online Twitter following, Trump seemed to revel in openly antagonizing his more stolid competition.
In part, it was this antagonistic attitude toward leadership Republicans — it must also be admitted — which endeared Trump to so many disenchanted working-class Republican voters wearied sick by a decade-long losing streak to the left on everything from elections to the culture war.
On this side of the Trump years, members of the Republican Party old guard like former House Speaker Paul Ryan are fond of warning that the Republican Party’s Pied Piper is leading conservatives right off a cliff.
“A couple of factors, but I personally think the evidence is really clear,” Paul Ryan said during a recent post-midterm interview. “The biggest factor was the Trump factor.”
“Just look at Chris Sununu, he ran ahead of Bolduc in New Hampshire,” Ryan went on. “Look at where Kemp ran ahead of Walker in Georgia. So I think we would have clearly won the Senate had we had traditional Republicans in the general election like these governors did. I think we would have won places like Arizona, places like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire had we had a traditional conservative Republican, not a Trump Republican.”
“What we now know is it’s pretty clear with Trump, we lose,” said Mr. Ryan. “So I don’t mean this personally: It’s just evidence. We lost the House in ’18. We lost the presidency in ’20, and the Senate in ’20, now in 2022, we should have and could have won the Senate. We didn’t, and we have a lower majority in the House because of the Trump factor. It’s palpable right now. We get past Trump, we start winning elections. We stick with Trump, we keep losing elections.”
In deference to Mr. Ryan, it could also be argued that the Republican Party was in the business of losing long before the specter of Donald Trump crossed the threshold of Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated election night victory party at the Javits Center in 2016.
Two George W. Bush terms, which Republicans just managed to pull off by the slimmest of margins, were already far in the rearview mirror by 2016. And the Bush years were hardly glory days for the Republican Party.
President George W. Bush, like his Democratic Party counterparts, spent too much money, entangled the U.S. in foreign wars, expanded the size of the U.S. federal government, hollowed out the Middle Class, destroyed American manufacturing, wiped small-town America off the economic map, exploited low-wage workers in emerging nations, decimated the global environment, grew the wealth gap to catastrophic proportions, and bankrupted the next generation.
Neither party has been willing to admit the truth about what globalization did to the United States and the world; not in 2016 and not now. Both parties are, in this, responsible for Donald Trump.
In 2016, Republicans rage-voted for Donald Trump because Republican Party leadership tried to give them Jeb Bush. Only a party running full-time from the sins of its previous administration — a full 8-years before — and refusing to admit failure — even after 8 years of it — could have been so out-of-touch with the electorate.
Where are all the benefits of globalization? Where are all those “shovel-ready” green jobs Obama promised?
People still can’t afford health care; people still can’t afford to go to college. Those two issues, perhaps more than any others, both parties have ignored for far too long at their peril, leaving the field wide open for an “outsider” — from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump — who promises to do something — anything.
The Republican Party isn’t losing because they are too much in thrall to Donald Trump or not enough; the Republican Party is losing elections for the same reason the Democratic Party is losing elections: A failure to deliver on the American promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In modern parlance, the pursuit of happiness should have included an equal share in the economic largesse of globalization. Instead, both parties allowed way too much wealth to be captured by the 1% of the 1%.
Voters want prosperity and security. Until they see deliverables from their political leaders, anyone claiming to be an outsider has a chance.
Even Donald Trump.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)