Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Possible Futures of the Post-Trump Republican Party

If Trump loses this election, as seems increasingly likely, what is next for the Grand Old Party? If you're to read one article about this question, I do believe the best currently available is Nicholas Lemann's in the latest issue of the New Yorker. The first part of the article is a very nice summary of the steps that took the Republican party from its Chamber of Commerce pro-business roots to the fusion of business interests, nativism and militarism promoted by William F. Buckley, Jr. to the triumph of the fusionist approach with Ronald Reagan to its dissolution with the astonishing takeover of the party by Donald Trump.
Given the current state of the party, Lemann outlines three possible futures for a post-Republican party that will vie for dominance: Remnant, Restoration and Reversal.
Remnant: Trumpism without Trump; making his formula work with a different leader
Restoration: Conventional, norm-respecting Republicans take back control, updating the fusionist formula with a bit more populism and bit more social liberalism
Reversal: The Republicans become the tribune of the working middle class against a Democratic party in thrall to big economic interests and educated elites more interested in extreme social liberalism and pet causes than the lives of ordinary Americans.
Of the three, I guess I'd bet on Remnant for now. The party just seems too dominated by Trump's approach, particularly at the grassroots, to quickly pivot to the status quo ante--Restoration--because of an election loss, even a big one. The rot is too deep, as, for example, the Never Trumpers at the Bulwark argue convincingly. And the Reversal scenario, while an interesting idea, with some serious intellectuals behind it, seems fanciful given the still-huge influence of big and very conservative economic interests, in the party, whose libertarian economic philosophy seems quite at adds with helping the working class.
It will be very interesting to see how all this shakes out.

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