The Republican Party, lost in the wilderness

Donald Trump behind Hillary Clinton at 2nd presidential debate.

Donald Trump behind Hillary Clinton at 2nd presidential debate.

Elections are about math, and, with about 27 days to go before the 2016 elections, the math is not looking good for Republicans. Donald Trump is not only losing the presidential election, he may be taking down the GOP with him, including its majority in the U.S. Senate, and even jeopardizing the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Trump is now engaged in a bloody battle with leading Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in America, as well as GOP stalwarts such as John McCain. Panic is setting in among some Republican office holders and donors alike, and Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are exploiting this GOP Civil War. Where did things go so wrong?

A good place to look is the 2013 “Autopsy Report” published by the Republican National Committee after the GOP’s 2012 election losses, which included not just the White House for the second time in a row, but also the loss of seats in the Senate and the House (the GOP House majority remained safe due to Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts following the 2010 Census, but that gets revisited in 2020). Reince Priebus, the RNC Chairman at the time (and still Chairman), had the report commissioned, and it clearly concluded that the Republican Party needed to reach out to women, blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays and other groups. Three months later, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina similarly said that the GOP was in a “demographic death spiral” regarding Hispanic voters, and that Republicans had to, at a minimum, pass comprehensive immigration reform. While the GOP-led Senate did pass an immigration reform bill by an overwhelming and bipartisan 68-32 vote just days after Graham’s comments, the GOP-led House continues to block the bill. Since then, Republicans have visibly failed to reach out to these groups, and Donald Trump’s open hostility to them is viewed by some as a natural consequence.

Indeed, the Republicans have long enjoyed the benefits of their white resentment strategy. Richard Nixon‘s staffers termed this the “Southern Strategy” as far back as 1968. That strategy came about in part after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The South turned solidly Republican thereafter, most notably in Congress. During Ronald Reagan‘s campaigns and presidency, the Republican Party also aligned itself with white religious constituencies like the Moral Majority and Evangelical Christians, most of whom preached hatred against gays.

That Southern Strategy may now be cracking up. For example, at the presidential level, Hillary Clinton is now ahead of Donald Trump in Florida, which is all-important for a Republican presidential victory. Barack Obama also won Florida in 2008 and 2012. Likewise, Virginia appears to have become Democratic, as Obama won there in 2008 and 2012 and Clinton is now well ahead of Trump. North Carolina is a battleground state, won by Obama in 2008 but narrowly lost in 2012. Currently, Clinton leads in North Carolina. Moving west, things don’t look much better for Republicans, such as in traditionally red Arizona. Even Utah, one of the reddest states in the nation, has Clinton tied with Trump. In addition, we all know how quickly U.S. opinion, especially the opinion of young Americans, changed in favor of marriage equality.

Clearly, not all of this can be blamed on Donald Trump. As Lindsey Graham referenced earlier, the increase in Latino population in the U.S., something the RNC recognized in its 2013 Autopsy Report, continues apace. At the same time, Trump has given loud voice to what Latinos, blacks, women, LGBT Americans, Asians, gays and others already knew: the Republican Party does not have their back. Simple math dictates that, with these groups growing in both number and clout, a continued ideology of white resentment and intolerance towards minorities is not only morally repugnant, it’s also doomed to fail at the voting booth.

Photo by Mike Licht, used under Creative Commons license.

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