Fall is here. School begins and we are less than sixty days away from the Presidential election. In the heyday of summer, Trump’s chances of victory seemed like a super long-shot. Now they seem more real. Liberals are having mixed views on whether we should be freaking out or not. Even more Trump-friendly 538 says don’t freak out too much yet. But Clinton had a very bad week last week, and now Trump as President is a much more distinct possibility. The questions is why and where do we go from here. Some thoughts:
1. A Trump victory is the death of small government conservatism.
Trump came out with a parental-leave/childcare plan. The plan is not that great and funded by fantasies of savings in unemployment insurance but it is a plan and Trump felt compelled to release one. Republican politicians have typically downplayed or dismissed the need for parental leave policies. The biggest lesson from Trump’s win of the nomination and potentially the Presidency is that small-government conservatism as advocated by the GOP for my entire life appeals to only a small set of the population and probably a very wealthy part of the population. Some GOP policy wonks have become disheartened at hearing that people supported small government for the wrong reasons.
The small government conservatives are not going away. They still command opinion publications like National Review and The Weekly Standard but they are now diminished in position.
Back when the UK voted for Brexit, Jamelle Bouie at Slate argued that UK’s Brexit vote might have been based on white resentment but it won’t give us Donald Trump because the US is more diverse as a nation.
This is true. The US is much more diverse than the UK and is getting more so every year. Demographic changes can make a former purple state into a solidly blue state. They can also turn a solidly blue state into a red state. My guess is that while long-term trends might be more favorable to the Democratic Party, they are not quite there yet. States like Iowa are turning red at a faster clip than states like North Carolina and Arizona are turning purple or blue.
Donald Trump’s supporters are still much more overwhelmingly white than the nation overall. Basing an electoral strategy on an older and dying part of the electorate is not great as a long-term strategy but it can be good in the short term. Enough fear of change and irrelevancy can help Donald Trump win in November.
3. The media and Trump’s scandals.
To call Trump a flawed human being is an understatement. Trump seems to be a spectacularly corrupt human being by any reasonable standard. Yet many liberals feel that the media is too easy on Trump. Or that Trump has worn out our ability to be shocked.
I agree with many people that Trump is a uniquely horrible and corrupt candidate and possibly one of the worst ever offered by a major party in American history. But I never thought that Trump would be defeated in an epic landslide.
There still seems to be a vague notion that the Presidency is not a partisan political office. The President is supposed to be some kind of above-the-fray Tribune of all the People and bring the bickering and partisan Congress together. This is an outdated and sentimental notion. The United States is long past the age when both parties were big tent and competitive nearly everywhere. There were always Republican and Democratic strongholds but I suspect the number of strongholds will increase as time moves on. We are becoming more partisan as a nation. Split-ticket voting is declining rapidly. The idea of seeing the opposition as morally bankrupt and illegitimate is also rising. I suspect that very few Presidents will see wide-spread approval ratings in the future and close elections will be the norm. I suspect that a lot of small-government conservatives are not bigoted and are shocked at seeing how well white nationalism can do as vote-getter.
4. A final thought
Lastly, I suspect that the parties are going to become more divided along racial, ethnic, and class lines and our political discourse is going to be filled with bad blood for decades to come.