With so much in the headlines recently, it would have been easy to pass over a significant development in the Republican Party. On September 17, 2017, the New York Times released a confidential memo from the Senate Leadership Fund to Republican donors explaining the implications of the Alabama Senate special election. In it, the establishment wing of the GOP, including Mitch McConnell and his allies, concede that the Republican Party is Trump’s now.
The Senate Leadership Fund explains that the neoliberal branch of the GOP had been able to hold off the angry insurgent nationalist wing of the party in 2010 and 2014. “However, this year’s Alabama Senate special election shows that the 2014-16 playbook for winning Republican primaries needs to be recalibrated and improved….[The] electorate has dramatically realigned itself with President Trump at the helm,” states the memo.
One of the main points of the memo states “Donald Trump is the dominant factor driving GOP voters.” It explains that “no other person, group or issue has the gravitational pull on Republican primary voters [than] Donald Trump commands.” It goes on to outline that Republican voters have more favorable views of Trump than of the party itself. Republican voters are still angry, despite Barack Obama no longer serving in office. The Republican congress is now the new target. They view Trump’s legislative failures as the fault of Congress’ ineptitude, not the president’s, 79 percent of their voters prefer Trump’s vision for the party and only 27 percent of Trump supporters are “satisfied” with the Republicans in D.C.
The major fundraising branch of the Republican Senate has now conceded that the previous agenda of the party is subordinate to Trump’s rhetoric and vision. The worrying problem is that Trump has no political principles. Over the last two and a half years, the only ideologically consistent feature of Trump has been his racism. It drives his rhetoric about building a wall and “American carnage.” It drives his tweets about NFL athletes kneeling. It drives his policy toward Hurricane relief. If most GOP voters favor Trump’s vision for the nation, they are willingly or unwittingly in agreement with his vision of a majority white nation.
Whether the Republican Party can, or even wants to, separate itself from Trump is no longer clear. Trump is popular among their voters. After nearly 60 years of dog-whistling, his explicit barks that claim white grievance and victimization are a powerful force among the GOP base. What this means is that there will be now and in the future a permanent far-right white nationalist party in the country, whether that is the GOP or not.
Photo from Wiki Commons.