I got a message on Reddit after a post discussing how the Republicans can come back in 2018 and 2020, and how Trump isn't the death of their party.
If Trump loses as often predicted, does the GOP stand a chance of winning in 2020?
The reason I'm asking you this question is I'm trying help a friend of mine who is among the center-right #NeverTrump crowd, and understandably despairing over the state of the party, to try and give him some hope things will inevitably work themselves out the better for Republican/Conservative voters like him.
There was more but you get the idea. Here's my answer:
Saying the Republican Party "can't be stuck in the 1980s," Kasich described Portman, a former colleague in the U.S. House, as representing "21st Century thinking" on the environment, civil rights and other issues.
Right now, the Democrats feel like they are ascendant, triumphant. It is unthinkable that the Republicans could challenge them. The Presidential election is as good as won, the Democrats very possibly could take back control of the Senate, and as soon as the 2020 redistricting goes through the Democrats will fix the problems in the House and take back control of it. You don’t have to look hard to find plenty of liberals and Democrats with this mindset today, confident that Trump has doomed the Republican Party.
It’s a familiar refrain for me, because I heard the same thing after the 2004 elections. Bush had been re-elected. The Republicans increased their majorities in the Senate and House. State constitutional amendments banning gay marriage passed in eleven states. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah. Clearly the country liked how the Republicans were handling the economy, didn’t approve of liberal social policies, and trusted the Republicans to handle national security and the war.
Two and four years later, all that changed. Because that’s the only constant in politics, change. And in 2008, the Democrats were ascendant. The Republicans had bungled the economy. The wars were dragging on. And so on, and so on. American politics swings like a pendulum.
The damage Trump is doing to the GOP is, I think, overstated. People have short memories. And people also love rebranding. What Trump does is make ideas toxic. He’s made those ideas of the Republicans that were stuck in the last century toxic, so that the Republicans can more readily discard them. Trump is the rock bottom that will facilitate the necessary rehabilitation of the party.
It’s difficult for an incumbent to be unseated, unless that incumbent is seen as the third term of a two term president. It hasn’t happened often, but the Reagan and Bush administrations are a good parallel. Anything that goes wrong between now and 2020 will be blamed on Clinton, on the fact that the Democrats have had the presidency for twelve years. It’s extremely unlikely that Clinton will accomplish anything positive, certainly anything substantive to resolve the serious problems we face as a country.
On top of that, she lacks the charisma that Bill has (or had), and possesses all the arrogance and then some. It will be an endless four years of scandal, and not only will there not be a single republican on her side, but she’ll be alienating progressives, libertarians, on and on. Numerous people, Democratic voters presumably, have said that if Clinton doesn’t play ball with the left she can “simply” be primaried. Of course, that’s not happened since before the Republican Party existed, but it’s the “carrot” they’re holding out to us, probably with the hope that we’ll just forget between now and 2019 or so.
There’s a road map for the Republicans to come back in 2018 and 2020, and that is to abandon social conservatism and adopt some more libertarian ideas. I think you’ll see a lot of outreach to libertarians leading up to 2018. The focus will be Small Government, and anti-corruption. Those will be the two areas where Clinton is the weakest, and where libertarians and even aging social conservatives see eye to eye. It is a message that will succeed in states like Texas and Georgia.
I would advise the center-right Republicans to 1) accept that Clinton is winning this year, 2) vote for Gary Johnson and make it clear it’s because they’re small government and for national unity, and 3) work to bring together libertarians and social conservatives going into 2018 and 2020. Make no mistake, the GOP is down but it is not out, and there is a lot of opportunity for them over the next four years. And there are a lot of GOP strategists and thinkers who recognize this and are working towards that end.
It’s also worth noting that the GOP has unprecedented dominance at the state level. There are 23 states where the governor, upper chamber, and lower chambers are controlled by Republicans. In 31 states the upper and lower chambers are both controlled by Republicans. This will give them a huge advantage in controlling those 2018 and 2020 elections. Some of their abilities may be curtailed by the Supreme Court with Hillary appointees on it, but this will just strengthen the positions of libertarians and encourage Clinton opponents. Now, what the Democrats are hoping is that, in 2020, in state level districts for state senate and state house that were thoroughly gerrymandered in 2010, they can win those seats so that they can “repair” the gerrymandering in a direction favorable to them.
What this ignores is that, in order to win these seats, the Democrats need candidates. They need candidates for governor, for state senator, for state representative, for US House representative, for US Senate, for all the jobs like Treasurer and Auditor and state-level Secretary of State. And in many states, those candidates aren’t there. This is because there’s been that 6 years of gerrymandering, and probably ten by 2020, where young candidates don’t have a chance to come up through the ranks. Obama, before he was President, was a US Senator. Before that, a state senator. In Ohio this year there is a Senate election between the Republican incumbent, and the best the Democrats can put forward is the former Democrat governor, who had the misfortune of being the state’s chief executive when the financial crisis hit in 2009, and who wound up taking the blame for the results of that crash. He has a very good chance of losing to Portman, the Republican incumbent. And he was the guy chosen by the state level Democratic establishment. In a lot of ways, there isn’t anybody else.
In 2010 when the GOP gerrymandered Ohio more so than it already was , they went with Packing instead of Cracking. Say you have a metropolitan area that normally votes solid blue. Cracking will split that area between multiple districts, each having a little bit of the metro area and a massive bit of the wealthy suburbs and rural areas. This didn’t work out too hot in 2008 in central Ohio, which was split between OH-7, OH-12, and OH-15. After very expensive and contentious fights, including one in the recount margin, the Democrats took OH-12 and OH-15. After the 2010 census and the following redistricting, the GOP remedied this by packing the Columbus metro area into a new OH-3, a district carefully drawn street by precious lefty street to ensure that conservative votes were in OH-12 and OH-15, and liberal votes were in OH-3. This meant that while OH-3 will always be represented by a liberal, the GOP and DNC doesn’t have to spend money to run contested elections in central Ohio.
This also means that the OH-3 representative becomes somebody so liberal that they can’t hope to be elected to a statewide office. So it limits the future prospects of any career politician in OH-3 or the other Packed districts in Ohio. Anybody who could run on a wider level is too liberal to win. But on the Republican side, gerrymandering frees up libertarian and centrist Republican candidates to run and win, because if they can make it through the primary, they have an effectively guaranteed general election. This is the mechanism by which the party can be pulled both towards the center and towards libertarianism, and also one which gives the Democrats a harder path to make the miracle turnaround they need in 2020 to control the redistricting.
Republicans are mocked online now. I remember as a leftist being attacked and mocked online plenty in the 2000s for being anti war, especially since I opposed it from the start. Being pro gay didn’t help. This happens. But the mockery and demonization has a backlash. Young voters coming up who want to be individuals and iconoclasts, independent people, will see that mockery and align themselves against it.
So here’s my prediction.
The Republicans soften on social conservative issues. They point to the corruption and inefficiency and arrogance of the Democratic Party under Clinton’s leadership. It won’t be hard. She’ll give them no shortage of opportunity. The GOP looks at the relative popularity of the Libertarians this year, not just with young up and coming voters but with already established Republicans. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Reid Ribble from Wisconsin (a House rep), and more, they’ve all indicated they might vote for Gary Johnson, and in so doing indicated their support for the Libertarians. The Republicans reach out to the Libertarians. A lot will come over, some won’t. Some social conservatives will leave the GOP in disgust, but most won’t, for the same reason a lot of progressives stay with the Democrats. I know, because they’re my relatives. With a rebuilt and rebranded Small Government Anti Corruption Conservative Coalition, the GOP could become a place for centrist Republicans, and libertarians, for young and old voters, and could go on to win big. Or at least, not have the losses in 2020 that they’d need for the Democrats to put them in the ground.
In closing, every party is at its best after it is declared dead. It’s a freeing experience.
Here’s some reading: