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Trump’s Bankrupt GOP

Election Night 2014 [1] was a triumphant night for professional Republicans. They had seemingly beaten back and vanquished the barbarians of whatever was left of the Thing That Had Been Called the Tea Party. They had run smart, slick, sane campaigns in purple states like Colorado. Most importantly, they had expanded their majority in the House of Representatives and won control of the Senate—an outcome that seemed well within their grasp during the previous midterm cycle of 2010.

I clicked off my computer that night, demoralized. The party, despite all appearances, had learned absolutely nothing.

It had won for the wrong reasons: by simply being the out-party in the sixth year of a presidential administration. By resisting any painful or politically inconvenient tradeoffs in the pursuit of conservative priorities like healthcare or entitlement reform.

By being—and this was the clincher—the party of white Americans.

With lower turnout from youth and minorities, and thus a greater proportion of older, white voters, midterm elections had become Republicans’ security blanket: Everything’s fine; no need to change a thing.

I remained convinced in November 2014 that the Republican Party was too rightwing—but on that night, and thereafter, who would listen? (And by “too rightwing,” I hardly mean too conservative. The Cruz-led GOP [2] was not a conservative party marked by realism, restraint, and incremental reform—but rather by strategic radicalism, ethnic revanchism, fiscal retrenchment, and cultural reaction.)

Lordy, I had no idea how convulsively bad things would get.

With a mix of amusement and horror I have watched Donald Trump strut into this ideological vacuum. And in that vacuum Trump found a skeleton key of sorts—a key to GOP coalition-building that has been in plain view for anyone with eyes to see it.


That skeleton key is white backlash. The dirty secret was that the stereotypically “moderate,” pragmatic Northeastern Republican voter has more in common with his white brethren in Alabama than with, say, Michael Bloomberg.

Richard Nixon and Roger Stone knew this. George H.W. Bush may not have known this—but Lee Atwater surely [3] did. John McCain may not have known this—but is there a better other explanation than white backlash for why he outpolled [4] George W. Bush in Appalachia?

Race—more specifically, the maintenance, through public policy and custom, of the cultural and financial predominance of whites—is the great through-line of American politics. Yet race prejudice is not an original sin of the conservative movement. If one locates the movement in utero in the politics of Robert Taft Republicans, conservatism formed as an antistatist recoil from unionism and the regulation of labor markets and industry; deep suspicion of internationalism and foreign entanglements; and stringent anticommunism.

The racial baggage of Southern Jeffersonian conservatism (which I am defining in contradistinction to the midwestern conservatism of Taft, proto-movement lecturer Clarence Manion, the industrialist Walter Kohler, and others) began to seep into the movement at large in the years following World War II.

Historian Kevin M. Kruse, in his  book White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, has documented how, even before suburbanization began in earnest, resistance to desegregation “thoroughly reshaped southern conservatism.” He writes: “Traditional conservative elements, such as hostility to the federal government and faith in free enterprise, underwent fundamental transformations. At the same time, segregationist resistance inspired the creation of new conservative causes, such as tuition vouchers, the tax revolt, and the privatization of public services”—causes that came to be associated with the Sunbelt conservatism of Reagan and Goldwater.

And before LBJ had famously declared the South lost to Democrats because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Republicans began making inroads in the South in the 1962 congressional midterm elections. In his Goldwater-friendly narrative political history Before the Storm, leftist historian Rick Perlstein captures the right’s inchoate reaction to President Kennedy merely making noise about a civil rights act and, more pointedly, activating federal marshals to ensure the matriculation of a black student at the University of Mississippi.

He wrote:

In Alabama, thirty-seven-year congressional veteran Lister Hill was challenged for the first time in a general election. His Republican opponent, Gadsen oil distributor James Martin, lost by nine-tenths of a percent. In the race for the congressional seat representing Tennessee’s Ninth District, Memphis—which hadn’t seen a GOP candidate since 1936—the Republican came even closer. GOP congressional candidates across the South polled over two million votes in 1962. They had received 606,000 in the last off-year election. The Republicans, for an ever increasing number of Southerners, were carpetbaggers no more.

White backlash has historically been defined as resistance to civil rights legislation, or any proactive attempt to advance black equality. It is more than that. White backlash was a critical ingredient to the appeal of “law-and-order” politics of Nixon. It accounted for the receptivity of white voters to Reaganite tales of black indolence and “welfare queens.” White backlash is not necessarily, or is not always, the product of personal bigotry. It can be, rather, a species of emotional vertigo. The demographic panic over Latinos and Muslims experienced by many white voters today may be summed in in the title of a Michael Moore screed—Dude, Where’s My Country?

It must be noted that white backlash has not redounded to the benefit only of Republican politicians. Bill Clinton—whose centrist political profile was shaped in part by the legatees of the old Democrats for Nixon campaign—benefitted mightily from white backlash. Hillary Clinton, in 2008, handily won primary contests in states like West Virginia almost entirely as a result of white backlash. Former Sen. Jim Webb ran this year as the candidate of white backlash—and his dismal showing is proof of how little purchase such a campaign has today among the modern Democratic party.

But among Republicans: Just look, and lament, at what Trump has exposed.

I would scarcely doubt evidence showing that the Trump campaign was a controlled experiment in what makes GOP voters tick. The remnants of the Tea Party, the biblically literate Evangelicals, the remaining adherents to the old Reagan coalition: They went for Cruz. The well-heeled suburban “moderates” (staunch conservatives by any reasonable definition—surely not moderate in the sense that New Jersey Sen. Clifford Case would have recognized): They went for Rubio or Kasich.

And they were all stomped by the juggernaut of white backlash that is Trump. What about Trump’s appeal to the victims of deindustrialization and stagnant wages? Please.

The man has led consistently national polls of GOP voters from the moment he entered the race last summer and promised to build a wall to keep out the browns. As the Republican party recovers from the looming disaster that is The Trump-an Show, some will ask if the old coalition can be rebuilt.

I ask: Why would you even want to?

Scott Galupo is a freelance writer living in Arlington, Va.

66 Comments (Open | Close)

66 Comments To "Trump’s Bankrupt GOP"

#1 Comment By Reflectionephemeral On May 12, 2016 @ 7:08 pm

Steve Krune writes, “I will say that I have zero interest in hearing about how my or anyone else’s motivations for voting for Trump and supporting immigration restriction are racial, as opposed to economic. Being less well-off than one’s parents is unpleasant and having to compete in a labor market that’s predicated upon organized law-breaking is no fun either.”

If that were the issue, you’d be pushing for fines of employers. When jobs dry up, people stop coming– net immigration from Mexico fell below zero in the wake of the Great Recession. (And, of course, you’d be pushing for a Sanders-like program designed to actually improve the lot of the less well-off).

Instead, we get fantasies of walls against Muslims and rapist Mexicans.

And as Jamie notes, Trump burst on the scene as a Republican politician by… saying that the president was born in Kenya. That’s how Trump topped the polls in April 2011. That’s the support Romney was hoping for when he sought Trump’s endorsement & accepted it at a press conference.

Support for Trump is 100% pure resentment, all the way down.

#2 Comment By AZ Joe On May 12, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

In the 1970s I was laid off. During the layoff I found another job. Before I started the new job my old employer wanted to recall me, but I thanked them and told them I had found a new job. Before starting I was notified that the offer was rescinded because they needed more diversity in the workforce. I explained to them that I had given up the right to be recalled. At first they didn’t care. I notified the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that I had lost a job because I’m a white male. They told me the commission was not created “for situations like yours.” In fairness to this employer they ultimately realized the bind they put me in and hired me anyway.

In the 1980s I applied for a position for which I was highly qualified by education and experience. After my interview I was told they really wanted to hire me but, as a white male, they had to justify in writing why I would be hired ahead of a less qualified woman or minority. Ultimately, I did get the job.

I like to think of myself as a fair-minded guy who has no desire to discriminate against anyone, but you’ll have to excuse me if life experience has taught me to factor in that there or those who wouldn’t hesitate to harm me, as a white male. This does influence my vote.

#3 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 12, 2016 @ 9:05 pm

Colm J:

“It’s quite amusing in a grim sort of way to see how Trump’s PC critics steadfastly avoid the issue of Neocon hawks. One could argue quite plausibly that western military interventions are the ultimate expression of racial supremacism – in that they are based on a tacit premise that western liberals know better than the inhabitants of the invaded countries how those countries should be run. And of course such wars have inflicted far more pain and suffering on non-whites than any remarks made by Trump on the subject of Mexican migrants. Yet liberal anti-Trumpers – even when they oppose some or all of these invasions – still don’t see such violent imperialism as anywhere near as morally repugnant as having a comparatively tough immigration policy.”

Maybe that is because the liberals figure that, with Trump, they are not likely to get any fewer or better wars, PLUS all the extra racism, xenophobia, religious bigotry, personal venom, misogyny, incompetence, ignorance, etc that comes with Trump.

#4 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 12, 2016 @ 9:07 pm


“The hypocrisy is astounding. Non-whites have been voting race since 1865.”

Most “non whites” could not even vote at all until a considerable time after 1865. And I can’t imagine why, when they did get the vote, they tended to vote on racial issues!

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 12, 2016 @ 11:17 pm

I am going to bite my tongue on most of these until a later date as tempting as it might be.

But this comment,

“The hypocrisy is astounding. Non-whites have been voting race since 1865.”

If you this exclusively you are historically incorrect and incorrect since 1865.

After 1865, when free blacks could vote, they did not vote exclusively for the small number of blacks who could actually run for office. The idea that they would not vote for blacks seems an odd burden since the means by which groups advanced was o be supportive of like minded, like situated circumstances.

But given the number of possible position available, and the eagerness to participate as free men, it is a dubious suggestion that blacks engaged in the kind of exclusive color dynamic as whites either north or south. And a scant look at the history of voting north, south west and east would most likely reveal a similar situation. Sure the blacks who lived in in black communities who had politicians to select from would by definition vote exclusively black.

But your comment reflects the type of bent analysis as some others. And that will take some time to address, largely, because it’s old hat and I am none to eager to do so.

#6 Comment By M_Young On May 12, 2016 @ 11:44 pm

“The illegalities are beside the point — if you’re dependent upon police power to be more well-off than your parents, you’ve already lost. The police cannot make your work valuable.”

Which is why the software and entertainment industries don’t give a hoot about pirating, copyright, etc. That’s why you never hear about ICE seizing knock of Chanel goods. That’s why private businesses never use the cops to remove unwanted folks from their establishments.

#7 Comment By M_Young On May 12, 2016 @ 11:55 pm

“You owe me an apology.”

Even the very first sentence in your Wiki link says the Neshoba speech was ‘part’ of Reagan’s campaign; nothing about ‘kicking off’ or inaugurating, etc.

There is a huge difference a campaign anouncement or inaugural speech and, what Neshoba truly was, a standard campaign stop 2 weeks after the GOP convention, 2 months after RWR clinched the nomination, or 10 months after RWR actually inaugurated his campaign — in NYC.

#8 Comment By Sean Scallon On May 13, 2016 @ 10:07 am

“Just look, and lament, at what Trump has exposed.”

What he’s exposed is ideology in the current political context is meaningless to many, many voters. Oh sure, they may pay lip service to it and there are some who are passionate about the Fair Tax or prayer in the public schools. But when you get down to its essence it’s hard not to conclude that race underlies all considerations as well as our politics. As someone pointed out on another website, some of the biggest political realignments in the nation’s history (1860, 1932 and 1980) were underlined by race.

L. Brent Bozell ran for political office in Maryland in 1958 and was beaten badly. What he reckoned from that experience was that voters really had no innate “conservatism” which affected how they voted as conservatives had often believed in the past. Instead a conservative electorate had to be created and had to be done so out of the broad middle class which came out of World War II. Instead of old factory men from the Midwest or rich planters from the South, the new “conservatism” was created from the America of the suburb or the sunbelt or the urban working class neighborhoods. Because the New Deal had worked all too well, a class of people was created from working class who would be conservative for two reasons 1). Defense of property and 2). Defense of values. The job security questions of the past would be low on the telephone pole compared to rungs one and two.

And it worked! A powerful and successful political movement was created from virtually nothing with ordinary citizens instead of just the well-off. But the underlying reason was the white portion of that middle class (practically all of it) View those terms through their own self-interest and unfortunately race was a big part of this self-interest. Questions of Communism or morality or the size of government could mask such self-interest and had done so for a long time. But that was easy to do when the country was 90 percent white. Change the percentages and it becomes impossible to hide it.

So it stands to reason a declining middle class and a more diversified country would weaken conservatism as an ideology and pretty much end it as actual movement (rather than as a racket). More and more it’s become a matter of tribalism. As much it might have seemed inevitable, deliberate decisions were made along the way. What if conservative intellectual organs realized early on that segregation in post-World War II nation (whether defacto or dejure) was unsustainable? Without ideological sympathy there may not have been massive resistance. What if Barry Goldwater had voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act as he had done with previous civil rights bills in the 1950s? Had he done so, Scranton would not have jumped into the 1964 Presidential race, the GOP convention that year would have been much more harmonious, the GOP which developed in the South would not have been a dumping ground for segregationists and racial politics would have been isolated to a Wallace movement stuck between two parties. What if GOP had made a more consistent and sustained outreach to the non-white middle and business which grew after the Civil Rights Act? (Especially in the elections of 1972 and 1984) Here one could have developed a constituency which would made racial politics from Left difficult to almost impossible to sustain if a sizeable portion of non-whites voted Republican for the same reasons whites did.

But no, it never happened and because it didn’t this what you have, the Republicans as the white party where whites are a declining portion of the population. Fine then, you reap what you sow and Trump is the crop. Harvest away!

#9 Comment By JonF On May 13, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

Maybe it’s the fact that our unending weather from that circle of Hell where the terminally dreary are sentenced has dulled my wits even as it has clogged by sinuses and stiffened my joints, but I cannot make a head or a tail out of your reply to me. What “post-modern fest”? What “degrees unfit for new requirements?” Heck, what “new requirements”? Are you predicting the Singularity? A Mad Max world? Something else? Really, you did not reply at all to any of the points I made.

#10 Comment By bt On May 13, 2016 @ 12:59 pm

“I could go on like this, but let’s move to racist presidencies. I can think of none during the past 100 years more virulently racist than that of Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.”


This sort of historical statement about Democrats being racist in the past are always offered in the worst kind of bad faith.

As if Woodrow Wilson, Racist, born in Virginia and raised in the South, has bearing on the Democrat Party of today. Conveniently forgetting that the Democrat Party was the white man’s party for 100 years after the Civil War. You know that business with the Republicans, Lincoln and slavery was a big deal down there.

The Republicans absorbed those southern racists, starting with Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats, and culminating with LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act(s). They are not Democrats any more, and the geographic bases of the 2 parties have more or less inverted since then. None of this is controversial or hard to understand, and I’m sure most readers of this web site are aware of it.

To offer this up some southern Democrat from 100 years ago as a valid analogy to things today is either ignorant or disingenuous. It is just as stupid as Republicans like to boast that they are the party of Lincoln.

Republicans WERE the party of Lincoln. They are now the party of — wait for it — I’ll let you know when we get that figured out.

#11 Comment By Clint On May 13, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

Many of Us Tea Party Rebels support Trump.

A Feb. 29 CNN poll had 56 percent of Tea Partiers favoring Trump compared to 16 percent for Cruz. A March 9 Quinnipiac University poll had Trump leading Cruz 48 percent to 40 percent among Tea Party voters in Florida, while Cruz led Trump with 38 percent to Trump’s 33 percent in Ohio.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 14, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

I am glad I waited on this. I think tis comment gets at the gist of my response overall,

“But no, it never happened and because it didn’t this what you have . . .”

Time and time again throughout US history, Republicans have been in prime positions to embrace black citizens and be embraced in kind. They did not effectively challenge Pres. Johnson’s (leadership)admin. after Pres. Lincoln’s death. They allowed the South to roll back any benefit of the Civil war. When Pres. Grant sent federal authority to enforce the law and ensure fair and just treatment the largely Republican North couldn’t stomach it. Republicans id not ensure that the laws of the land was enforced anywhere in the country, leaving a very vulnerable population on their own. And that had historical societal long ingrained effect.

Justice is cornerstone of conservative and republican thought, and yet time after time, Republicans have been found wanting where blacks are concerned.

I would agree that blacks have made some very peculiar accommodations to detriment on the matter of civil rights. They have felt obliged to cater to all manner of advances they would sooner have nothing to do with.

But our party has largely failed in comprehending that the social construction of blacks was engineered and controlled by whites. And that construction has been negative and reinforced the same in every aspect of US life — every aspect.

The much asserted effect of affirmative action was bent in less than two years to advantage women. The initial target of redressing the lives of blacks, and in the period enactment, largely black and native men who supported families was undermined by democratic and Republican whites for their own benefit. The entire assail about AA being some kind reverse discrimination is bankrupt and has been since the term was first employed. But it has been these types of contends coming out of the Republican party, in all of its incompressibility that would challenge the most conservative black person to think twice, unless of course they are so eager to cater to whites, they will swallow anything for fear of losing a slice of thin slice proffered, for ignorance.

The idea that most black people are somehow antithetical to a standard of living in which embrace of God (christianity in particular), family, community is keenly ignorant of those black communities that have sustainable middle class incomes. Nor are they aware that even among lower income stratus, most blacks want nothing more than to take care of self, and family.

Now sure one could single out those variations and lay that on the majority as has been done quite effectively most of US history. Trying to pretend that a black and white walking in the door places both of equal footing is the ideal, but it is not and has not been reality.

I have in the past dealt with criminal justice, economic and educational layers of lack white relations. So I won’t o so here. But blaming people for the plight of the country amounts to same rhetoric white power structures sue to fund civic government by using ordinance violations to fund their governments — siphoning off the poorest and least capable to foot the bill being extorted —

The power in every way still rests in the hands of whites. And if the country has gone astray, that is the place to look and where the faults lie far more than at the feet of black people.

That some 80% of the black population rejects Republican leadership is not explained by blacks being welfare queens, criminals, baby makers or somehow less educated.

For whatever reason, we lost them enmasse by the late 1950’s and nearly completely by the 1970’s. For a people born out of a negative view based on the superficiality of skin color, who spent their entire history seeking to prove their worthiness, loyalty and ability to equal to all others – even to their death (despite unequal consequence), begs a very serious dilemma, they are unwilling to fight for a space as Republicans.

I think they should walk over and have their play — but not many choose a path of most resistance. Most us of don’t —

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc On May 15, 2016 @ 6:23 pm

“That some 80% of the black population rejects Republican leadership is not explained by blacks being welfare queens, criminals, baby makers or somehow less educated.”

I am being overly generous here. The actual % is closer to 98% who recent Republican party ideals. I think Mr. Trump may might change those numbers significantly.

#14 Comment By Colm J On May 16, 2016 @ 4:38 am

philadelphialawyer: “Maybe that is because the liberals figure, that under Trump, they are not going to get any fewer or better wars…”

It’s irrelevant what they “figure”. Their hypocrisy speaks for itself. Hillary Clinton has never seen a war she didn’t like – unlike Trump – who has at least expressed strong reservations about the doctrine of permanent military interventionism. And as I previously noted, the ultimate expression of racism (and xenophobia) is surely a nation seeking to impose its will by force on other nations.

As for “misogyny” and “venom” I don’t think the Clintons lack in these traits either. One recalls, for instance, the vicious belittling of Paula Jones as trailer trash.

#15 Comment By bt On May 16, 2016 @ 8:55 pm

“For whatever reason, we lost them enmasse by the late 1950’s and nearly completely by the 1970’s”

The GOP lost those black voters when it traded them for the southern racists. And it was probably a good trade politically / strategically – The GOP has been winning more than losing since it re-centered itself on the South.


“The much asserted effect of affirmative action was bent in less than two years to advantage women.”

And that is so true.

One of the reasons that blacks have not warmed to Sanders is his focus on programs to help all Americans, rather than one that are more targeted. Apparently, the reason black people feel this way is that every time there has been a government program that was universal, they always get a smaller slice or miss out entirely.

For example, Many new deal programs discriminated and excluded black people, and they remember that. This was done at the time to secure support of the racist Southern Democrats (who had not yet turned into Republicans).

#16 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 16, 2016 @ 11:38 pm

Trump is/was on board with every major intervention over the last umpteen years.

There is zero reason, besides wishful thinking, for considering him less hawkish than Hillary.

Plus he opposed everything else that liberal FP doves believe in.

And he has a decades long record of nastiness and misogyny, whereas Hillary not only has nothin of the sort, but is a feminist champion.