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Yes, Trump Has Destroyed The GOP

Sure, I thought Trump won last night’s debate, but I still believe he’s going to lose this election, and that the Billy Bush tape over the weekend sealed it. And I agree with Damon Linker that Trump has destroyed the Republican Party.  [1]

If Trump wins, he will remake the party entirely in his image. But because he cannot govern himself, he cannot govern the country. By the end of his presidency (whether it comes via impeachment or voter rejection in 2020), the GOP will be a smoking ruin.

If Trump loses, he won’t go away. It will be all-Dolchstosslegende [2], all the time (Drumpfstosslegende?) He will be a constant presence on the public scene, hectoring the Republican Party, denouncing its leaders for betraying him, and keeping his base riled up. Because of his big mouth and gift for self-promotion, he stands to make himself, not Congressional Republicans, the voice of opposition to President Hillary Clinton. If he can manage to recruit candidates in his image to run in GOP primaries nationwide, he stands a chance of building a movement. This is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of us (I am one) sympathize with much of what Trump stands for (versus the present-day GOP), but reject him because of his character and temperament. Trump doesn’t have a coherent philosophy, but there are others who do have a coherent, plausible, and persuasive alternative to the neoliberalism of the Democratic and Republican parties. Trump may well have prepared the way for them, in the same way that a bomber squadron prepares the way for a shiny new factory by bombing the old one to rubble.

Back in May, Michael Lind penned what I still think is the most insightful essay [3] describing what’s happening, and what is going to happen, in US politics after this year. With the Left having won the culture war, the parties of the future will be a nationalist GOP vs. a multiculturalist, globalist Democratic Party. Excerpt:

The outlines of the two-party system of the 2020s and 2030s are dimly visible. The Republicans will be a party of mostly working-class whites, based in the South and West and suburbs and exurbs everywhere. They will favor universal, contributory social insurance systems that benefit them and their families and reward work effort—programs like Social Security and Medicare. But they will tend to oppose means-tested programs for the poor whose benefits they and their families cannot enjoy.

They will oppose increases in both legal and illegal immigration, in some cases because of ethnic prejudice; in other cases, for fear of economic competition. The instinctive economic nationalism of tomorrow’s Republicans could be invoked to justify strategic trade as well as crude protectionism. They are likely to share Trump’s view [4] of unproductive finance: “The hedge-fund guys didn’t build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky.”

The Democrats of the next generation will be even more of an alliance of upscale, progressive whites with blacks and Latinos, based in large and diverse cities. They will think of the U.S. as a version of their multicultural coalition of distinct racial and ethnic identity groups writ large. Many younger progressives will take it for granted that moral people are citizens of the world, equating nationalism and patriotism with racism and fascism.

The withering-away of industrial unions, thanks to automation as well as offshoring, will liberate the Democrats to embrace free trade along with mass immigration wholeheartedly. The emerging progressive ideology of post-national cosmopolitanism will fit nicely with urban economies which depend on finance, tech and other industries of global scope, and which benefit from a constant stream of immigrants, both skilled and unskilled.


Finally, when the recriminations on the Right begin after Election Day, it will be fascinating to see which narrative prevails. Did Trump destroy the GOP? Of course he did. But you could also argue that the Bush family did, first by the presidency of George W., and then by the fact that Jeb Bush, early in the primaries, blew a fortune in donor cash to destroy Marco Rubio. Rubio not only may have been the only Republican who had a chance at beating Trump, but it’s also true that money spent to annihilate his candidacy was money not spent on stopping Trump.

128 Comments (Open | Close)

128 Comments To "Yes, Trump Has Destroyed The GOP"

#1 Comment By A.J. Kinnamamn On October 10, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

“Did Trump destroy the GOP? You could also argue that the Bush family did, first by the presidency of George W.” W was the shiny object that kept the GOP coalition together, speaking to an extent to all the factions. Might have worked, except that they went into Iraq half-cocked and went for the Rove Medicare pander.

#2 Comment By A.J. Kinnamamn On October 10, 2016 @ 8:06 pm

Lind’s tidy little realignment map is lacking. His new GOP is a still-born minority party. And are likely to stay that way, unless they get over their racial animus, which is doubtful.
Meanwhile, where does the donor class go? The Ryan-Rand true believers? As for the Democrats, not all are globalists. The Bernie-Warren wing is on board because of Trump but it may not always be so. And nowhere in this hot mess do I see a core committed to a sectarian social policy.

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 10, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

As Reagan said of the Democrats, I didn’t leave the GOP, it left me. Its elites just won’t recognize that their pretense of serving their base, which phoniness Trump’s id is unafraid to blurt out, has been caught out. I think that both parties have betrayed Americans’ interests, for special interests, leaving us in the lurch.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 10, 2016 @ 8:58 pm

“the truth is, the majority of the conservative base who brought us Trump were A-OK with Bush”

All politics is local, and that sounds very local. I’ll grant that may be the case in your own family.

Strangely enough, one of the Presidential candidates backed the deceitful Bush war rationales – was you might say “A-OK” with them.

#5 Comment By Thomas Kaempfen On October 10, 2016 @ 9:16 pm

I’m an old-fashioned liberal. I’m an internationalist and a nationalist. I’m convinced racism is still a huge problem and I oppose multiculturalism and identity politics. I strongly support the welfare state and sealing our borders much tighter. So there’s no room for me in this coming new world that Lind describes (there really isn’t even now). Indeed, Lind is one of my most important influences, and he’s unhappy about the new realignment too.

I vigorously oppose the globalist, open borders, free trade, sanctimonious multicultural witch-hunting that’s becoming dominant on the left. And I can’t stomach the white identity/borderline racist, anti-intellectual, boorish jingo populism arising on the right.

I could get behind a liberal nationalism, one that asserted that American policy should be to advance the interests and values of Americans, particularly working Americans, of all colors, because they all need protection from the harshness of modern capitalism. And one that worked for full color-blind racial integration and assimilation, for immigrants and all cultural minorities. But I might as well wish for the return of Harry Truman.

Which I do.

#6 Comment By EngineerScotty On October 10, 2016 @ 9:29 pm

There is ample overlap between paleoconservativism and the so-called “alt-right”, but the two things are not synonymous.

Dreher is no alt-righter.

Pat Buchanan, OTOH, is probably one of the intellectual forebears of the modern alt-right, and today a prominent Trump supporter–even though he’s likely disgusted by some of the excesses of the movement. (I can’t see Pat embracing Peter Thiel, for instance).

If you look at the alt-right–the core animating issues seem to be white nationalism and anti-feminism, which Trump exudes in spades. Religious conservatism and adherence to traditional sexual morality are not defining alt-right features; many prominent religious leaders won’t touch the alt-right with a ten-foot pole, and the alt-right includes hedonists and libertarians (such as Thiel, and arguably Julian Assange as well), for instance) that have no use for Christian morality.

In fact, I’d almost say that the alt-right requires no particular adherence to any legs of the traditional GOP three-legged stool (right-wing economics, robust foreign policy, or cultural conservatism)–it’s all about the (re-)elevation of the white male, and the placing of minorities and women back in their place. It’s about rolling back civil rights and feminism. Any relation to classical conservatism is purely coincidental.

#7 Comment By William Dalton On October 10, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

I am reading plenty of Facebook comments today from Republicans who plan to vote for Trump but now will not vote for Republicans who deserted him. I have seen no one say will not vote for a Republican who supports Trump, even if they oppose Trump themselves. There may be districts and states where a Republican gets more votes putting separation between himself and Trump than by embracing him. That was the strategy of many winning Congressional Democrats in 1972 and 1984. But it wasn’t a national strategy.

Whether or not Trump loses in November, the Republicans who are returned to Congress are unlikely to re-elect Ryan as their leader and candidate for Speaker.

#8 Comment By VikingLS On October 10, 2016 @ 11:40 pm

“I suspect the next crisis we’re going to have is Trump refusing to accept an electoral defeat, complaints that the whole election was rigged, attempts to rally his troops to civil disobedience….

To all his supporters here: what will you do then?”

Do you honestly think that the people here who are Trump supporters are closet revolutionaries?

Okay Grumpy, what will you do if Hillary loses and she asks her supporters to do a little more of that old San Jose black magic. Are you going to join in? You going to bust a few heads for Hillary?

I’m guessing the answer to that is no.

Do us a favor and try and be as gracious.

#9 Comment By VikingLS On October 10, 2016 @ 11:47 pm

“VikingLS – Not that it really matters, but I think that even giving him ME-2 and IA still only gets him to 266, in your scenario. Maybe you are speculating that he would win those plus NH?”

I ran the numbers using the current RCP with no tossups and by switching the aforesaid states red. That would count IA as Republican, but would leave NH and ME Democrat.

#10 Comment By Mac61 On October 11, 2016 @ 12:24 am

I cannot wait to wake up on Nov. 9 and live in a world in which this election is over. This interminable process feels like a baseball game in its 418th inning. I like baseball, but not this much. I think Lind is right about the future of the Democratic Party, more or less. I very much hope he is wrong about the future of the Republican Party. There has to be a future for conservatism. As this election proves, the character (or lack thereof) of party standard-bearers can define a party. For Republicans, it’s neither W nor Trump. It has to be someone else. In this dreary ordeal, let us give thanks to our country’s Founders, who saw the need for a presidential election every 4 years. Wake me up in 2020.

#11 Comment By jamie On October 11, 2016 @ 2:30 am


Do you honestly think that the people here who are Trump supporters are closet revolutionaries?

Your politics lie not with your passions but with your silence. The question isn’t wether you’d raise arms against Clinton, but wether you’d acquiesce to, let alone tolerate or obey, people bearing arms in service of Trump.

The Confederacy was not the boys in grey, it was the families who sent them, the old men who cheered them on, and poor whites who, despite owning no slaves, closed their eyes at night and dreamed of honor and glory, and an empire from Kansas City to Caracas.

#12 Comment By Mike Schilling On October 11, 2016 @ 3:26 am

If Trump loses, he won’t go away. It will be all-Dolchstosslegende, all the time (Drumpfstosslegende?) He will be a constant presence on the public scene, hectoring the Republican Party, denouncing its leaders for betraying him, and keeping his base riled up.

Until people stop paying attention to him and he gets bored. I’d put the over/under at a couple of weeks.

#13 Comment By cecelia On October 11, 2016 @ 3:48 am

I think you should not underestimate people like Ailes and Bannon. Bannon especially seeks to “blow up the system” and having had a taste if success he will stick around and will rally the Trump supporters. He may even be able to persuade Trump to be some sort of figurehead for a time. The Alt right has had a taste of success too – they will stick around.

I wonder what Trump does if he sees his “brand” being ruined by a loss – his ability to sell his name for projects?

He knows he won’t win so whatever he is doing now is with an eye to the future – perhaps the media plan some think is his real aim? That would certainly explain Bannon, Ailes and Hannity. And he could do some real damage there – imagine Fox on steroids – a media conglomerate run to express the lunacy of the alt right?

#14 Comment By Nelson On October 11, 2016 @ 9:57 am

I wish all the people against trade and immigration first of all would have some more respect for their fellow human beings who aren’t US citizens. We are brothers and sisters under God above all and we should all have the same rights. These rights include the freedom to engage in voluntary trade and freedom of movement.

Secondly, I wish they would take an economics course or two. Our economy would collapse without trade and every immigrant is a resource, not a burden.

#15 Comment By VikingLs On October 11, 2016 @ 1:23 pm

“Your politics lie not with your passions but with your silence. The question isn’t wether you’d raise arms against Clinton, but wether you’d acquiesce to, let alone tolerate or obey, people bearing arms in service of Trump.”

Until such time as they are mowed down by the National Guard? Yeah, I might do what the gun men said if it didn’t involve incriminating myself if I had the misfortune to be in whatever area they briefly overran.

Of course that revolution would last as long as it took to mobilize the National Guard.

When you have states threatening to secede over this election we can talk, but given my governor is John Kasich, I don’t think my state is going to be one of the ones joining the grays in Civil War II.

Okay, now counter fantasy. What if Trump wins and Obama passes an executive order nullifying the outcome of the election. That’s a much more plausible scenario. Would you silently consent to that by not taking up arms against the president?

Well I would hope you would, because with a mutiny, that would be suicide.

Now let’s come back to the real world.

#16 Comment By Jeff Polet On October 11, 2016 @ 1:39 pm

I’m not convinced by Damon’s argument. It has purchase if one assumes that the GOP is a party of presidential politics, but a political party is much more than that.

The Republicans still hold (and will continue to hold) the majority of state legislatures and governorships. They will still hold the House of Representatives. Their presidential nominating process is clearly broken, but is not unfixable.

Political parties are not only broad coalitions, they also have a multilayered organizational structure. The Republicans have serious weaknesses at the top, and a lot of challenges at the bottom of their structure, but they are fairly strong in the middle. Additionally, the coalition they are in the process of building (and parties are constantly shifting alignments) will likely have long term traction.

Both parties face profound challenges of maintaining alignments and maintaining momentum in our politics. If the GOP had put forward anyone other than Trump the conversation would be very different. I wouldn’t let a horrific outcome determine our analysis.

Like the Republicans, the Democrats have no sustainable majority in their coalition. The last 8 years are further evidence that, once formed, majorities can quickly fall apart (Madison’s argument in Federalist #10 remains relevant). Parties have to make choices throughout the political process, and while it is indisputably the case that they chose poorly in terms of their presidential candidate, the reactions of other Republican leaders indicate that the party is tacking its course.

Political scientists will often talk about the role of “contingency” in party systems which keep assumedly automatic majorities from forming. A Hillary presidency could end up doing more harm to the Democrats than a Trump candidacy does to the Republicans. I find the breathless denunciations of the Republican future wholly unconvincing and too steeped in the politics of the moment. For better of for worse, the Republicans aren’t going anywhere. They are simply in the painful throes of changing their coalition, as are the Democrats (Hillary clearly is more interested in Obama’s coalition than she is in Bill’s), but their problems are more immediately visible. Keep in mind that not long ago the presumptive Democratic nominee was in a death fight against a self-professed socialist who refused to go negative on her.

#17 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On October 11, 2016 @ 2:44 pm

“Agree with MikeCLT on all accounts. Trump has plenty of vice, but one is very tempted to admire his courage and moxie.” really? men who boast about sexually assaulting women are not courageous (see: attempt to spin story to so much bawdy locker room talk). and let’s replace “moxie” with pathological need for narcissistic supply. Trump is not bolstered by the strength of his convictions; he’s addicted to attention. look up “no such thing as bad publicity” and you’ll see his photo. again, all of these traits are plusses in the reality TV world, but (as far as I know) this is the real world (ironically, the MTV program of the 1990’s, which is the Genesis of reality television, but I digress). Trump is a narcissist and likely a borderline sociopath (look up BPD). as such, there is a self-destructive – at the very least – penchant for taking unnecessary risks. again, it’s “chicken/egg” to opine about whether Trump destroyed the GOP, or merely lit the fuse. my take is Fox News, Rush Limbaugh (where are your ditto heads now?), et al destroyed the GOP (think a smoker dying if cancer). the alt-right? symptom as opposed to disease. either way, fun to watch.

#18 Comment By bt On October 11, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

“The Republicans still hold (and will continue to hold) the majority of state legislatures and governorships”


True, but for the people who are in the business of running the show the GOP is at it’s high water mark if there’s no course correction. That was the upshot of the post-Romney autopsy.

Demographics are running against the GOP. So are the cultural tides. Quite a few of those house seats are expertly gerrymandered, like PA where the Democrats won 51% of the vote in 2012 yet only took 5 seats out of 18. Frankly the GOP is quite better at this sort of thing, but I don’t expect the Democrats to be asleep at the switch the next time the district are re-drawn.

That’s why Trump is the worst man at the worst moment. He has driven the party into exactly the wrong direction. In order to win the nomination he set the house on fire. One can only imagine how many party people begged Trump to please please please stop saying the things he says.

It is true that for the Conservatives this is really a pivotal moment – Look at the supreme court, just as they were on the verge of getting it all, Scalia dies. If Clinton wins, 40 years of planning and executing the conservative legal agenda go out the window (Powell Memo). As the demographic and social trends that favor the Democrats continue, the conservative dream will recede further from grasping. It was so close.

#19 Comment By Alan On October 11, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

As a conservative let me say that if Trump does destroy the GOP, we can all thank him for that. However, the truth is that clowns like Bush, Ryan, Cheney, etc are the ones who destroyed the party. Oh, lastly, my apologies to real clowns everywhere for lumping those guys in with clowns.

#20 Comment By grumpy realist On October 11, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

VikingLs–the fact is, I have much more trust in Hillary accepting a defeat if Trump wins than Trump accepting a defeat if Hillary wins. Look how the man has been acting! Look at his so-called “apologies”! Can you honestly say that on the night of the election that he will give a speech accepting defeat as opposed to ranting about how the entire system was rigged, the voting machines hacked, and saying that he will fight on forever?!

For myself, I would bet it’s at least a 50-50 chance that that’s what we’re going to get.

And your claim that President Obama would go ahead and negate a Trump election is out of the fever-swamps of the right.

#21 Comment By SmartiCat On October 11, 2016 @ 9:11 pm

Whether or not this is actually true (a re-shifting of “left vs right” as “globalism vs nationalism”) I certainly would welcome a “right” party that at least supports the existence of social insurance and government as a net good, as opposed to the debates we have currently of “no government” versus “some government”. At least then the debate can shape the “how” and “how much” while still hewing on a common agreement. Which more or less defines how “left” and “right” parties operate in Europe, BTW. Even the most conservative parties in Europe still support universal health insurance policies, even if they may disagree on the execution and generosity of such. That to me is a much better debate and most likely reflects the true “center” of American politics, economically speaking. If we can remove white conservatives from the grips of Republican economics the political options may look a lot better all around, but unfortunately Republican economics have been so successfully woven around Republican culture politics that it’s hard to see a real sea change occurring within Republican voters absent a Trump candidate. After all, these same voters have also re-elected Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and other standard issue GOP’ers within this same election.

#22 Comment By SmartiCat On October 11, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

@Nelson – the arguments about free trade are not so much about whether or not trade should benefit workers in 3rd world nations. It’s about how the gains from that trade are spread at home. It’s disingenuous to make the argument that lower wage and mostly powerless workers in the US should “sacrifice” their economic futures for global citizens while the top 10% reaps benefits from this equation in spades. That’s precisely the reason why we’re having a “trade revolt”. Go ahead and make the citizens of the world richer, but how about ensuring that the “wealth spreading” is coming from the pockets of CEO’s, shareholders and Wall Street as opposed to that of blue collar workers for a change. Tax the profits made off of trade for UBI or some other form of recompense and then we can talk, until then shaming those being shafted by trade as needing to adhere to a higher sense of responsibility and sacrifice that you are not holding the wealthy too is the reason why things like Brexit and other revolts against the “global elite” will take place.

#23 Comment By VikingLS On October 12, 2016 @ 2:12 am


You need to calm down.

I specifically said the idea of Obama nullifying the outcome was a fantasy, it is, however, more plausible than Trump being capable of successfully launching a civil war as Jamie suggested.

You also need to remember the only incidents thus far of large scale violence in this campaign has been against Trump supporters, not committed by them.

You also dodged my question. If Clinton called on you to commit acts of violence against Republicans, would you do it? It doesn’t matter that you think she’s more likely to accept defeat, should she not, would you kill for her?

I’m still guessing, as I said before, the answer to that is no, and I still would appreciate it you would extend the same courtesy to the Trump supporters here.

Why is this so difficult for you?

#24 Comment By Matt On October 12, 2016 @ 4:46 am

The Bush neocon artists destroyed the Republican Party. Introduced as ” compassionate conservatives “, they were simply big government democrats in disguise. They fooled most of the GOP, they were never a right wing alternative.

[NFR: You do realize, don’t you, that Donald Trump is not running as a budget cutter. One of the lessons of this campaign is that the GOP electorate doesn’t actually want smaller government. — RD]

#25 Comment By bt On October 12, 2016 @ 11:45 am

“One of the lessons of this campaign is that the GOP electorate doesn’t actually want smaller government”


Truer words were never written.

At least the Democrats are honest about wanting to have an active government.

#26 Comment By Mark F. On October 12, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

“I certainly would welcome a “right” party that at least supports the existence of social insurance and government as a net good, as opposed to the debates we have currently of “no government” versus “some government.”

Right, because half of the Republican party actually consists of libertarian anarchists. Are you serious?

#27 Comment By Eugene McFarlane On October 14, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

Bomber squadron? Well, ok, if you muse use the war analogy then what about the impact of landmines and post-traumatic stress disorder. War does not cleanse, it maims and disfigures. It’s interesting you don’t talk about healing.

#28 Comment By Fuzzbuster111 On November 7, 2016 @ 6:05 pm

Trump didn’t destroy the GOP; 4 things did that the GOP could have easily rectified if it could have had better leadership, more insight and some semblance of strategy.

One – Abortion. Abortion Destroyed the GOP. Right or wrong, a woman’s right to kill her baby/fetus during the 1st trimester was long ago settled by the Supreme court. This was done at a time when this country was far more conservative than it is today. Restrictions on abortions in the 2nd and 3rd trimester are reasonable and understandable by most, but when the GOP basically says a woman has NO right to an abortion, they are forcing their religion on those who may not believe the same thing. Sorry folks, most women and a lot of men, just can’t seem to get behind this one.

Two – Education. The GOP snoozed and let the radicals take over our public schools, public and private universities. You snooze you lose – we only need to look at ourselves for that one.

Three – Media. The GOP gave up any claim on the media and entertainment, leaving it for the radical liberals to infiltrate. That’s how they now control the largest states in the US – California and New York. So, the GOP lost the biggest propaganda machine this world has ever seen.

Four – Immigration. The GOP permitted liberal immigration policies – the flood of immigrants vote (whether legal or not) and they vote Democrat. Stupidity kills and in this case the GOP’s stupidity is leading to its own demise.