Monday, July 25, 2016

Republican policy leader: the GOP, taken over by white nationalism, is "fundamentally broken"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 1:32 PM

One question animating this election season is whether the specter of Donald Trump represents something fundamentally different than a typical election matchup between a Democrat and a Republican. 

Lots of people don't like Hillary Clinton, but she is a pretty typical Democrat — indeed, you might even think of Clinton as the very symbol of a typical Democratic candidate for president. Trump, meanwhile, seems shockingly unprepared and willfully ignorant; he seems to flirt with white identity politics and crypto-fascist nationalism in a manner that is frankly shocking in a modern American election; and he shows an erratic personality prone to insults, stark lies (well beyond the standard political sort), absurdly petty vengence, conspiracy theories, calls for violence, and so on. This has led many to conclude that Trump is different in kind than a normal Republican nominee (say, a Marco Rubio) — and many liberals have suggested that Trump represents a unique historical threat to the nation. 

During the campaign, many Republicans made similar points, but with some exceptions, GOP leaders have fallen in line now that Trump is the nominee facing off against Clinton. People like Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, for example, have concluded that Trump isn't so bad after all. 

In an interesting interview over at Vox, Avik Roy, a key Republican policy wonk, argues otherwise. Roy, a former adviser to GOP luminaries Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio (who played a bit role in the Arkansas private option debate) says that the nomination of Trump represents an indefensible break with what he had thought were conservative principles, suggesting that “the conservative movement is fundamentally broken."

“I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way,” he said. “There’s going to be a disruption.”

Roy isn’t happy about this: He believes it means the Democrats will dominate national American politics for some time. But he also believes the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans.

“Until the conservative movement can stand up and live by that principle, it will not have the moral authority to lead the country,” he told me. ... 

“I think the conservative movement is fundamentally broken,” Roy tells me. “Trump is not a random act. This election is not a random act.”
Roy marks the GOP's "Southern Strategy" as an original sin that led all the way to Trumpism: 

“Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was a historical disaster for the conservative movement,” Roy tells me, “because for the ensuing decades, it identified Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party opposed to civil rights.”

“The fact is, today, the Republican coalition has inherited the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the Southern Democrats who are now Republicans,” Roy says. “Conservatives and Republicans have not come to terms with that problem.”
This is a pretty devastating quote coming from a prominent Republican actor and a key voice in the conservative movement: 

“Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,” Roy says. “We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism. In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”
The Trump nomination should serve as a wakeup call to conservative intellectuals, Roy argues: 

“It’s the power of wishful thinking. None of us want to accept that opposition to civil rights is the legacy that we’ve inherited,” Roy says.

He expands on this idea: “It’s a common observation on the left, but it’s an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.” ...

“[Trump] tapped into something that was latent in the Republican Party and conservative movement — but a lot of people in the conservative movement didn’t notice,” Roy concludes, glumly.
Roy's takeaway: 

This soul-searching led Roy to an uncomfortable conclusion: The Republican Party, and the conservative movement that propped it up, is doomed.

Both are too wedded to the politics of white nationalism to change how they act, but that just isn’t a winning formula in a nation that’s increasingly black and brown. Either the Republican Party will eat itself or a new party will rise and overtake its voting share.

“Either the disruption will come from the Republican Party representing cranky old white people and a new right-of-center party emerging in its place, or a third party will emerge, à la the Republicans emerging from the Whigs in the [1850s],” Roy says.
Read the whole thing. Roy's history of the GOP and fears about what Trumpism represents are familiar territory for, well, readers of this blog. But it's an unusual reckoning from a major thinker on the right.

I suspect there are some Arkansas Republicans who are backing Trump even though they know in their gut that he represents an affront to all of their stated ideals and a great risk to the nation. Conservatives may conclude that they simply cannot vote for Clinton. But to back Trump suggests that those ideals weren't worth much to begin with. 

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