Why Have Republicans Turned From Classical Conservatism To Exclusionary Trumpism?
Existential changes within the Republican party have been slowly growing since the mid 1990's. Unfortunately they have accelerated since the advent of Donald Trump's rise to power within the party. Many people, including myself, thought it would dissipate after his 2020 Presidential election loss. We were wrong and I believe we all missed the growing under currents within parts of the American populace.
Donald Trump recognized this from the start and was and is all too willing to pander to this demographic. He has also expanded it exponentially to his own political benefit. Frightening political trends such as this are not new to our political culture.
I will argue that this trend is the most serious and dangerous that this country has faced since the Civil War. Similar threats arose during the Great Depression of the 1930's but both political parties sought ways to minimize these dangers and cure the terrible economic ills that gave rise to those societal threats. The parties had different economic paths but sought the same beneficial results.
The current growth of Donald Trump fueled populism and ethnic exclusivity is frightening. This is true both in its basic ignorance and its general fear and hate for all people perceived to be dangerous "others". Both political parties have been guilty of this tendency to some degree since the Civil War but never to this all encompassing degree.
How has Donald Trump so distorted the soul of the Republican party? How has he energized the fearful elements of American society to further his political ambitions and transform the GOP? There are many examples of how this party has morphed into the party of Donald Trump.
I will attempt to elucidate these alarming trends within three areas. Firstly, Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policy. This can be seen from the very beginning with his infamous Trump tower escalator entrance campaign kickoff. It grew throughout his campaign and presidency. Now it has been expanded into the GOP's new "replacement theory" which I will explain later.
Then I will profile another devious GOP false talking point. This is their pandering to the anti-knowledge and anti-science elements of the party. I will show how Trump has exposed and expanded these fears to further his own selfish goals.
Also I will show how the Republicans' draconian voting reform laws are being created and utilized to entrench themselves into power. This is being done while also placating Donald Trump's fragile ego by promoting his false theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
I will finally attempt to tie all of these tactics together to show the imminent danger that they pose to our American democracy. Also I will show how we cannot ignore them and must combat them at every turn to preserve our republic as we know it.
Donald Trump proved himself to be a very successful populist candidate during the 2016 Presidential campaign. His first and foremost issue was anti-immigration. It was his go to issue whenever he needed to deflect from personal issues during the campaign. His base of voters always ate it up because it elevated their fears and made them feel cared about by Trump. No other issue attracted his supporters to that extent and it led the way to all of his other fear mongering tactics.
Once elected, he implemented these anti-immigration policies with a ferocity not seen in recent memory. I use the term anti-immigration because the Trump administration did not stop with undocumented aliens. They also restricted immigration in general though not to the same extreme. Separating children from their parents, denying birth control to young pregnant women, and housing immigrants in horrible shelters were some of their most egregious practices. His base loved every heartless move and then wanted more.
Now that Trump is out of office, he has adopted a new theory that is inflaming his base and keeping himself in the media spotlight. It is called "White Replacement Theory" (WRT). What this theory basically states is that Democrats want to allow all immigrants into the country to create a new electorate that will be more amenable to voting for them creating Democrat political dominance.
Their embrace of this theory shows that Donald Trump and the Republicans have no allegiance to the truth. President Joe Biden has simply worked to eliminate the horrible conditions the Trump administration inflicted on immigrants. No steady stream of immigrants has been accepted into this country. Levels of acceptance have simply returned to normal levels.
There are encampments near and around the border on the Mexican side awaiting review on the American side. That has not stopped Donald Trump and his supporters from stating otherwise and further espousing WRT.
The Republican party's fundamental Christian segment were the first group to push the party into an ant-science direction. They began by attacking Darwinism and other science that they perceived to contradict the Bible and Christianity.
This was not only preached within their churches but also to Republicans and America itself. Their political stance was understandable in regards to preserving and strengthening religious institutions. It has also served the GOP very well over the years. Their emphasis on anti-abortion and anti-birth control stances energized their bases.
The Trump administration expanded on this by emphasizing new anti-knowledge and anti-truth strategies. This began at the very beginning of the administration right after its inauguration when Trump was annoyed at reports that the inaugural turnout was historically small.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer was sent out to speak to the media about this. He emphatically stated that the inaugural crowd was huge and that the press was lying about it. This flew in the face of confirmed photos of the area showing wide empty spaces especially compared to his predecessor's inaugurals.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was then sent out on Meet the Press to further press this point. The press was stating that Spicer had lied but Conway put forth the proposition that there are "alternative facts" of which Spicer's statement was one. Her statement proved to be a fair reflection on the Trump administration's approach to truth throughout its term.
Their Covid19 response remarks have been a prime example of ant-truth statements that have also hurt our country. False Covid-19 statements have included anti-mask pronouncements, advocacy for false medications, and false claims that the pandemic would end in a short amount of time.
Unfortunately these false claims have energized the current anti-vaccine movement that is endangering the health of our entire nation. The percentage of Democrats who have been vaccinated is over 70% while Republicans hover a little over 30%. These statistics do vary across the country but rates are still higher in more Democratic leaning districts.
This is somewhat surprising since President Trump rightfully hailed his vaccine development program. He severely undercut this program by getting vaccinated in secret as he was departing office. As a result, Trump's base believes more in disproven cures such as Ivermectin which is used on horses than on scientifically proven vaccines.
This type of science denial has been going on for at least a decade now. Republicans have been in bed with much of corporate America since the party's inception in the 1850's but had always been a pro-science and a pro-progress party.
They are now acting as if they are being held hostage by the fossil fuel energy sector. One would have thought that the GOP would have been eager to embrace the new alternative energy sector that represents the future and the salvation of our country due to climate change. Alas, Trump and his new Republican party believes only in him and not in science,
After President Trump's Presidential election loss in 2020 one would have thought that the GOP would be looking to adjust their political and policy messages to achieve a better outcome in subsequent elections. The party has decided instead to follow Trump's election denial path.
Donald Trump has denied that he lost the 2020 Presidential election and has proclaimed at every turn that the election was a fraud and stolen from him. This was not an unexpected response by Trump but I and others thought it would end after a few peevish weeks. We were absolutely wrong.
President Trump set out post-election on a "Don Quixote" quest to overturn the 2020 Presidential election results. This turned into the January 6th insurrection and now has turned into his own personal movement. Not a political movement but his own cult of personality movement.
Normally I would have considered this path to be the death knell of the GOP especially when true conservatives such as Rep. Liz Cheney get ostracized by their own party. The political polls are showing just the opposite. It is still early in this election cycle but the pro-Trump candidates are in full control.
President Biden's poll numbers have dropped due to the stalemate among Democrats in Congress as they tried to pass the infrastructure bill and are still trying to pass their landmark social reform legislation. Inflation has also been a negative factor. The Republicans have nominated many pro-Trump election deniers but not all. It will be interesting to see how well these two groups fare against Democrats in the 2022 congressional elections.
Furthermore, states with GOP led legislatures have passed widespread election reform bills that will guarantee Republican victories if not overturned in the courts. These bills are not election reform but voter suppression bills.
The most dangerous aspects of these bills are the parts that give state legislatures the power to take over the election process whenever they oppose a result and cry fraud. This will allow these legislatures to do what President Trump wanted them to do after 2020 election. This is an extremely dangerous threat to our democracy and could destroy it. This must be opposed at every turn.
I have listed the three main ways that the Republican party has been transformed from classical conservatism into simply the party of Trump. What do I mean by this? It is not simply a case of changed political philosophy. The truth is something much more sinister.
Donald Trump has manipulated his political messages to attract people at the point of their most basic fears. These are not necessarily fears that people examine logically. He knows how to stir them in people without any forethought on their part. They are then attracted to him and it becomes very hard to change their minds.
He has shown himself very able to pinpoint which issues will scare people to the very depth of their beings. These have included immigration, race issues, religious issues, and many more. This political method worked well for him in 2016 and through most of his presidential term. Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and he was exposed for the empty executive vessel that he always was.
2020 proved to be a year where President Trump began to lose his fear mongering cloaks. He handled the pandemic very poorly and often espoused remedies and actions that were quite dangerous to the American populace. Unfortunately his dangerous rhetoric actually began to work better towards the end of the campaign. Against all odds he narrowed the gap with Joe Biden. He still lost and the election was not stolen as he claimed. It wasn't even that close.
Now came the scariest part of this new Republican party. After all of his outrageous behavior, Donald Trump has not only failed to lose support within the party but he has actually tightened it. His highest demands of the GOP now are to pledge fidelity to him by confirming his assertion that the 2020 election was rigged.
This support goes beyond election fraud affirmations. Republican state legislatures around the country have passed and are passing new election security laws that go beyond anything seen since the reconstruction era.
What does this mean for our republic and our democracy? The Republicans in many states, including swing states, have put in place mechanisms to realize Donald Trump's greatest dream to reverse election results that he and his party do not like. They will use the false claims of election fraud to do it. Their new election laws allow them to legally perpetrate the stealing of elections without proof of such frauds.
Ten states have already instituted new election laws that allow the partisan legislative majority to take authority away from the Secretary of State as well as local election officials if they do not like the election results. They are already doing this in Georgia well before any elections have even occurred.
These states as well as the entire Republican party are putting in place the mechanisms to overturn future elections in the way that Donald Trump wanted them to do in 2020. Little has been said or written about these new legislative statutes. Donald Trump's wishes to ensure his next election have been installed and will allow Republican dominance in future elections if nothing is done about this.
The Democrats and all Americans who love democracy should come out against these new election laws. Our very history of over two hundred years as a democratic republic are now in danger of being obliterated. Our history of being a democratic beacon to the world since the latter part of the 18th century may also fade away.
The Republican party is now simply the party of Donald Trump. It has no formal policies except to serve him. This is the recipe for taking down a democracy and installing an autocracy. We must fight this at every turn. Our Congress must pass a new voting rights bill before their term ends.
The battle to fight these state voting laws will fall to the Justice department and the courts if Congress fails to act before the end of next year. The outcomes of such legal battles are much more dubious. It is incumbent on all American citizens to encourage all of our political leaders to pass a new Voting Rights act to circumvent these anti-democratic state laws.
Their failure could turn the United States of America into the United States of Trump. That will wipe out our American democracy and the great American experiment started in the 18th century. We all need to strenuously act to uphold our national legacy. Failure should not be an option.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.