The unfolding populist revolution and growing voter discontent are changing the Republican Party beyond recognition.
Even greater changes seem to be in store thanks to the collapse of Trumpism; in the wake of the U.S. Senate race defeat in Alabama. Controversial candidate Roy Moore went down to defeat, even though he received around 80% of the white evangelical vote in one of the Reddest states in the Union.
Moore should have done very well because the December 12 race was an off year special election. The kind of contest that favors Republicans whose base intends to be older and whiter. After all, retired Christian GOP voters do not have to take time off from work to vote.
The Republican Strategy is no Longer Working
Yet the former judge lost; even though Evangelical Whites make up around 44% of Alabama’s electorate, The Federalist’s Lyman Stone pointed out. That indicates that Republicans may no longer be able to rely on the strategy of simply turning out whites and Conservative Christians, and telling everybody else to go to hell.
Democrats were able to overcome Republicans’ vote banking of White Evangelicals by mobilizing African Americans and progressive whites. That points to a strategy that might deliver similar Democratic victories in states like Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada next year.
It is not clear if the Democratic tactics can be translated into success in U.S. House of Representative or State legislature races. A major reason for Democratic success was constant media focus on sexual misconduct allegations against Moore and Trump’s racist rhetoric, which motivated blacks and white liberals to head to the polls.
Another strategy that failed in Alabama was Trumpism. Two GOP candidates went down to defeat despite Trump endorsements; Moore and his primary opponent Luther Strange. To add insult to injury, Moore’s Trump style campaign did not work.
This coming on the heels of defeats of Trumpist candidates in New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races shows that the GOP needs a new strategy. Oddly enough there is one strategy that might work for Republicans appeal to progressive or left-leaning whites.
Are Progressive Whites the Key to Republican Victory?
In his fascinating book, Brown is the New White political activist Steve Phillips noted that progressive or left-leaning whites make up 28% of the electorate. Phillips also pointed out that Democrats have been ignoring; and in some cases mistreating, progressive whites for a long time.
There is evidence that a substantial portion of progressive whites is fed up with the Democratic Party. During last year’s election, a number of prominent leftists such as Thomas Frank expressed some sympathy for Trump but backed away after the Donald failed to tone down the racism.
More tellingly, there is evidence that left-wing whites made the difference for Donald J. Trump (R-New York) in last year’s presidential election. Data from the Cooperative Congressional Study indicated that around 12% of the people who voted for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in the primaries, voted for Trump in the general election, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Brian F. Schaffner told National Public Radio.
Why Republicans should Consider Going after White Progressives
All this indicates that Republicans should seriously consider making a serious play for white progressives. After all white progressives have long been ignored and abused by the Democratic leadership for a very long time.
Candidates like Hillary Clinton have refused to even discuss their concerns or make a serious effort to deliver on promises like single-payer healthcare or reconsider policies such as free trade. To add insult to injury, many Democrats have made common cause with leftist radicals and intellectuals that attack all whites as racist.
A disgusting example of this was the attempt last year; by mostly white pundits, to portray Bernie Sanders as a racist because most of his supporters were white. Sanders’ history as a backer of civil rights and an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was ignored. It is no wonder a substantial percentage of Sanders’ supporters were willing to vote for the other party.
Democrats might have gotten lucky last year, had Republicans run a left-leaning candidate; like Ohio Governor John Kasich or simply somebody not perceived as racist, they might have suffered a far greater defeat. Some polls last year actually indicated Kasich would have beaten Hillary by a higher margin than Trump.
Why Republicans should Turn Left
All this indicates a moderating of Republican stances on issues like abortion, taxes, Social Security, and foreign policy might attract a large percentage of white progressives. Strong left-wing positions on issues like trade, election finance, healthcare, military spending, the environment, and entitlements might draw in large numbers of progressive whites and give Republicans a majority.
Trump himself made some leftish-sounding statements during the campaign; such as promises to tear up trade agreements, stop the endless war on terror, say no to additional wars, impose high tariffs, and spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. All of which were quickly forgotten once the Donald reached the Oval Office.
Both the Trump administration and the Republican Congress that took office year have adopted hard right agendas. The latest of which is the GOP tax bill; which is widely seen as a giveaway to big business. Republicans seem to be throwing away a big opportunity here.
A fascinating question here is what would a new Republican majority look like? A good answer would be a coalition of Progressive Whites, fiscal conservatives, Conservative Christians, some White Nationalists, and conservative or moderate people of color. History buffs will note that sounds a great deal like the coalitions; that elected such Republican presidents as Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard M. Nixon (who won the largest presidential victory in U.S. history).
Such a coalition is possible and eminently electable, but today’s Republicans lack the imagination, and courage to try and put it together. It will take a string of major defeats to get the present-day GOP to even consider turning left.
Note: this article was modified slightly after publication to make it read a little better.