The Democratic successes in the November 7 midterm elections seem to have been a triumph for President Donald J. Trump (R-New York).
These elections are problematic for Republicans because they indicate the Grand Old Party (GOP) cannot win without the name Trump on the ballot. They also indicate the number of Republicans who voted against Trump last year was tiny.
The most watched race was that for Virginia Governor; which Democrat Ralph Northam won by 8.9 points or 53.9% of the vote, according to Real Clear Politics. Last year, Trump won 44.4% of the vote to Clinton’s 49.8% in Virginia.
Since Clinton carried Virginia by 5.4% and Northam won it by 8.9%, an obvious conclusion is that 3.5% of Trump voters supported the Democrat. The percentage is small but it is enough to decide an election. That should worry Republicans in close Congressional and state races next year.
Another telling figure is that 45% of Virginians voted for Republican Ed Gillespie in the Governor’s Race and 44.4% of them voted for Trump last year. This indicates that around .6% of Republicans voted against Trump, which demonstrates that anti-Trump sentiment within the GOP is an insignificant factor in elections. Those waiting for Republicans to turn on Trump might be sadly disappointed.
Can Trumpism Work without Trump?
Trump’s popularity with Republicans was established by the Virginia election, but the popularity of Trumpism was not.
Gillespie ran on what observers called a “Trumpist platform” of nationalism, anti-immigrant hysteria, and white identity politics and he lost. Another Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno in New Jersey also ran on such an agenda and got trounced on November 7, The Washington Post noted.
There are two troubling conclusions for Republicans from these losses. The first is that voters simply do not believe establishment Republicans when they claim to be white nationalists. The only Republican that those people seem to believe is Trump, which makes running a successful local or state campaign difficult. It also spells disaster for the GOP in 2018, when Trump will not be on the ballot.
Cultural Issues No Longer Work for Republicans
An even greater problem for Republican would be that it is not the cultural aspects of Trump’s message voters were responding to. Voters were listening to the economic promises about jobs and trade, not the immigrant bashing and “white is wonderful” bigotry.
That’s very problematic because it indicates most voters disagree with the Republican dogma on free trade, limited government, unfettered capitalism, and low taxes. This was driven home in Maine; a 94% white majority state, where 59% of voters supported a huge Medicaid expansion proposal on November 7, 2017. Despite organized opposition from the GOP and national conservative groups.
Nor was it just Virginia, Maine, and New Jersey; where Republican cultural issues failed to resonate with voters. In a State Senate election in Washington State, Democrat Manka Dhingra easily beat Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund by percentages of 55.4% to 44.6% on November 7, The Spokesman-Review reported.
News reports indicate that Englund emphasized cultural issues; such as a Democrat plan to allow supervised heroin use by addicts, in her campaign and she lost. The cultural issues simply did not work.
Can Republicans Talk to Working Class Whites Anymore?
Another conclusion that can be drawn here is that Republicans can longer talk to working-class whites. Last year there was a lot of talk about Democrats’ inability to communicate with the working class, now the same thing might be said of Republicans.
Trump voters that wanted to hear about jobs; trade, or the border wall, instead received messages about Robert E. Lee, drug users, and transsexual toilet use and stayed away from the polls. Both Republicans and Democrats will need to change their message for next year.
Is the Republican Civil War about to Get Worse?
The dissatisfaction of Trump voters is not the only thing Republicans have to worry about. The Civil War within the GOP might be about to get far worse as Christian Conservatives and Movement Conservatives turn on each other.
The most prominent midterm election; the Alabama Senate race, has exposed an ugly rift between Christians and the Party establishment. White evangelical voters have rallied to controversial Republican candidate Roy Moore; while Party leaders have lined up to condemn him, creating an opening for Democrats.
Democrat Doug Jones was leading Moore by eight points in the Real Clear Politics Average of polls on 19 November 2017. The special election is scheduled for December 12 and a Republican victory then might lead to disaster for the GOP. National Republican leaders have said they would oppose efforts to seat Moore in the Senate because of allegations of sexual assault and statutory rape.
Will Christians Turn on the Republican Establishment?
That creates the potential of a Christian revolt against the Republican establishment that might spread to other states.
To make matters worse, the efforts to block Moore come right after what looks like voter suppression aimed at working-class Christian voters in Alabama’s September 26, Republican primary. The Republican Secretary of State John Merrill demanded that 674 suspected Democrats who participated in the primary face felony charges in a Think Progress interview in October.
A possible outcome would be Christian voters supporting Democrats; or third-party candidates, to punish Republicans that opposed Moore. Another would be corporate-oriented mainstream Republicans and Movement Conservatives trying to push Christians and White Nationalists out of the party.
Movement conservatives, establishment Republicans, and conservative Christians have long maintained a marriage of convenience. There is no love between the groups but they stuck together to win elections. Trump has blown that relationship apart, and the resulting brawl is tearing the party apart.
It looks as if the Republican civil war is about to go to some ugly new extremes that might damage the party’s electoral hopes. If this keeps up, the possibility of Republicans running an effective campaign in some areas of the country next year will be nil.