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Reblogged:Can the GOP Recover From Trump?

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At the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis argues in a vein similar to others that Trump's primary victories are weak showings for someone who is effectively an incumbent, and claims that they portend problems in the general election:
It's even worse for Trump than that. A Fox News voter analysis showed that 59 percent of Haley voters in South Carolina "say they would not support Trump in the general election if he were the nominee." And if you think this is unique to South Carolina, consider the fact that nearly half of Nikki's Iowa backers also said they wouldn't support Trump come November. [links omitted]
Won't support doesn't have to mean will vote for Biden. The margins in the election are thin enough that sufficient numbers of a candidate's potential voters staying home in a few swing states can affect the outcome. When two fifths of a party's voters reject its incumbent and half of those won't support him in the general election, that's a problem, whether that party admits it or not.

Lewis has a point, but it is worth considering what such dynamics might mean beyond the election. A thought experiment might help.

Sure. It's easy for anyone not under Trump's spell to see Republicans and conservative-leaning independents staying home, but what if Haley were winning? What if she wrapped up the nomination?

Consider the kind of invective Trump and his stooges have been hurling at members of their own party who dare have an opinion about anything that doesn't match Trump's: "Crybaby RINO NeverTrumper," "NeoCon," "the left's favorite Republican." Although there's a good case to be made that it is, in fact Trump who might as well be a Democrat, what do you think voters who equate anyone who isn't Trump (or blessed off by Trump) with a Democrat would do in a Haley-Biden contest?

They'll stay home, and arguably be more likely to do so than Haley voters would -- whether or not they bought the inevitable claim that the election was "rigged."

I don't recall where I first heard this, but I agree that American political parties are best understood as coalitions. Trump appreciates part of this and doesn't care much about another part. The part he gets is that it is possible to achieve a majority within a party and run away with its nomination. Since Republicans are about a third of the electorate, he needs fanatical support from only about a fifth of the total electorate to become the party's nominee and pretty much run things.

To Modernize: Replace An Available Candidate with Trump Likes Me, then hire an artist to caricature a charletan, a has-been, or a crackpot. (Anti-Whig Cartoon from 1848, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)
The part he doesn't care about -- assuming he is (as he seems) motivated more by a desire to put his feet on the desk in the Oval Office and screw with his opponents than by any positive, coherent agenda -- is that for a coalition to last, it pays not to alienate members of that coalition.

Indeed, if members of that coalition get nothing from being in that coalition, they will eventually disappear or go elsewhere. This seems a great way to run the GOP with an iron first ... and into the ground. See also: the last few election cycles, and, perhaps, the Whigs.

-- CAV

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