The Republican Party
The changes in the Republican Party started way before Donald Trump. The man who once said that he “probably identifies more as Democrat” did not suddenly hijack the Republican Party; rather he was the most predictable next phase of a decades-long natural progression.
The slow but sure shift from Ronald Reagan’s “three-legged stool” coalition (fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and national security hawks) to conservative populism started years ago, the minute the self-described “fiscally responsible” party abandoned its own rules regarding traditional conservative policy — which included their spending money like drunken sailors.
Sluggish wages, shuttered factories, Wall Street bailouts, and incredibly reckless foreign wars and the massive deficits that funded them soon collided with a largely Christian Caucasian hard-core base that was increasingly feeling marginalized and mistreated.
Note from 1787:
It’s important to take a beat and make two larger points here. One, we are not painting every member of the Republican Party with the same brush. We see the party as three parts: the cuckoo birds, the hard-core base, then everyone else.
The more important point is this: The following few paragraphs are part of a difficult and potentially contentious conversation. As we're describing how many Trump supporters feel, for example, our guess is that others will immediately jump to “whataboutism” (i.e., “what about” Trump’s vile behavior, or “what about” the Black American experience, etc.). We ask that you fight against this instinct. Guys, we should know by now…that approach is not going to get us where we want (or need) to go.
For our money, the ultimate mentor on seeking a better way is, as always, Martin Luther King, Jr. As his fight for civil rights and integration progressed, he came to appreciate the realization that, at the end of the day, we are all in this together. Not that things were then — or are now — racially equitable by a long shot, but what, he concluded, did it benefit Black Americans to integrate into what he called a “burning house.” If every single American — or any race, color and creed — is not afforded equity and justice, then in reality none of us are.
At the time, Dr. King was speaking specifically about poverty, but we believe his philosophy beautifully applies to all our human and Constitutional rights.
In Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, Dr. King wrote, “One unfortunate thing about the slogan “Black Power” is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for Blacks and Whites alike…. the Negroes’ problem cannot be solved unless the whole of American society takes a new look toward greater economic justice.” And, as a reminder to White people, that cuts both ways.
In other words, led by his deep faith in God, Dr. King believed in equality and justice for all of us. He believed in a shared concern for all of us. He believed that, to avoid America becoming a “burning house,” we must have empathy and understanding for the hurts, grievances and pain we all experience. We would do ourselves a huge favor if, as a nation, we would learn from Dr. King’s example. We have to at least try to better understand one another.
Based on personal conversations we had with many of the hard-core Republican base before 2015, from their point-of-view they and their families worked hard for generations in jobs that helped build the very backbone of America. They had, for generations, lived by a strict moral code — with God, country, and family at the center of everything.
But suddenly, they noticed America no longer looked like the country they once knew. Many started to feel sidelined, both culturally and politically. They felt like, in their words, elites were mocking them, cheered on by their highbrow friends in the biased mainstream media. They started to deeply believe their livelihoods were being threatened by minorities, immigrants, and globalization. They sensed they were getting shafted by, again their words, The Swamp, Deep State, and rapidly changing demographics.
< Note: As evidence to this point, an analysis of the first 377 people arrested and/or charged in the January 6th attack on the Capitol, conducted by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, revealed that 95 percent were White, 85 percent were male, and that “counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population were the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges. The counties that had the greatest decline in White population had an 18 percent chance of sending an insurrectionist to D.C., while the counties that saw the least decline in the White population had only a 3 percent chance.” That’s incredible. >
Even before they had to endure eight years of President Barack Obama — whom many honestly believed to be a Socialist — the radical left’s depraved public policies and depleted values (again, their words) not only exasperated their pain and alienation, but it also threatened their entire way of life. In truth, to them it threatened the very core of Christianity itself. Eventually, all these factors destroyed their trust in government leaders and institutions, which they had always been highly suspicious of in the first place.
In response — and to prevent a full-scale revolt — the Republican Party inadvertently escalated its own downfall by deciding to play only to this narrow slice of its base through culture wars, identity politics and making practically everything about guns, abortion, and gay people …which we suppose is somewhat logical when, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research — 85 percent of the members of your party are Christians. (Note: That said, this number is down from 94 percent in 2006.)
But even severely narrowing things down to guns, abortion, and gay people wasn’t enough for the ever-hardening Republican base. Enough is enough, they thought. Clearly, the only way to conquer the Deep State, shifting demographics, and an increasingly connected world was to shut all of it down completely, a pivot that crushed four of the remaining pillars of the Grand Old Party of yesteryear — faith in civic institutions, international leadership, responsible immigration, and global trade.
So, the stage was perfectly set for June 16, 2015… that fateful day when Donald Trump descended that golden escalator to announce his candidacy for president. The shift from straightforward conservatism to nihilistic populism was complete.
Listen, it’s music to our ears if this is the party Republicans decide they want. It only makes it easier for 1787 to beat them because this strategy is unsustainable for one reason: America is rapidly becoming more urban and diverse and, although they try really, really hard, there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.
…and they just cannot deal…