A Time For Choosing

Why I can’t stay with the GOP and neither can you.

For a party at its height of influence, Republicans remain in a tenuous position at the national level because of Trump. They lost the popular vote count by nearly 3 million in the 2016 presidential election, and Trump has done almost nothing to expand his appeal. Long-term demographic trends are running against the GOP, with the non-Hispanic white population declining from 76 percent to 63 percentover the past two decades and the country on track to be majority minority by 2045 .

Some Trumpites are brutally honest about the political challenge in this environment. “I believe that white voters will begin voting for Republicans in larger numbers than they do now,” says Thomas O’Malley in American Thinker. The political challenge for the GOP, in the meantime, is to “seriously reduce immigration and encourage population growth within the country.” Which clearly means population growth in that portion of the country with less melanin.

Trump has stoked the resentment of the white working class against minorities. His disdain toward immigrants, especially Mexicans, his flirting with racist groups like the KKK and his proposed ban on Muslims will make the national GOP a toxic party for persons of color. While some campaigns have used racial animosity, that hasn’t been the case with all GOP candidates and politicians. George W. Bush, for example, wanted to expand outreach towards Latinos. But Trump and the millions who voted for him show that there are people who want someone in power that speaks up for the white guy. What might have been at the margins of GOP campaigning will without a doubt be at the center of the party. The result is a much smaller party.

Both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were statewide elected officials before ascending to the presidency. From 1968 to 1988, the GOP carried California in every presidential election. It swung to the Democrats in 1992 as part of Bill Clinton’s larger revival of the Democratic Party’s national fortunes.

But in the 1990s California had a Republican governor, Wilson, who had served as the state’s US senator for most of the 1980s. In the 1994 midterm elections, the GOP even swept into a majority in the state assembly.

Wilson and his Republican colleagues were closely associated with a law enacted via ballot initiative known as Proposition 187 that sought to create a state-run citizenship verification system and bar undocumented immigrants from accessing state services. It was, at the time, the very first effort to create a state-level immigration control policy, and it’s no coincidence that the trend came first to California — the state had a lot of immigrants, residing there both legally and illegally. So many that the state was close to tipping over into “majority-minority” status, which surely heightened the salience of immigration-related concerns to the state’s white conservatives…

…what makes Wilson remarkable is that he was also the last Republican to win a statewide election in California under anything resembling normal circumstances. Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger sneaked into office in 2003 as part of an unusually structured recall election, and governed completely independently from the conservative movement.

Beyond that — nothing.

Not because Prop 187 became hideously unpopular per se, but because it became emblematic of the California Republican Party’s transformation into a vehicle for white identity politics, a transformation that rendered the GOP unacceptable to a majority of the state’s voters.

The problem is he (Donald Trump) doesn’t base his belonging on the bonds of affection conservatives hold dear. He doesn’t respect and obey those institutions, traditions and values that form morally decent individuals.

His tribalism is the evil twin of community. It is based on hatred, us/them thinking, conspiracy-mongering and distrust. It creates belonging, but on vicious grounds.

In 2018, the primary threat to the sacred order is no longer the state. It is a radical individualism that leads to vicious tribalism. The threat comes from those two main currents of the national Republican Party. At his essence Trump is an assault on the sacred order that conservatives hold dear — the habits and institutions that cultivate sympathy, honesty, faithfulness and friendship.

Today you can be a conservative or a Republican, but you can’t be both.

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Middle-aged Midwesterner. I write about religion, politics and culture. Podcast: churchandmain.org newsletter: https://churchandmain.substack.com/

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