Last Thursday, conservative writer Andrew Sullivan was convinced that Donald Trump would win the presidency, and he was beside himself.
“I think the shock will be how big his margin will be,” Sullivan told me. “I think people really want him. I think the last week has turned the whole conversation from the risks of him to the horror of her.”
“Comey made this a referendum on the Clintons,” he said, referring to FBI Director James Comey, whose Oct. 28 letter to Congress about Clinton’s private email server reset the presidential race.
Sullivan was terrified for the future of the country. And as for the Republican Party, he said: “My own theory is that the Republican Party has died. It doesn’t exist anymore.”
“If Trump wins it’s destroyed,” he said. “The fact that the GOP has junked its entire core philosophy in a matter of months shows there’s nothing there.”
The Republican Party now controls the presidency and both chambers of Congress. It should be a triumphant moment for them.
But instead, many inside the party now face the future with dread, knowing that their party has just elected a man president of the United States who has no interest in small government conservatism and whose candidacy demonstrated no interest in constitutional restrictions on executive power.
Trump has fundamentally shifted the Republican Party away from what it has represented for decades, and the question is how permanent that shift will be. Trump conditioned many voters to reject traditional small-government conservatism. His supporters were more energized by protectionism in economic affairs, isolationism in foreign policy and hostility toward immigrants and racial minorities.
Trump’s campaign ran on the fuel of anti-elite, anti-establishment, anti-Washington, anti-globalism attitudes throughout the nation. These feelings are most pronounced in parts of the country where white working-class communities feel besieged by job loss and cultural change. They’ve seen growing liberalization on social issues backed up by governmental and cultural institutions: from the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage to transgender bathrooms in North Carolina to repression of free speech on college campuses.
But another element of Trump’s support came from what’s known as the alt-right, which overlaps with white working-class America in some ways but is more of an online movement, “shrouded in pseudonyms,” as Benjamin Wallace-Wells put it in the New Yorker, “testing the strength of the speech taboos that revolve around conventional politics — of what can be said, and how directly.”
The alt-right draws support from those who are “deeply alienated, intellectually, even emotionally and spiritually, from American conservatism,” according to Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank. The movement revolves around an understanding of America as belonging to white European-descendant culture, rather than to all cultures and ethnicities.
Trump’s election marks a seismic moment in American history. It will spark a conversation about a new party that would not have been as serious if Trump had lost.
In Salt Lake City, independent candidate
“The Republican Party can no longer be considered the home for conservatives,” McMullin
“Tonight there are millions of Americans, I’m sad to say, who are in fear that perhaps their liberties will be challenged and threatened under a Trump administration that has made a campaign of targeting people based on their race, their religion and gender. This is why a new conservative movement is necessary, and we will not turn our back on this challenge,” McMullin said.
McMullin had polled well in Utah, and received about 20 percent of the vote, but Trump won the state resoundingly.
McMullin may or may not have a role to play in whatever comes out of a conservative revolt against Trump, but he was one of the few people willing to publicly stand against Trump from the right.
And before the results had even come in Tuesday night, conservative columnist David Brooks discussed the need for a new party in
“The events of 2016 represent a watershed and a call to do politics differently,” Brooks wrote. “Personally I’ve always disdained talk of a third party, mostly because the structural barriers against such parties are so high, no matter how scintillatingly attractive they seem in theory. But it’s becoming clear that the need for a third party outweighs even the very real barriers.”
But some of Trump’s most vocal opponents, such as conservative writer Erick Erickson, signaled they are going to try to support Trump’s presidency.
“I could not vote for Trump,”
“I think the #NeverTrump Republicans need to do a reset and give Donald Trump the chance we did not give him up to now,” Erickson wrote.
The immediate conversation inside the party will turn quickly to what will happen to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who antagonized Trump throughout the campaign with criticisms. Will Trump signal to the House Republicans that he wants them to keep Ryan in place, or not? If Ryan stays as speaker, his relationship with Trump will be closely watched.
Who runs the Republican National Committee? RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was expected to run for another term in the event of a Trump loss. But there are now rumors Trump will bring Priebus into his administration, perhaps as chief of staff, and will install his own leader of the committee, to tighten his grip on the party.
And will there be a challenger to Trump from inside the party for the presidential nomination in 2020?
Sullivan, when we talked, didn’t think so.
“Once he gets power what he will do with that power — given what he’s shown he can do with power — will render any potential challenge to him very hard,” Sullivan said.
Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist for the New York Times,