Will the national GOP Californicate?
What the rise and fall of movement conservatism in California foretells for the post-Trump Republican party.
My latest for the New Republic suggests that the dwindling of the California GOP into a cultish, powerless remnant is a plausible fate for the national party if Donald Trump loses in November and the Senate goes Democratic, as seems likely.
In the piece, I write about how the Republicans lost Orange County. They are also well along toward losing San Diego.
Why would Republicans choose irrelevance in the corridors of power over compromise? One explanation might be a shift in American politics away from the exercise of power, as noted by Yuval Levin in an interesting essay about Congress published two years ago in the conservative publication Commentary. Senators and House members, he wrote, have come to “see themselves as players in a larger political ecosystem the point of which is not legislating or governing but rather engaging in a kind of performative outrage for a partisan audience.”
Remind you of anyone we know? Trump promised to save American manufacturing, but factory jobs are down by nearly 300,000. He promised to build a wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it, but he’s added only three miles to fencing that was there before, and of course Mexico hasn’t paid a dime.
Trump ramped up government harassment of undocumented immigrants with the goal of reducing border crossings, but border crossings have gone up and down during his presidency, with little clear connection to whatever the Department of Homeland Security was doing at the time.
Trump’s main policy successes have been cutting taxes for wealthy corporations and individuals and halting or weakening environmental and workplace regulation. It’s hard to imagine many midwestern blue collar workers elected him to do that. And anyway, many of Trump’s antiregulatory moves ran afoul of the Administrative Procedures Act and were blocked by judges.
It’s almost as if Trump’s goal weren’t to achieve results but to … engage in performative outrage for his most hard-core supporters.
Own the liberals on Twitter! That’s what Trump’s presidency is about. He can’t possibly think that sending federal troops into cities will reduce tensions, and they haven’t. Maybe Trump’s aim was not to restore order, but to stir the kind of urban disorder that he talked about in his inaugural address (even though it was virtually nonexistent at the time). Urban disorder helped elect and re-elect Richard Nixon, and Trump seems to think it can do the same for him now.