Why The Republican Party Isn’t Rebranding After 2020

Typically, a political party becomes one after losing a presidential election intense internal party debate about why it didn’t win and how the party must change to retake the White House. Democrats did this after losing 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2016. Indeed afterwards too win In 2020 – to take control of the White House and the US Senate and maintain control of the US House – Democrats are having an internal party debate to find out why they didn’t win more house seats and fight Latino voters. The Republicans have also led debates after losses 1996, 2008 and 2012.

But not this time.

Although the Republicans lost the White House and Senate in 2020 and were completely out of power in Washington, there was no official “autopsy” or widespread consideration of appointing new leaders or anything else. In the aftermath of the 1988 presidential election, the Republican Party did lost the referendum in all but one presidential race (2004). It has lost three of the last four presidential elections and has been dominated by former President Donald Trump charged twice for breaking with democratic values. But it’s going on as if none of this really happened.

Some examples:

The collective decision of Conservative activists and Republican elected officials to remain in office anti-democratic, racist The trajectory the GOP was on before Trump – but which he accelerated – is perhaps the most important story in American politics right now. It is currently unclear whether either of America’s two major political parties really believes in democracy.

Why was there no such reckoning among Conservatives and Republicans? This question is difficult to answer precisely because the Republican Party is not a thing and the incentives of right-wing media outlets like Fox News or Newsmax are different from those of elected officials like Sen. Mitch McConnell. But based on my own reports and interviews with people who study the Republican Party closely, I would offer five (overlapping) theories.

1. The party’s core activists do not want to change gears.

This is the simplest and most obvious explanation: the GOP isn’t changing direction because the people who drive the car don’t want to.

When we think of “Republicans” we are more likely to think of ordinary GOP voters or the party’s top elected officials, especially their leaders in Congress. But in many ways the party’s direction is determined by a group between these two: conservative organizations like Club for growth and the Heritage Foundation, GOP officials at the local and state levels, and right-wing media. This segment of the party has been particularly resilient to the GOP’s abandonment of its current mix of parties Tax cuts for the rich and corporations, Opposition to program expansions that benefits the poor and identity politics that put white Americans and conservative Christians at the center.

You could see the power and preferences of this group in responding to the Capitol Rebellion.

In the days immediately after January 6th many GOP elected officials, especially McConnellsignaled that the party should take a permanent break from Trump. Survey found that an increased number of ordinary GOP voters were dissatisfied with the outgoing president. But when the Senate held its trial over Trump’s actions a month later, it was clear to the party was basically back in line with Trump.

What happened in the weeks between the Capitol uprising and the Senate trial? Local and State Republicans censored Republicans like McConnell who either voted for impeachment or sharply criticized Trump in response to the Capitol uprising. Conservative activists started organizing primary challenges against the 10 Republicans in the House who voted for Trump’s impeachment. Trump-leaning Republicans in Congress like Sen. Rand Paul attacked impeachment proceedingsjust like … did Fox News anchor. The message of some of the party’s loudest and most influential voices to McConnell and senior Republicans in Washington was clear: to break with Trump an attack on the republican base and would not be tolerated by anyone who wished to remain a Republican in good standing.

In theory, political parties mainly focus on winning elections as this gives them the power to carry out their agendas. Why don’t these activists and elected officials change gears out of sheer self-preservation? One reason for this is that without such changes, they do pretty well in the elections. (More on that in a moment.)

Equally important, however, is that many of the key figures and institutions in the Republican Party prefer a risky and often losing strategy to one that truly increases their chances of winning the election. The road to becoming a Republican majority party in America is likely to lead the GOP to embrace cultural and demographic change and advance a more populist economic agenda that is less focused on tax cuts for the rich. But some of the most powerful blocks in the GOP are large donors advocating tax cuts, conservative Christian activists who are Beware of extending LGBTQ rights and an “own the libs” block exemplified by many Fox News personalities and elected officials such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene very critical of immigration and the Black Lives Matter movement. The big donors and conservative Christian activists have political goals that are fairly unpopular but are deeply committed to (such as: Subversion of Roe v. calf) – so that they do not bend for reasons of choice. Winning elections isn’t that important to the own the libs bloc anyway – they don’t really invest in politics or government and will be fine if Republicans don’t stay in the White House and in the minority on Capitol Hill.

In short, the Republican Party has an activist base whose interests are incompatible with pursuing a strategy that maximizes the profitability of national elections.

This is not a new problem for Republicans. Republican after her losses in 2008 and 2012 spoke There is a lot about changing the party, especially getting more contact with color voters, as the GOP did not do after 2020. But that was mostly the talk. Even after these elections, the Republicans didn’t make any real changes, partly because the base of the party was very resilient.

“I don’t think Republicans have a desire to evaluate their preferred policies,” he said Lawrence Glickman, a historian at Cornell University who studies the conservative movement in the United States.

in the a current columnFormer Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Florida MP Carlos Curbelo wrote, “This crusade against the right to vote exposes the GOP’s greatest political responsibility: the party remains frozen in time, even as new demographic blocks join Gain power. ”

2. Trump is still a force in the party.

Prominent Republicans after the 2012 election sharply criticized Mitt Romney and his campaign. Democrats did the same to Hillary Clinton after 2016 – and sometimes too included former President Barack Obama also in their criticism. In order for a political party to change direction, it almost always has to distance itself from previous leaders.

In other words, a corpse must be present for an autopsy to be performed.

But Trump’s continued popularity among major GOP constituencies prevents Republican insiders from having a formal, public discussion of his political shortcomings and how the party should deviate from him. Everyone in the GOP knows that an irritating Trump could lead the former president to attack them, which would make them do it prone to a primary challengewith conservative activists who are likely to support their opponent. So there will be no “autopsy” of the Republican Party after Trump, like that 2013 Republican National Committee report after Romney’s defeat, at least not in public.

3. The Republicans almost won in 2020.

To torture this “autopsy” metaphor even more, there is a good argument that the party is still very much alive.

In the past, parties have been more self-reflective and are more likely to change course once they hit the bottom of the elections. In the 1988 presidential election, Democrats wore it only 10 states and Washington, D.C., and that loss was their third failed offer in a row for the White House. In 2008, Obama won the referendum from 7 percentage points – Republicans didn’t even wear Indiana. Of course, the parties were ready to reconsider things after these defeats.

In contrast to Trump would have won re-election Was it only about 1 percentage point better in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and about 3 points better in Michigan? Republicans would still control the Senate if Republican David Perdue got about 60,000 more votes (out of almost) 4.5 million occupation) against the Democrat Jon Ossoff in the runoff election of the Georgian Senate. A lot of court rulings that forced the redesign of the district boundaries of the house in a more unfavorable way for the GOP helped the Democrats win multiple seats – otherwise the Republicans might have won the house back. Add all that up and 2020 wasn’t far from producing a result republican Trifecta.

Republicans also did really well in state legislature competitions, too Gained ground among black and Latin American voters at the national level (while still losing significantly in both groups).

Given the GOP’s decent performance over the past year, it makes sense that Republicans not rethink their party’s future. Change would be difficult – because it would offend Trump and the party’s activists – and they might not have to make changes anyway. The traditional medium-term backlash against an incumbent president, especially when combined with some election fraud (voting restrictions, gerrymandering) by Republicans at the local level, could result in Republicans gaining control of the House, Senate, or both without that next year they change something.

“They see no reason to re-evaluate,” Glickman said. “They are confident that they will take the house back. … They seem to believe that their culture war / fear mantra will work well enough. They barely acknowledge that they lost in 2020 and put the overall results as a victory represent. ”

Tim Miller, a one-time advisor to both of them John McCain and Jeb Bush during their presidential campaigns and who left the Republican Party, said the GOP’s efforts to make voting more difficult are essentially the party’s autopsy.

“Seeing the turnout numbers for Trump and their increased advantage in the Senate and electoral college, Republicans come to the conclusion that a juiced GOP voter turnout and minority rule model is the best way forward,” Miller said. “And that requires doing nothing to alienate Trump voters, which would be the natural result of an autopsy.”

4. Republican voters do not ask for change.

It may seem strange that we are only now turning our attention to Republican voters, who appear to be the single most important factor in keeping the party from changing gears. I’m not sure. We have lots of evidence that voters tend to follow the cues of the political elites (as opposed to the elites who follow the electorate). In other words, I suspect that if GOP elites, from national elected leaders to Fox News to local activists, broke alongside Trump and Trumpism after the Capitol uprising, the percentage of ordinary Republican voters who were ready to leave the party in a new direction would have grown.

The party elites, of course, do not fully respond to the will of the people. If, for some reason, a majority of Republican voters positively called for a new direction, perhaps the elites would respond. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, polls suggest that ordinary Republican voters seem quite reluctant to make major changes to the GOP, especially a real rejection of Trump.

For example, polls of Republicans – national and in major primary states of the President Iowa and New Hampshire – noted that more than half of Republicans would support Trump in a primary if he ran in 2024. Republicans who do not consider themselves “Trump Republicans” still hold many of Trump’s views YouGov Blue survey. These Republicans like the Black Lives Matter movement and Romney (a Trump critic) and strongly support the construction of a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.

“Trump’s ideas are extremely popular with Republicans … Whatever the future of the Republican Party, it is hard to imagine that it will soon completely break free of Trump,” concluded YouGov Blue from his survey analysis.

5. There are no real forces within the GOP leadership change.

There is something Appetite for change within the GOP. In these 2024 polls, at least a third of Republicans either supported a GOP presidential candidate other than Trump or were undecided.

In the YouGov Blue polls, only about 40 percent of Republicans identified themselves as “Trump Republicans”. A current survey by Fabrizio, Lee and Associates, a GOP-oriented firm that worked on it Trump’s presidential campaignsfound that about 40 percent of Republican voters didn’t want Trump to continue to be the party leader. These numbers do not necessarily mean that these voters want a drastic change in the GOP. But there are a significant number of Trump-skeptical / ready to move on from Trump Republicans Voters. But that feeling doesn’t really show up in the Republican Party’s actions over the past three months – basically everything GOP officials do in states and in Washington is in line with the Trumpian approach. So what’s up?

There are simply not many institutions at this middle tier of the Republican Party that are pushing the party into a new direction – or giving a voice to the people in the party who advocate change. Fox News doesn’t have many prominent hosts calling for a less Trumpian Republican Party. in fact the network has Journalists evicted there that were not coordinated with the President. Like Miller, many of the most prominent anti-Trump Republicans have essentially abandoned GOP reform and are now more involved in the Democratic Party. Local and state Republican parties are dominated by Trump-oriented personalities.

Compare that to the Democratic Party after 2016. After Clinton’s loss, there were at least two major constituencies within the party calling for change: a faction (usually older white men) argued that Clinton talked too much about identity and race issues during the campaign; Another (Progressive) argued that it was not sufficiently populist on economic issues. This criticism influenced both the party, and the Democrats eventually nominated Biden, who avoided rhetoric like calling Trump voters “deplorable”. was probably perceived more favorably by some voters because he is a white man and shifted to the left on economic issues.

It’s hard to see Republicans change course, even if a significant minority of voters in the party want changes without some elite institutions and powerful people in the party pushing a new vision. And it’s hard to see any real anti-Trumpist forces emerging in the GOP right now.

We should note that the Republicans are making some slight shifts. Instead of beating Mexicans and Muslims like Trump in 2016, they try to describe their identity politics in terms of the fight against “bright” people, the “dissolution of culture” and critical racial theory highlight the idea that there is a “Workers’ Party“Even if his economic policy ideas do not necessarily match this mantra. And there is a clear effort in the party too Promotion of other Republican politicians, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as presidential candidates We should also emphasize that this story will only be recorded where we are in April 2021. In three years time, Republicans could be on their way to nominating a Romney guy, like former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Three years is a long time in American politics.

But right now, Republicans are basically doing a very light rebranding without announcing that rebranding, as the party is both resistant to change and largely resistant to even talking about change. Right now, as Glickman put it, Republicans are in a state of “Close-up and down. ”

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