Like it or not, demographic change will be the undoing of the Republican Party. Indeed, some Republican operatives believe that Trump - who they expect to lose dramatically - is only serving to expedite the GOP's death spiral because he has championed the positions that will lead to the death of the GOP. Moreover, many now believe that the party is incapable of reform. One such doomsayer is Bruce Bartlett, adviser to numerous Republican officeholders, including Jack Kemp and President Ronald Reagan, for whom he was a domestic policy adviser. Here are excerpts from Bartlett's op-ed in the Washington Post:
Last year, I wrote an article calling Donald Trump a godsend for moderate Republicans. Trump, I predicted, would lose so spectacularly that the GOP would be forced to transform itself, surrendering its mindless obstructionism, science denial, xenophobia and plutocracy. After a purge like that, the party would finally be able to compete in future national elections.
I was wrong. I now see that Trump’s candidacy has exacerbated the Republican Party’s weaknesses, alienating minorities, fracturing the base and stunting smart policy development. The party’s structural problems are so severe that reform is impossible. Even if Trump loses and the GOP races to forget him, the party is doomed. And very few of our leaders seem to care.
In the short run, it will be easy for Republicans to convince themselves that nothing needs to change. The establishment believes that Trump is an anomaly, an aberration. GOP leaders think the party’s next nominee will be a more typical politician who knows the issues, has well-developed debating skills and who will appeal to the elite and the Trumpkins. Someone like John Kasich or Marco Rubio.
Many leaders also assume that Hillary Clinton is an automatic one-termer. . . . . . But Clinton’s chances of being reelected in 2020 are better than Republicans think. Already, Democrats have a virtual lock on 18 states, giving them analmost automatic 242 electoral votes. States such as Virginia, Colorado and Florida routinely vote Democratic, too.
Additionally, the Republican Party will have to contend with the Trump constituency, which will remain a powerful force in the presidential primaries (fueled, perhaps, by a Trump cable channel). White nationalists will continue to back racist candidates, alienating minority voters. It’s not hard to imagine another cycle with 17 candidates vying for the nomination. If that comes to pass, someone could win the primary race with less than half the vote, as Trump did.
If Clinton wins a second term, major progressive change becomes possible. Sixteen years of Democratic presidents will give the Supreme Court a solid liberal majority, making electoral reform doable. Restrictions on campaign contributions and gerrymandering could emerge, making it harder to draw districts that reliably swing one way or the other. If Democrats put resources into state legislative races, they may be able to undercut GOP gerrymandering after the 2020 census.
By 2022, it’s possible that Democrats will control Congress and gridlock will be broken. Once that happens, the federal government will be able to tackle major issues.
These policies will, of course, be opposed by Republicans (even those who know better) because the GOP’s Trump/tea party wing will control the nominating and primary process for years to come, dooming any leader or lawmaker who compromises with Democrats.
As former U.S. deputy Treasury secretary Roger Altman showed recently in the Financial Times, businesspeople are already flocking to Clinton, and to Democrats more broadly.
Deprived of funding and business support, the national GOP will shrivel to what the party has become in California — irrelevant politically and unable to win outside its wealthy, right-wing enclaves.
When I began criticizing the GOP for pandering to populists and extremists, I was largely alone. But now, longtime Republican luminaries, including John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, and Washington Post columnist George Will, share my perspective. Many, such as Josh Barro, a columnist for Business Insider, have virtually washed their hands of the party, viewing the intellectual rot as terminal.
Because of the way our government is set up, the United States will probably always have two parties. But it is not foreordained that the GOP will be the center-right party. It could go the way of the Whigs or Canada’s Conservative Party in 1993 and literally disappear, or it could reconstitute itself so radically that it bears little resemblance to the Republican Party of today. One thing, however, is certain: A party that cannot capture the White House cannot survive.