July 27th, 2020 by Michael Barnard
November 3rd is looking as if it’s going to be an historic loss for the Republican Party. It’s not a foregone conclusion, so American readers, register before reading if you haven’t already, and vote. What will the GOP do if they’ve lost the Oval Office and both houses of Congress by historic numbers?
Let’s start with the likelihood of a Blue wave. Both RealClearPolitics and 538 show very large Trump-Biden spreads right now, with Biden 8-9 points ahead in national polling. Both also show that traditional swing states are almost entirely over the margin of error for Biden, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all of which went to Trump by small margins in 2016. Further, Texas is a dead heat, with RCP showing Trump with a 0.2 point lead, and 538 showing 0.1 points for Biden. That’s statistical noise. It’s up for grabs. Other traditionally Red states are showing similar challenges. RCP’s no-tossup view shows 382 to 186 Electoral College seats for Biden, and the tossup view still shows him vastly ahead. The Presidency is about 90% likely to flip in November, hence Trump’s and Republican’s attempts to create an image of cities burning and brave jackbooted faceless unidentified federal forces holding back the anarchy of the Wall of Moms and the Dads with Leaf Blowers. So the Presidency is pretty clear. But remember: register and vote.
Then there’s the House. If flipped in 2018, when a lot of seats were open, Republicans were retiring and Democratic candidates took 8.6% more of the popular vote amid the midterm election most voted in for 100 years. Democratic voters are showing exactly zero evidence of being any less motivated to get to the polls this year, and the House is very safe in their hands. But remember: register and vote.
Then there’s the Senate. RCP’s no-tossup view has 52 Democratic Senators to 48 GOP Senators. The tossup view shows seven Senate seats in play with more leans Democratic than GOP, and strong contenders. 538 has indicated that 60 Senate seats, a filibuster-proof majority but not a supermajority, is a possibility, albeit unlikely. The odds of the Senate flipping again are quite good. But remember: register and vote.
So Trump’s gone. The House is gone. The Senate is gone. Many long term Republicans are going or gone, under their own steam into retirement or private sector, or being booted. The Republicans are going to be living with Trump’s legacy of a disastrous response to COVID-19 and the 70% supported Black Lives Matter protests, and their complicity in both of these disastrous affairs. But remember: register and vote.
For the record, I published two pieces indicating that Republicans were likely to lose even before COVID-19 and BLM. The first almost a year ago, when I posited that climate change alone was going to flip the Republicans, or at least the Presidency. Earlier this year, when COVID-19 was just a blip and there were several Black people still alive who were subsequently brutally murdered on camera by cops and white people, I published another piece with more data points on this thesis. It’s been eclipsed, but that issue is compounded by Republican failures, not mitigated. I published another piece in March related to the likely impacts of COVID-19 on US politics, and spoke with Zach Shahan at length in a two-part podcast on the subject in May.
What Will The Republicans Do While They Are In The Wilderness?
There are two paths. One is a full-throated Trump 2.0 party, where someone rallies Trumpistas together, plays Trump’s favorite hits — expect “Lock her up!” to return — and grabs the subset of Americans too venal, racist, or indoctrinated to realize how bad Trump has been as supporters. The second is much more interesting. Let’s have a look.
The first is the Trumpistas. Matt Gaetz might be positioned to take them. He’s white, male, a complete dithering asshole, and has an extraordinary opinion of himself. He’s willing to say the most absurdly inflammatory things, and has no shame. Perfect to take on Trump’s mantle. He’ll be 42 in four years, so old enough to seem credible. For his running mate, he’d get someone older who isn’t Florida Man Makes Good, likely from Texas or Utah. Almost certainly male and evangelical. Hard to pick the Veep, so I won’t try.
There’s been a lot of chatter about Tucker Carlson, but he just doesn’t have a profile outside of Fox News opinion viewers. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ego to try, but I doubt it. The party has tried a reality TV host with no governing experience, and Carlson has now seen clearly that it’s actually a hard job and that he’s deeply incompetent to do it. He likes his cushy job pushing pillows.
The second are more interesting, and to be desired. The Democratic Party under Obama and Biden in 2008 was quite far right by global democracy standards per the Manifesto Project, an ongoing study of political platforms in elections in democracies. In 2012, they swung back to be merely center-right by global standards. In 2016, the progressive wing of the party led to a barely center-left platform by Clinton. The Democratic Primaries and Biden’s actions since he became the presumptive candidate make it clear that they are staying very centrist, probably ending up around where Clinton was four years ago, which is to say in a very rational place that’s aligned with empirical reality on climate, health, the economy, and the 21st Century.
The Republicans, by comparison, have remained very far right, among extremist parties in global terms. Trump’s taken the subtext of racist and xenophobic dog whistlers and made it explicit, and made the authoritarian tough on crime subtext into full-blown boots on the ground echoes of fascist regimes globally. Gaetz or some other Trump 2.0 could maintain the deeply irrational far-right extremism wing of the party. They would likely lose more ground, but conservative parties globally are drifting further into lockstep with the most anachronistic portions of their bases, the ones still living in the 1980s and dreaming of a TV version of the 1950s. The Conservative Party of Canada certainly did that in the 2019 election and looks set to repeat this mistake as they select a new leader.
That leaves a lot of political water between the Democratic Party and the current positioning of the Republicans. There is a big opportunity for a major moderate Republican to draw a center-right, as opposed to far-right, platform to work to bring the Republicans over and make the GOP into a credible governing party again. The candidate could use the Trump years as leverage to repudiate the worst aspects of the Party, drawing it into the 21st century.
This theoretical person would accept the science of climate change and present a Republican-branded plan to deal with it. Two initiatives with lots of current and ex-Republicans have a carbon fee and dividend plan combined with deregulation, and 69% of American voters wanted the government to take action on the human causes of climate change in late 2018 per Monmouth polling, so by 2024 this would be highly salable. They could re-enter the Paris Accord and ratify the Kigali Amendment. They’d focus on making American ingenuity, entrepreneurialism, and innovation be focused on the future economies, not the past economies Trump has primarily been pandering to. They could invest in resilience in the face of climate change in communities being impacted by it, whether due to sea level rise, increased hurricane damage, or inland flooding, drought, and wild fires.
The person could reject anti-vaxx rhetoric and be focused on rebuilding the US’ ability to deal with pandemics, and its position in the world. They would likely rejoin the World Health Organization immediately. They could be reassuring about America’s ability to deal with the next COVID-19 on their watch.
They could break with the evangelicals and return to the practice of an ecumenical religious council advising the President, instead of solely evangelical protestants. Still wearing religion on their sleeve, which the US is prone to, but not one schismatic sect of it that’s deeply irrational and dwindling in power and influence. They’d be overtly Christian, there would still be the prayer breakfasts and lots of references to god in their speeches, but it would be more business as usual American politics as opposed to the speaking in tongues horror show we’re seeing right now.
It would quite probably be one of the Republican leaders in the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Here are the ones with national name recognition or other leadership attributes to consider.
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
- Francis Rooney (R-FL-19) – Co-chair
- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01)
Wait, who is that last one? Yeah, Gaetz, the “Trumpiest member of Congress” as one outlet puts it, is also a climate change accepter.
There are some interesting ticket combinations in there.
It’s unlikely Romney would run again, although I wouldn’t count it out. His relatively principled sounding anti-Trumpism, solid Republican creds, and long-standing leadership and seniority in the party would make him the choice of many moderate Republicans. And he votes the Party line constantly, so no one will worry too much about him. But he’s a possible. I think he could easily take Murkowski or Collins as a running mate and have a very appealing ticket. He’ll be 77 in 2024, which works for and against him. The current matchup is in that age range, so why not him?
I don’t see it for Graham. He apparently tried for the candidacy last time around, and I completely forgot until I just looked it up. But I’ve cited him in my pieces as someone who talks the talk on climate change and is clearly tired of the Trump destruction derby.
Rubio, on the other hand, definitely has Presidential aspirations and focus. He was in the hunt in 2015 and 2016, he’s Latino, and he’ll be 53 in 2024. Once again, I could easily see him and Murkowski or Collins on a ticket.
But I could also see the Trump years of misogyny leading to an inverted gender ticket, a reaction to the horror of “grab her by the pussy” and the impending Blue wave where women walk away from the Republicans. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see a female Republican Presidential Candidate?
Murkowski has form of being dismayed at Trump. She’s Alaskan, which has resonance for Americans as being their last bit of untamed frontier, and she’s not Palin either, which is a big advantage. I could see her striving for the top job, with Rubio as her VP if his ego would accept it. That would cover a lot of demographics and put the two states with the biggest climate change hits in the White House.
Collins is withholding support for Trump for President this year despite supporting past Republicans, but did vote the party line against his impeachment. She would bring a lot of suburban female voter appeal back to the GOP. Her with Graham or Rooney as VP would be a compelling ticket matchup too.
It’s going to be an interesting four years. Will the Republicans realize that 60 years of leaning into irrational wedges with racism in the 60s, misogyny in the 70s, Creationism and anti-abortion in the 80s, propaganda in the 90s, climate change denialism in the 00s and anti-vaxx in the 10s is a losing proposition, and pivot into the 21st century, or will they double down on being the party of the aggrieved and irrational?
I’m hoping for the former, but wouldn’t be surprised by the latter. But remember: register and vote.
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