In the run up to the 2016 Presidential election, I heard pundit after pundit, and commenter after commenter bleating about how Trump’s candidacy was going to be the end of the Republican party. The fact that they nominated (with a full throated roar) such a terrible candidate, a narcissistic, racial pandering, xenophobic, serial sexual harassing, and in general boorish candidate, surely, this would destroy the Republican party.
As tempting as it was (being a fairly liberal, mostly Democrat voting person) to back in the impending demise, and hapless wandering in the dark of the Republicans, daring to hope that even gaining the 20 or so seats in the house for a complete Democrat rout, I had to step back.
Was the Republican party really on the ropes? Were they set for a several election cycle rebuilding? Would they have to find their way again?
Of course not. Even before Trump pulled off the unimaginable, beating Hillary in the bastion of the Blue firewall states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania), and losing many other states that President Obama carried both times, there was a stark beacon.
The Republican party dominates the statehouses. They currently hold 31 Governor‘s mansions to 18 for the Democrats (there is one Independent). They hold 68 out of 98 statehouses that are politically awarded, and in nearly half the states, 24, they hold both the statehouses and the governor. Clearly, that isn’t the sign of a party in demise.
Add to that the REDMAP project for the 2010 midterms, and you have a safely gerrymandered districts across the country, ensuring that unless a calamity happens (and clearly, Trump being on the ballot wasn’t enough of a calamity) the house was safely under Republican control until the next census in 2020 opens up the maps for redrawing.
in fact, the REDMAP project, and the safety of the gerrymandered districts pretty much ensures that only the Republican candidate will win a majority of districts, so instead of moderate, “can win in the main election against a reasonable Democrat” candidates, it is how far right can you go, increasing the partisan separation and ultimately lead to the rise of the Tea Party and Freedom Coalition coalition, largely responsible for the obstructionism in the house.
Of course, Trump won, the Democrats took a couple of senate seats from particularly vulnerable Republicans (many those who won in the 2010 midterm elections) and picked up a handful in the house. The Republicans have solid control of all branches of government, and assuming that a fiercely conservative Justice is elevated to the Supreme Court to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia, it is a bleak time for the progressives in America.
Instead of writing the eulogy of the Republican party, that many progressives were drafting as early as July, the Republicans in the Federal Government are going to have pretty free hands to enact all their pet changes.
The Democrats, licking their wounds, need a serious retrenchment, and refocusing on the future. Their bench depth for national elections isn’t great (some good name recognition, but it takes more than that to withstand the Republican slime machine), and their abysmal turnout in midterm elections allows the Republicans to run roughshod.
Add to that the fact that the Trump campaign completely tossed out all the established wisdom, underspending, poor ground game, and almost non-existent GoTV operation, proved that naked, opportunistic populism combined with celebrity was a winning combination.
The next two years look bleak, time to get organizing, and hope for a miracle turnout in the midterms of 2018.