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Friday, July 3, 2020
How Badly Do Republicans Want To Keep Losing?
As Donald Trump lurches toward what appears to be a landslide loss this November, many Republicans are already looking towards 2024. Even if the president ekes out another Electoral College victory, he will term-limited in four years and the party will need another standard-bearer to carry on the Trump legacy. Many in the GOP are looking towards Fox News personality Tucker Carlson as that candidate.
Politico interviewed 16 prominent Republicans who said that there was an “emerging consensus” that Carlson would “be formidable” if he decided to run. Carlson’s monologues are popular within the Republican Party, his show is currently the most-watched cable news program ever, and his friendship with Donald Trump, Jr. might be parlayed into valuable Trump endorsement.
“He’s a talented communicator with a massive platform. I think if he runs he’d be formidable,” Luke Thompson, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush’s super PAC in 2016, said of Carlson in the Politico piece.
“Let me put it this way: If Biden wins and Tucker decided to run, he’d be the nominee,” said Sam Nunberg, a 2016 campaign advisor to Donald Trump. However, Nunberg is skeptical that Carlson would leave his lucrative television career for politics.
Like Trump, Carlson has no political experience and has never run for office. Like Trump, many people believe that he is unlikely to give up his private-sector career for a political campaign. Not so fast, says Rich Lowry of National Review.
“No one can dismiss this and say it’s completely implausible.” Lowry told Politico. “There is at the very least a significant faction within the Republican Party that [Carlson] has a huge stake in and arguably leadership over,” adding, “If he has political ambitions, he has an opening. He has a following and a taste for controversy. He’s smart, quick on his feet and personable. Political experience matters less than it once did.”
Indeed, Carlson, who is a strong Trump supporter, would be a lot like Trump Part Deux. The question for Republicans is whether the country would be willing to take a chance on another amateur rabble-rouser after its failed experiment with Donald Trump. Like Trump, Carlson is a figure who is mostly popular within the Republican Party and Fox News watchers, rather than the moderates and independents who decide elections.
Through a fluke of the Electoral College, that base was enough to eke out a victory in 2016 against a historically bad Democratic candidate. It looks increasingly likely that the mix will not be enough to defeat a slightly less bad candidate in 2020 or in 2024 when Democrats might finally pick a competent and lucid politician.
My prediction is that Donald Trump will lose big this November. If intelligent people still run the Republican Party and make up its voter base, they will change course and run far away from people like Tucker Carlson and the Trumps, who preach to a shrinking choir and write off ever-larger swaths of the electorate as unwinnable.
After Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in 2012, the Republican Party commissioned an after-action report to find out what went wrong and what the party could do better. Among the recommendations from that 2013 report were that the party should reach out to minorities and gays, embrace immigration reform, and eliminate the echo chamber in which Republicans largely talk to themselves. Then in 2016, the party went completely in the other direction when it threw in its lot with Donald Trump.
The bargain worked in the short-term with a victory over Hillary Clinton but the party paid the price in 2018. Another installment seems likely to be due this year.
The bottom line is that Republicans have to do better at winning minority votes. Trump won in 2016 despite winning only eight percent of blacks and 28 percent of Hispanics per Roper exit polling, but that victory, in which the Democrats won the popular vote, is going to become increasingly harder to replicate.
The simple reason is that the share of white voters is declining. In 2016, white voters made up 70 percent of the electorate compared with 81 percent in the 2000 election.
There are two ways to deal with that changing reality. One is to become a “big tent” party while the other is to double-down on rallying the base and trying to preserve the white majority through restrictive immigration policies. So far, the GOP has chosen the second option.
An alarming statistic is that Mitt Romney won a larger (47.2) percentage of the vote when he lost than Donald Trump did (46.1) when he won the 2016 election. The GOP was hemorrhaging voters even when Trump won by a fluke. That’s no way to build a political party in the long term.
After the Republican Party loses this November, there will be time for soul-searching and recriminations, just as there were after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012. The lessons of the 2013 report are still waiting to be acted upon. Maybe Republicans will heed that advice in 2024. Or maybe they will nominate Tucker Carlson.