Stuart Stevens was Republican Mitt Romney’s chief strategist during his 2012 presidential run, and a militant never-Trumper. He’s got a book coming out about the collapse of the Republican Party and any pretenses that it had core ideals.
But unlike most Republicans now using books to try and distance themselves from Trumpism (see Michael Cohen and John Bolton), Stevens owns his role in crafting that party. “[B]lame me. Blame me when you look around and see a dysfunctional political system and a Republican Party that has gone insane [...] Burn it to the ground and start over.”
And core to Steven’s revelation is what President Lyndon B. Johnson knew when he signed the Civil Rights Act, that “We have lost the South for a generation” (he was off by … lots of generations). It’s what President Richard Nixon knew when he set in motion his Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy,” which wielded racial resentment as a tool of power (and facilitated the rise of Republicans like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and Tump). It’s a revelation that Stevens admits he ignored, that his party is built on racism.
“A lot of us in the party liked to believe the dark side was a recessive gene, but it’s a dominant theme,” Stevens told David Corn at Mother Jones. “And it’s all about race. The Republican Party is a white party and there still are more white people than non-white people.”
Indeed, according to Civiqs’ daily tracker, Trump’s job approval is 41-56. But among non-college white people, the GOP’s core base? 54-43.
If only non-college white people could vote, this is what the national map would look like:
And that’s a base built on racism. Support for a border wall is 43-53 among all Americans, a 10-point deficit. Among non-college whites? It’s 56-40 in support.
Among all Americans, Black Lives Matter has 49-37 support. But among non-college whites, it’s 48-36 opposed. Obviously, us liberals have known and seen this from the beginning, but it was easy for mainstream Republicans to ignore, or even pretend that it didn’t exist. After all, it got them pro-business judges and friendly business regulations and tax cuts.
On his own, with no prompting, Stevens went straight to the Defcon-1 analogy: “I tell my GOP friends, ‘It’s crazy to say it’s 1934 in Germany…when it’s clearly 1936.’” He insisted that the 1930s are important for understanding the current moment. “When there was rising anti-Semitism, isolationism, and pro-Nazi sentiment, why did the US not become fascist?” Stevens asked. “Because of FDR. Leaders matter, and the GOP has now completely abdicated its role.” Instead, the party has yielded completely to demagoguery and race-baiting to exploit the racism and resentments of certain white voters. Throughout his decades as a Republican, Stevens considered this racist element a bug in the system. He now realizes it has been a feature.
Remember, for years the Republican Party claimed it stood for a strong national defense, family values, and lower taxes. Well, Trump delivered on the last of those, but he’s also surrendered to Russia while begging other despotic regimes to help him win reelection. And on family values, one would have to search far and wide for someone as morally decrepit as Trump. (I wanted to say Jeffrey Epstein, but then Trump went and wished his enabler, Ghislaine Maxwell, well.)
This GOP has abandoned its supposed ideals on free trade, on budget deficits, on the use of presidential executive orders, on federalism, on strict adherence to the Constitution, on … you name it. They got tax cuts, but what else “conservative” has Trump and his party accomplished?
They’ve tossed it all aside in favor of whatever fanciful whims Trump might engage in. And for what? to avoid having Trump tweet at them? To avoid maybe losing the next election? They’re losing anyway! And those that survive, because of being gerrymandered in safe rural districts (because that’s all that’s safe for them anymore) or safe rural states (with unfair and unjustifiable influence in the Senate) are doomed to the minority, at least in the short term.
But is the long term that much more favorable to them? Sure, liberals are our own worst enemies, and voting performance remains a challenge. We followed up President Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory with electoral apathy, which led to the GOP wave of 2010, which led to the Republican takeover of the U.S. House and key battlegrounds like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And oh, what a non-coincidence, those are the three states that f’d us in 2016 giving us Donald Trump. All of this stuff is related. And all of that happened because people were upset at the slow rate of change in Obama’s first year in office.
We can let that happen again. That’s our worst-case scenario—that progressive apathy in 2022 give this Republican Party new life.
But aside from that, those long-term trends suck for the GOP. Older white conservative-dominant Americans are, er, exiting the electorate. America’s youth is already majority non-white, and even more dramatically so in places like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas—all states trending strongly in our favor.
As Stevens realized, the GOP isn’t just built on that foundation of racism, but with Trump and a subservient party, it has decided that change is not in the cards.
You might’ve forgotten this, but it tried in 2013, in the wake of losing a second time to Obama. In its election post-mortem, the Republican National Committee wrote:
- “[A]mong the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, must be to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
- “Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”
- “Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays—and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”
- “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue. Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us.”
- “The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party's message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have.”
Unbelievable, right? That a party argued in 2013 that it should stop being beholden to right-wing media, to stop attacking gays, to be racially inclusive, to pass immigration reform, and to promote women has … become what it has—even more explicitly hostile to those tenets.
That’s what nominating and electing Trump was, an explicit repudiation of the party’s efforts to modernize itself for the nation’s new electorate. It worked spectacularly in 2016, less because of Trump, and more because of the right-wing’s successful demonization of Hillary Clinton, aided by our nation’s continued legacy of sexism, even among supposed allies.
But the GOP’s massive election losses in 2017, 2018, and 2019 prove that it was a short-lived victory, one that will have its final nail delivered this November. The GOP’s court-packing efforts these last few years will bedevil us for another generation, but electorally, the GOP is in a world of hurt.
Does anyone think that a 2021 RNC post-mortem will arrive at the same conclusions as the 2013 one did? This is a broken party, one that will fall to QAnon control before long.
As always, our job is to help hasten the GOP’s demise—work your ass off to elect Democrats at all levels this year. We took advantage of this opportunity in 2018 to great effect, no reason to take our foot off the gas this year.
There is no room for racism in today’s America, and there’s certainly no room for a racist, Confederate-flag worshipping major party in this country. Time to put them out of their misery and relegate them to the trash heap of history.