Andy Schmookler: The central role of the Republican base | Every day

People should pay more attention to the central role that the Republican base plays in the current American political drama.

For every article seeking to understand this basis, there are probably hundreds on Donald Trump. But whatever important things might be said about Trump, Trump wouldn’t matter if it weren’t for the fervent support of the Republican base for him.

• It was the base that elevated Trump to the 2016 Republican nomination for president. The Republican establishment tried to shut down Trump, but Republican primary voters nominated him as their candidate.

• And then, after the 6/1 uprising, it was again the grassroots that insisted that the Republican Party remain the Trump Party, intimidating Republican Party leaders who clearly wanted to leave Trump behind. Then the Party capitulated to the three-quarters of the base who remained committed to Trump.

The base first made him president, and now allows Trump to own the party because the base will punish and reward anyone Trump tells them.

So, however one understands Trump’s impact on the nation, Trump’s reservoir of power clearly lies in how the majority of Republican voters think, believe and feel.

Which brings us to where – despite all my ongoing attempts to understand the “state of consciousness” of the base – I, too, have failed to foresee the vital role the base plays in another part of our political drama. : the next mid-term reviews.

Months ago, I wrote about the apparent “trajectory” of the midterm elections and the factors that could alter it. Futures markets, at that time, gave Republicans a 75% chance of taking control of both houses of Congress.

Three of the four factors I cited as likely to change the electoral outlook had a visible impact, nearly halving Republicans’ chances of controlling all of Congress.

• So many of Trump’s crimes have come to light, producing some public backlash against the Trump party.

• President Biden has made some use of his ‘bullying pulpit’ to warn of ‘threats to democracy’.

• The Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion has provoked a surprisingly powerful political backlash among the two-thirds of Americans who oppose the ruling.

But what I haven’t imagined is how the Republican base could be a game-changer through the types of candidates Republican primary voters would choose their candidates. In particular, their Senate candidates.

In states across the country, the Republican primaries have witnessed a repeat of this competition between the power structure of the Republican Party and the Republican base. The establishment wanted candidates who could be marketed as normal Republicans. The base continued to choose MAGA-type candidates – endorsed by Trump, or making Trump’s “stolen election” a central part of their campaigns.

In states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio and now New Hampshire, the base picked candidates who were likely to lose races that seemed winnable to the GOP.

The base’s preference for the extreme is why the futures markets have halved the likelihood of Republicans controlling all of Congress.

Senator Mitch McConnell, whose primary ambition appears to be to become Senate boss again, makes oblique comments about the “quality of candidates”, gritting his teeth as he watches the base diminish his chances of becoming Senate leader. majority.


I’ve watched pretty closely how the Republican world has evolved over the past 30 years, and it hasn’t always been true that the base is the source of toxicity – our political dynamics becoming a constant conflict over things that are not true.

You could see – especially when W was president – ​​how that spirit started at the top, while the base remained normal American conservatives. But it slowly seeped into the states parties and into the base.

By the time we get to 2015-16, the base had been transformed.

Tens of millions of Americans had been led to believe that it seemed like a good idea to hand over the powers of the US presidency to a man like Donald Trump.

(It was for its own use that the Republican Party, employing surprisingly effective propaganda methods, had brought this base to this point to put great power in the hands of someone with Trump’s extraordinary set of qualities. )

The fate of the Republican Party underscores an old message from many traditions: meddling with the powers of darkness is dangerous.

This political story illustrates the pattern shown in goth movies: the monster you create can transform and become your master. So now the grassroots – whose consciousness the Republican Party has long labored to shape – has forced that party to become the cowering, obedient slave of a leader the party never wanted.

And it is this base – still in control – that can prevent Republicans from taking control of the Senate by choosing candidates likely to repel the American majority.

This is what McConnell meant by “candidate quality”.

Nonetheless, it remains possible that the Republican base will succeed as it did in 2016, when its extraordinary choice – Trump – won the presidency. Rewarded for navigating the darkness.

The history of the 2022 midterms remains to be written.

Comments are closed.