Michelle Goldberg writes:
Toward the end of his new book, “R.I.P. G.O.P.,” the renowned Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg makes a thrilling prediction, delivered with the certainty of prophecy. “The year 2020 will produce a second blue wave on at least the scale of the first in 2018 and finally will crash and shatter the Republican Party that was consumed by the ill-begotten battle to stop the New America from governing,” he writes.
It sounds almost messianic: the Republican Party, that foul agglomeration of bigotry and avarice that has turned American politics into a dystopian farce, not just defeated but destroyed. The inexorable force of demography bringing us a new, enlightened political dispensation. Greenberg foresees “the death of the Republican Party as we’ve known it,” and a Democratic Party “liberated from the nation’s suffocating polarization to use government to advance the public good.”
Goldberg is skeptical. I'm even more so.
It's not that I reject the possibility of a blowout Democratic victory in 2020 -- that could happen, as could a Trump win and everything in between. (My prediction: a Democratic victory that's well short of a landslide.) It's that Republicans will regroup very quickly in the face of defeat, just the way they did after the 2008 election.
A Democratic win won't mean that the country is suddenly progressive. Alexander Agadjanian of the MIT Election Lab notes in The Washington Post today that Joe Biden is the leading presidential candidate among Democratic voters who score highly on measures of racial resentment, even as he's also the favorite of African-American voters. That's a reminder that there are still quite a few Democratic voters who aren't progressive. I think there should be enough anti-Trump votes to put a more progressive Democratic nominee than Biden over the top in 2020, but the racial resenters (many of whom also score high on measures of sexism) won't welcome everything a progressive president does. They'll be susceptible to right-wing propaganda during the new presidency. (We can't vote Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media infrastructure out of existence.) And, of course, even if the president is Biden, the right will cry "Socialism" -- and even some anti-Trumpers who voted Democratic will believe the propaganda.
If the Senate is still Republican, the next president will struggle to advance an agenda. If Democrats sweep Congress and the president is a progressive, there'll be moves to make serious change on climate, inequality, taxation, gun policy, and a host of other issues -- but many voters, including some who were Trump, won't like the price tags on these items. Some will believe that national bankruptcy is imminent. Some will think all their guns or hamburgers will be confiscated overnight by jackbooted thugs. And remember, all this could be happening in a cooling economy, or one that's already in recession.
... Greenberg sees an omen for the Republican Party in California. It’s hard to remember now, but the state was once the heartland of conservatism, nurturing the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. From 1968 to 1988, it voted Republican in every presidential election, and regularly elected Republican governors.
But in 1994, California Republicans, fearful of changing demography, campaigned for Proposition 187, a ballot initiative meant to make life miserable for undocumented immigrants. It won — though courts blocked its implementation — but it also turned expanding constituencies in California against Republicans. Today the party has been reduced to an irrelevant rump faction in state politics.
... California can ... be seen as a sign of how a political party can drive itself to ruin by making a cruel, doomed stand against the coming generation.
But that transition wasn't effortless. As late as 2003, Republicans engineered a recall of a Democratic governor and got one of their own, Arnold Schwarzenegger, elected, and then reelected. He governed as a right-centrist, but only after running a Trumpian campaign.
A new Democratic president will confront a lot of problems. On climate, firearms, race, and gender, the angry right will be ready to pounce as soon as the solutions can be portrayed as requiring too much sacrifice. And the new president will stumble sometimes. The right will try to exploit every misstep.
We need to make the transition to a post-Republican America. But it won't be universally accepted overnight. It will be a slow, difficult process.
Published with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog