Donald Trump endgame: The Trumpist Party

Photo: Star Wars via Flickr

Analysts predict not only what will happen next, but what will happen after that. Here’s my prediction: after losing in 2016, Donald Trump will form his own party, the Trumpist Party.

Trump is divisive

Trump thrills white men and scares nearly everybody else.

  • Donald Trump is a hero for white, working-class men. As Kathleen Parker writes in the Washington Post, “conservative white guys aren’t so much trying to hold on to power and privilege as much as they’re trying to find their footing in a culture they feel devalues and disrespects them.” As David Frum explains in The Atlantic, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric and disdain for political correctness, tolerance, and regulations make him a hero for this crowd.
  • Traditional Republicans are conflicted about supporting him. Newly minted House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced Trump’s proposal to block Muslims at the border. Lindsey Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” saying this to CNN as he quit the race: “This is an election for the heart and soul of the Republican Party . . . This is about who we are as a party, where do we want to go, where do we take the country.”
  • But there is a ceiling to Trump’s support. A recent poll rates his unfavorable rating with Republicans at 34%. Two-third of Latinos view him negatively. And every time he begins to lag in polls he makes another outrageous statement that further alienates a segment of voters.

Trump will cause chaos, but won’t win the nomination

The 2016 Republican nominating contest will be a wild ride. But I agree with Nate Silver: Trump won’t end up on top.

  • Trump will gain a plurality of Republican delegates early, but not a majority. Other candidates, revealed as marginal, will drop out. It’s not clear who would quit first at this point, but Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush won’t make it to the end.
  • Trump will not win the nomination. No one will win on the first ballot. According to the Washington Post, the Republican establishment is already game-planing how to stop Trump in a contested convention. Republicans will gather behind the non-Trump leader — most likely Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. If they cannot agree on a candidate among those who ran in 2016, they could tap Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan, but either Rubio or Cruz will be on the ticket.
  • Trump will not run as an independent. Legal and technical challenges will stop Trump from mounting a campaign as an independent, because by the time of the convention, it will be too late to qualify to appear on state ballots. He will honor his pledge and grudgingly support the nominee. Cruz would accept his support, but Rubio or Romney would reject it.
  • The Republicans will lose the election. The Republican primaries and convention will showcase the meanest parts of the party. After that, no nominee will have the dexterity to win over moderates while continuing to woo Tea Party voters and former Trump backers. Assuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, many who currently lack enthusiasm for her will still vote Democrat rather than embrace a damaged, conflicted Republican nominee.

After the election, the Trumpist party will rise

Some have suggested that if Trump wins, the rest of the Republican party will need to split off. Pundit William Kristol even tweeted about what to name the new party. But that’s backward; after Trump loses, he’s the one who will bolt. (Even if he wins the nomination and loses the election, the Republicans will reject him and he’ll leave the party.) Here’s the scenario:

  • Trump will form his own party. Trump loves the influence he gets from cable news interviews and social media. He will found the “Make America Great” party to continue his movement. (The media will refer to it as the Trumpist party.) He will take his angry, shrinking, middle-class white voter bloc and whip it into a frenzy. Trumpists will be anti-immigration, pro-gun, protectionist on trade, aggressively military overseas, anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-Christian, and for smaller government. They will support lower corporate taxes and less regulation but higher taxes on rich people and hedge funds. With the enthusiastic support of Trump, Trumpist candidates will run for House, Senate, and governor. They’ll run, not just in southern and midwestern states, but also in places like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Florida with uneven Democratic support and lots of older white people. And some will win.
  • The Republicans will move to the center. With Trump eviscerating their core support, the Republicans will be in crisis. Chastened by taking on Trump, they’ll shore up their position with more moderate, educated Republican sympathizers. The new Republican agenda will moderate its aggressive anti-immigrant and socially conservative positions. They’ll campaign on pro-business, smaller-government messages to win over the types of voters who back people like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Ohio governor John Kasich. They might even find a way to compromise on gun control. Outreach to Hispanics will be crucial to the new Republican party.
  • Democrats will find power comes only from negotiation. Even a Democratic president will have her hands full governing in this environment. If the Trumpists win enough seats, they will become power brokers, determining who gets the House Speaker’s chair and who becomes Senate Majority Leader. This will give their small party outsized influence. Ironically, negotiations between sworn enemies Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could determine what the country does in the next four years and beyond.
  • And everybody will talk like Trump. The batshit candor of Donald Trump will transform political dialogue. Forget traditional political hedging. Facts will no longer be what matters — “facts,” defined and repeated by candidates will. America’s politicians after 2016 will sound like Trump, regardless of the positions they’re defending.

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  1. I just signed up for your blog due to your blog posted 10/19/15. You posted a very profound statement and I’d like to use it (probably thosands times before the November election). May I? If so, just cite your blog or you?

    “Truth takes work. It takes work to create it …… And it takes work for readers to identify it and separate it from lies. Do the work. Not just for yourself. Do the work to reveal who’s lying, so we don’t all end up living in an era of politics that leaves facts behind.”

  2. Okay article, but you’re way wrong in thinking that Rubio or CRUZ will be on the ticket. RNC would rather Sanders be president that Cruz. They know a Cruz presidency will destroy the party.

  3. Mr. Bernoff, you might want to significantly revise your “powers of prediction and certainty” at this point.