2020 American Politics
(November 14th, 2020, 01:41 AM)Michael Wrote: Trump's grip on the GOP is ironclad. He appointed all the state party chiefs 

I'm not sure that's true everywhere - in SC, the state chair is elected by the state executive committee, and the current one predates Trump by 20+ years in local politics. I'm not sure any state chair can be appointed by the president, since that's a federal office, with no connection to private local groups.  Granted, he can use his influence, and the campaign staff of winners usually end up in key positions.....so we might be saying the same thing. 

It will be interesting to see though how relevant Trump the person can remain. The demographic that he appealed to within the party has been around for a while - one could call them the Newt Gingrich Republicans, from a quarter century ago, but a significant number of those were originally Wallace Democrats who switched parties. But that's not all of who got him elected - an awful lot of swing voters including Rust Belt blue collar workers who had supported Johnson, Carter, Bill Clinton and Obama also swung his way in 2016. (The PA Democratic primary voters who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, for example, who were famously "clinging to religion and guns.") 

But long-serving GOP politicians who were easily re-elected while Trump lost are likely to see this as a chance to reclaim their party. And that might or might not a party centered around one guiding viewpoint. Lindsay Graham here in SC, for example, was seen as Trump's buddy...but only 4 years earlier his campaign ads showed him breaking his cell phone with a bat so that Trump couldn't call him, and 15 years before that he was vilified for being too liberal and making deals with the Democrats. He and Mitt Romney and the successors to Lamar Alexander in TN might well steer the party back to the middle, just to pick up any disgruntled Democrats who are floating around. 

And the GOP has been able to include disparate wings before - in the mid-60's, for example, it included conservatives like Reagan and Thurmond, both of whom left the Democratic party, northern liberals like NY's Mayor Lindsay and Gov. Rockefeller who might as well have been Democrats (Lindsay later switched), the elder Romney who was Mormon but seen as liberal, centrists like Nixon and Prescott Bush, and "mavericks" like Goldwater who were conservative, but would be Libertarians nowadays.
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Jennifer Horn (one of the Lincoln Project co-founders) wrote this op-ed for USA Today in October. In it, she says some of the state party officials jumped on board the Trump Train in 2016. Anyone who was loyal then would still be in place today.


In this 2017 article from Newsweek, Katherine Fung explained how Trump's political team moved into the state parties and took them over.


There is virtually nothing left of an independent Republican Party, in the sense of a party whose state and national leadership is elected by the active members based on their own personal performance and values.

They are appointed behind the scenes, annointed or supported or however one chooses to rationalize the process through the party's formal guidelines.

The bottom line here is that the state parties are controlled by Trump. That was a deliberate, carefully executed takeover.

Whatever happened prior to the onset of Trumpism is irrelevant.

This is why the Senators are afraid of him. They cannot stand for re-election without his support. He controls the party in a way that no major American political party has been controlled before.

Virtually all opposition has been driven out of the party.
Just to be clear, do you mean you think that Trump himself is controlling the actions of the individual state committee members? Or that members of his organization are? Or do you mean you believe that people who embraced his campaign moved into positions of power at the local level? Do you believe that is unusual? And do you believe that post-presidency, he's going to continue to exert power and influence? Or do you mean that the birds of a feather who united to support him will continue to flock together in his vein, long after he's out of power?
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
What I believe is that Trump has organized an elite team of people who have orchestrated this rather effective takeover of the Republican Party's state-level apparatus. I suspect the takeover was effected through various recommendations, appointments, or vettings of existing key position holders (people who said the right things).

Not everyone who accepts a Trump appointment or endorsement to some political or administration position proves to be 100% loyal to him, so in my opinion it's a loosely orchestrated takeover. But the rhetoric these people have adopted indicates that most of them are in for the long run, whether because of coercion or enticement or just because they feel that way.

Quite probably, a lot of these people were waiting for some iconic figure like Trump to pull them out of the woodwork, so they could feel safe about more openly expressing their points of view.

Coincidentally, I caught part of an NPR radio show* today where they were talking with someone who has studied the shifts in the Republican Party's motivations and goals. Their expert (I did not catch his name) spoke about two core groups within the modern party, who were divided into "isolationists" and "internationalists", going back to at least the 1930s.

Trump - this person concluded - aligns with the isolationists and used his power as President (and leader of the party) to promote or reward like-thinking isolationists within the party leadership. And, of course, he bullies anyone (mostly via TV and social media) whom he decides doesn't express sufficient personal loyalty to him, thus driving more moderate people out of the party.

Some traditionalists, like former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, are supposedly trying to re-organize on the sidelines for a post-Trump re-alignment of the party, but I'm pretty sure that movement will die a quick, painful death.

Without the support of the state party bosses, anyone hoping to be the Republican candidate for any office will face a very hard uphill struggle against the party machine in the primaries. And if they do get elected, they'll have to deal with whomever runs whatever chambers (state or national) they are elected to.

The only strong indication that Trumpism hasn't fully saturated the party is the recent pushback from key state leaders against the idea of appointing electors that would support Trump and give him the election. They're not ready to go that far down his path of disregarding the constitution and laws of the nation.

* The show would have been either Fresh Air or All Things Considered. NPR will eventually put it up on their Website. Look for episodes from November 17, 2020.
I don’t think this theory stands up to scrutiny. The same President who has shown a wildly chaotic organization at the Cabinet and subCabinet level has built a pervasive organization at the state level? A far simpler explanation is that politicians are opportunists. Trump has a very vocal base of supporters, and politicians are nothing if not sensitive to that sort of thing. His unconventional approach found some unexpected electoral success, and players lower down the greasy pole are trying to replicate it.

I don’t think it has legs. The problem with a cult of personality approach is that it falls apart rapidly when it runs into failure. Trump just lost to a wildly beatable opponent, and that will be noted by the lower level politicians. They may try to incorporate some Trumpian elements going forward, but the precise package is dead, in my view.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
Yep, I agree. Trump had virtually no organization, beyond his regular business associates, most of whom had no connections in politics whatsover beyond tossing money around at the national level.  And as a result, you didn't see a lot of people knocking on doors or handing out Trump bumper stickers.

But yes, plenty of people hopped on the Trump bandwagon, and were then rewarded, following a 200 year old tradition in the US, and a 2000 + year old tradition worldwide. (See the unknown Maecenas and Agrippa being elevated to power by Augustus. Wink )

I gotta give Michael credit though, since we can't read minds.  If paid staffers do their job, and elected officials follow tradition, they support the President, especially if he is from their party.  And there's no way to prove their actual motivations.

It's definitely questionable if Trump has any real beliefs or agenda, or if he just found a cult waiting for a cult leader. ie angry white conservatives, ie former Wallace Democrats.

And the beauty is that any who resist him or begrudgingly tolerate him can be labeled as the small minority, and the exceptions to the rule, since we can't read their minds, and aren't privy to private conversations and deal making.

As for isolationism, Trump absolutely appeals to voters who are into that, but banning a million poor Mexicans while embracing a thousand rich Russians and Arabs is something other than isolationism. 🤣

I think possibly Michael misunderstands party leadership at the state level. Bosses largely exist in history books. Party executive directors are usually young pr or marketing majors whose political beliefs are for hire, while party chairmen are usually people who have been put out to pasture (an elderly fomer state legislator or the loser in a statewide race.) Not always, but often.

Support from the establishment is of course essential, and in primaries it's always divided for a few months... but the state parties and any formal leadership can't actively support one candidate or another in primaries.

But there again is the brilliance above, since 
theoretically it could be going on in secret. 🤣

Beyond a cult of personality, I'm just not convinced Trump even understands Trumpism. And I'm not seeing, say, Jared Kushner managing some other candidate's presidential bid to sustain the values of Trumpism. 

What I see is that the for-hire politicos who once worked for candidates like Gingrich will look for someone similar to support. And the non-insane, actually experienced and educated right wingers (Rubio, Cruz, Jindal) will ironically  vie to be the next Great White Hope, while the Ryans, Romneys, Grahams and Christies will go another way. And Nikki Haley will flutter her eyelashes, flash her photogenic smile, say "bless their hearts," and wait for people looking for a compromise candidate to come courting.
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
I think much remains to be seen about what Trump can actually accomplish after he leaves the White House. Given his frenetic decision-making, it's hard to imagine that he'll stay focused on anything in particular.

But remember that he is surrounded by a so-called Trump Mafia (the Clintons were, too) of people who are more focused about advancing their agendas. Stephen Miller - who is a reputed white supremacist - has driven much of Trump's most controversial agenda.

Here are a few news stories that discuss Trump's control over the state GOP party machinery.

"Trump takes control of the GOP machine: The White House and its allies are taking over the Republican infrastructure, one state party at a time."
Politico, April 11, 2017

"Donald Trump wants to run the Republican party even if he leaves office. Can he?"
USA Today, November 14, 2020

"The GOP's Post-Trump Identity Crisis: What's Next For The Republican Party?"
NPR, Fresh Air, November 17, 2020
Interview with Nicholas Lemann, a writer for The New Yorker

"Trump consolidates command over GOP, even if he loses"
Axios, November 4, 2020

So, based on these and other stories (like the crazy battle between Republicans in Georgia over the runoff election), it appears that Trump's leverage has more to do with his popularity with "the base" - the voting public who elect these state officials to office. Trump's inner circle has been battling for control over the Republican Party at the RNC and in state committees, but they apparently use the threat of turning voters against elected officials to get whatever it is they want.

The Republican Party has struggled to stand up to Trump. They're literally afraid of what he might Tweet about them, individually, which could break their relationships with their voters. He's driven several defiant politicians out of office by endorsing their opponents.

So for now he has more than enough political clout to decide what the Republican Party will do. If he chooses to run again in 2024, he'll probably overwhelm all opposition within the party.
So the only one of your cited articles to discuss Trump’s alleged control of state parties is almost four years stale. The more current articles more or less boil down to assumptions that Trump will not step back from public view like most ex-Presidents, which isn’t exactly shocking analysis.

Trump will continue to seek attention. That much is crystal clear...there are decades of precedent for the idea. He will likely continue to have devoted fans amongst his core base, and other Republican politicians will naturally want to tap into that well of voters, so Trump will have some influence there. He will likely be able to fundraise like mad through that PAC he just formed, and that will also give him influence. However, he is also a one term President. Future Republican pols will seek his fundraising prowess, but I don’t see him as a kingmaker. Losing candidates simply don’t get to run the party. Ask Hillary Clinton if you don’t believe me. After the decades that Clinton, Inc. spent consolidating its influence, where are the Clintons now in the Dem party?
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
No, every one of those articles is relevant to the point. In fact, the NPR article has the transcript of the show I mentioned above.

What all these articles are saying is that Trump has taken effective control of the Republican Party at the state level. He threatens any politician who doesn't support him and turns their voters against them.
I've refrained from linking to articles behind paywalls because I don't know who can read them, but here is a quote from the New York Times.

Quote:Trump’s takeover, by contrast, has been as one-dimensional as it has been total. In the space of one term, the president has co-opted virtually every power center in the Republican Party, from its congressional caucuses to its state parties, its think tanks to its political action committees. But though he has disassembled much of the old order, he has built very little in its place. “You end up with this weird paradox where he stands to haunt the G.O.P. for many years to come, but on the substance it’s like he was never even there,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist.

Win or Lose, It’s Donald Trump’s Republican Party
New York Times, October 27, 2020

Basically, for 4 years, anyone who didn't prove their loyalty to Trump was driven out of the party. They won't be able to get back in very easily.
The problem with those articles - which I haven't read since I'm trying to click on less in general - is that I haven't seen it at the state level, and haven't heard anyone that might have seen it first hand - journalists, elected officials, political hired hands, political science professors - say anything about it. And people get loud at happy hour in a capitol/university city. Hard-core right-wingers have definitely made some inroads thanks to Trump's popularity among their constituents, but I guarantee you Trump has never met nor does he know any of the names of the people at the local level. And being a capitol city with a 50/50 racial breakdown, our airwaves were bombarded with ads for every candidate in existence - and I can't recall a single GOP candidate even saying the word Trump. (Although, again, I have to salute the brilliance of the "they're secretly in cahoots with him, we just don't know it" strategy. Wink )
August  - Jack's Pack Fan # 1, Keeper of the List, 3-Time Speaker of the JoAT Fan Quote of the Week, and the only person ever to have Back 2 Back Jack and Cleo fan quotes !
Well, all I can say is the articles are written by journalists.

I first learned of Trump's takeover of the state-level parties from the Lincoln Project, several of whose founders were deeply embedded in the Republican party structure for many years. They know all the major players in the party.

I have no reason to doubt what they said, given all the news articles that back up what they said.

Trump effectively controls the Republican Party from top to bottom and they don't know what to do about that. They're stuck with him.

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