Republicans And Trump: A Putsch Won’t Work

Republicans And Trump: A Putsch Won’t Work

by Richard Brodsky Senior Fellow, Demos

The Republican gyrations over Trump are textbook examples of not learning your lesson. The Republican “Establishment” was victimized by a genuine voter revolt. Having lost elections, their current remedy is a palace coup — a wine-bar putsch — that will seize control of the Party from those pesky elected delegates.

A little self-examination would tell these folks that they’ve lost contact with their voters. It turns out that a nice majority of Republican primary voters are not doctrinaire conservatives. They are disaffected middle-class white people who were promised a better economic future and instead got upper income tax cuts and threats to Social Security and Medicare. Trade deals and immigration became symbols of broken Republican promises. Guns, abortion and gay rights weren’t central to their concerns. The Donald, who is a good listener sometimes, heard it, and repeated it. Good-bye movement conservatives like Cruz and Walker, and their fellow-travelers like Rubio and Bush.

The Republicans do have real problems. The transition from movement leader to national candidate has not been kind to Trump. All of his many limitations are visible. The stench of catastrophe is in the air. It is unlikely the Donald can transform himself. The House and Senate could flip to the Democrats. But a successful putsch at the Republican Convention won’t improve their chances. It would send the Trump voters streaming out of the Republican Party for good. Which is worse, a thorough thrashing in 2016, or a Party with no electoral base for decades? That’s the Republican choice in Cleveland.

The Democrats have better understood the dynamic. Hillary’s responses have been politically smart and persuasive. She has found an effective voice and persona. The national security speech and the economic security speech made reasonable cases for her ideas, nailed the Donald with his own words, and reminded voters of what they like about Hillary. She is certainly something of a wounded duck herself. But she saw her opportunity and she took it.


By the time Trump emerges from Cleveland it will be clear that an electoral rout is likely. There will be three camps circling the cadaver. First, the Republican populists who will not forgive the Establishment betrayal of Trump. Second, the Movement Conservatives who still think that a party agenda marked by economic austerity, high-end tax cuts, undone Social Security and Medicare, guns, gays and abortion is the wave of the future. Paul Ryan is their poster child. Third, the Never-Trumpers who abhor his personality but aren’t right-wing ideologues. Jeb leads here. Rubio could but he can’t bring himself to cut the cord with Trump.

Only the moderate Never-Trumpers can pick up the pieces in the aftermath. The other two will simply smack each other silly. But to be positioned, they can’t try to lead a coup at the convention. The plotter who wields the knife rarely survives the revolution. The Never-Trumpers should just shut up until December. The Donald figured it out for them: “Just please be quiet. Don’t talk. Please, be quiet. Just be quiet.” That’s good advice. Who knows if they will take it?

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