August 10, 2018
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The biggest takeaway message from Tuesday’s primaries and the Ohio special election is that the Republican Party is becoming President Trump’s Party.
In fact, the degree to which pro-Trump Republicans prevailed is the fifth major achievement of the Trump presidency’s first year and a half.
First, he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have placed a record number of conservative, constitutionally-minded judges on the federal bench.
Second, he has moved power out of Washington and liberated businesses to accelerate economic growth through his historic deregulation effort.
Third, he succeeded in working with congressional Republicans to pass a massive tax cut, which has created jobs and grown the economy much faster than any of the elites thought possible.
Fourth, he has begun to rebuild the American military after the Obama administration spent eight years deliberately undermining it.
Now, the President has begun to grow a Trump Republican Party. The examples from Tuesday are striking, but this growth started earlier. In primary after primary, President Trump has proved to be a decisive voice. I saw this firsthand in Georgia, when his endorsement of Secretary of State Brian Kemp turned what was expected to be a close primary race into a one-sided victory for the Trump candidate. Similarly, on Tuesday the Trump endorsed candidates won the GOP nomination.
This is a very important long-term development because it means that in 2019 and beyond the President will have a Republican Party substantially more favorable to his policies. It also means that the never-Trumpers will gradually decline into a less noisy, less relevant part of American politics. The never-Trumpers are like the Bourbon monarchy, which “had learned nothing and forgotten nothing” (an apocryphal quote from Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord describing the Bourbons’ behavior after the abdication of Napoleon). Because of their inability to change, the Bourbons gradually disappeared as the French Republics created new patterns.
This shrinking and then disappearing process is nothing new.
When former President Theodore Roosevelt left the Republican Party in 1912, he took a generation of progressives with him. The conservatives consolidated their grip on the Republican Party, and many of the progressives became Franklin Delano Roosevelt Democrats. Likewise, when FDR turned out to be much more liberal than expected, his close friend and ally Al Smith, the former Governor of New York and Democratic Presidential nominee of 1928, started supporting Republicans in opposition of the New Deal.
In more recent times, President Ronald Reagan dominated the GOP in the 1980s and dissenters, like Senator Bob Packwood who started off skeptical but was later convinced to lead the tax reform fight. Similarly, loyal Democrats like former Senators Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman found the increasing radicalism of the Left so unacceptable that they became very pro-Republican (with Miller endorsing President George W. Bush at the 2004 convention and Lieberman seriously considering running as the vice presidential candidate with John McCain in 2008).
In addition to dominating the primaries, President Trump proved to be very effective in turning out the Republican vote in the Ohio special election. There were a lot of Washington’s so-called experts questioning whether he would help or hurt turnout. While there are still provisional and absentee ballots to count, the results so far indicate that the Republican vote surged on the days leading up to the election and put the GOP nominee over the top. The warning to Democrats and the media for this fall should be pretty direct: If President Trump spends September and October defining the election on his terms, the outcome in 2018 might be as shocking to the Left as 2016’s was.
The most amazing thing about the Trump effect is how efficient it is.
Simple tweets have helped nominate the GOP candidates for governor or congressional seats in state after state.
With this kind of economy of effort, it is no wonder President Trump is doing so many things in parallel.
In the process, he is growing a Trump Republican Party which will turn the never-Trumpers into a fossilized remnant of bitter-enders that attract smaller and smaller audiences who pay less and less attention.
In short, this is what a political revolution looks like.
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