After a decade in which prominent conservatives took aim at George W Bush and John McCain, Republicans’ hatred for Trump may lead to party suicide, but this election can be won
Noam Chomsky once described authoritarianism as the absence of autocracy. And no sign of it had yet broken through the headlines this year. After a decade of tiresome social media squabbling, the Republican party, having put its stupidity and hostility to minorities and refugees ahead of its economic agenda, managed to lose its four front-running candidates for president. And now it has proved that there is no political weight in solidarity between the factions of anti-establishment liberals and conservative populists.
When Trump landed on his campaign trail in 2015, nobody said the Trump-minded were dog-whistling leftwingers. And when you associate populism with nationalism, the Donald’s victory was not a surprise. But the argument that the “Far-Right” is challenging the establishment is not just nonsense but confusing.
What has changed since I contributed to the Trump Declaration last year is that there is now a Democratic party with a majority in the Senate and a near one-seat majority in the House. This puts much more credibility on a prospective positive agenda that is based around cleaning up Wall Street and creating jobs. Trump gets to say that he was able to win the presidency, without having to support any of his own white male friends, as the most successful protectionist of Republican presidents ever to take office.
This election can be won and will if we build the new broad left coalition
Yet the last two years under Trump did not see an increase in the party vote share but a paradoxical decrease in its support across the board. Conversely, the Democrats have achieved an excellent result in their white working-class strongholds – 73% of all voters in Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. If you mean only by people who support the Democratic party, however, this shows the improved performance of the party that won: a quarter of all voters under 35 and up to a third of those with a university degree supported Trump this year. These supporters may want to be considered part of the modern, progressive, non-white America, but this is not where the power in American politics lies. When Bernie Sanders won the Democratic nomination this year, this was a reminder of the symbolism that his supporters have never relinquished. Now I see more meaning in their slogan: with all eyes on Washington, the real far-right threat has moved on.
The question of one-party states is especially important in this age of the Brexit experiment, which has helped to secure there will be no significant changes in Britain’s political outlook. We are likely to see an agreement to devolve more powers to Brussels while the odds of a referendum remain high. But across the US, where the referendum outcome came as a shock to many, it might feel as if all eyes have turned to Washington.
Where Brexit has changed the electorate has benefited the Democrats
This is just what the Democrats will hope: that this race between Donald Trump and the Democrats will ensure he goes down in the electoral pantheon as the worst president in history. Should this not happen, all will be safe and well for the Republican party, which will also regain its power balance of power in Washington. For, as long as the Republicans continue to run on a platform of anti-establishmentism and mass deportation of undocumented foreigners, the liberal media will claim there is no alternative. Meanwhile, the Democratic party’s appetite for the centre will only grow with the president refusing to compromise.
In what has been the best year for minority groups since the 1950s, the first black senator, Kyrsten Sinema, will be elected from Arizona. Here is an opportunity for the Democrats to deliver on their promises for working-class voters. With a Democrat in the White House, and one assuming not too much will happen on the political front outside of Congress, progressives could win from San Francisco to Honolulu in 2020, including in Donald Trump’s adopted home of New York. Let’s hope Hillary Clinton can surprise again.
• Janice O’Reilly is a contributor to the Washington Post Opinion desk