The “GOP Civil War” was over before a single shot was fired.
There will be no great “Republican Civil War” or purging from the party of the most hateful, bigoted political excesses of American culture. There is no reason for any long-awaited “soul-searching” or another “autopsy” on the part of the Party of Lincoln or the conservative movement in America.
At least, not for the foreseeable future.
“This is the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime,” Paul Ryan gushed on Wednesday morning. “Donald Trump held a voice out in this country that no one else heard… now Donald Trump will lead a unified Republican government. And we will work hand in hand on a positive agenda to tackle this country’s big challenges.”
In a brutal presidential campaign, defined by Donald Trump’s bigotry, raging sexism, racist outbursts, sexual-assault apologia, casual talk of war crimes, white-supremacist supporters, conspiracy-theorizing, and all the rest of it, the Republican Party—as is—completely cleaned the clock of its Democratic rivals.
No “rebuilding” of the party is likely to occur, at least not during Trumpism’s first full year, wherein Trump’s party will control the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, and will nominate to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Indeed, the party is firmly built, to the point where—without having to play nice with Latino voters, Muslim-Americans, black activists, or Asian voters—the Republicans managed to achieve a level of election-year victory that dramatically increases the chances of obliterating the Obama legacy.
And regardless of the staunch opposition from the small #NeverTrump conservative movement, the erasure of the Obama years is a goal that the alt-right and the “GOP establishment” have long shared.
A planned speech for Thursday by Gov. John Kasich, who refused to support Trump until the end, was abruptly cancelled. It was presumed to be a speech about the future of the Republican Party following a Trump defeat—something rendered moot by the results on Wednesday morning.
Over the past year, columnists and reporters—both on the left and on the right—have written about the need for the Republican Party to rebuild post-2016, as if a Hillary Clinton presidency was all but inevitable. Conservative intellectuals and liberal pundits alike agreed that the party simply could not win a presidential election ever again if it relied so heavily on white voters and antagonism towards minority groups.
“The Republican Party has to have a serious reckoning about its future: whether it wants to be narrow, exclusive, angry party of nationalists and anti-immigrants, or whether it wants to return to its Reaganist roots as a party of opportunity and inclusiveness and personal responsibility and individual liberty, and it can’t be both,” said Andrew Weinstein, a former spokesman for Newt Gingrich when he was House Speaker and the organizer of a Never Trump watch party in Washington, D.C., before the election results came in.
But as election night showed, Trump smothered any dissent with a convincing win.
If anyone was expecting even a whiff of opposition from the religious right to Trump (a serial cheater, thrice-married with a recent reputation for being a sex-obsessed and allegedly sexual-assault-prone party-boy, who clearly knows nothing about the Bible and has until recently publicly lavished praise upon Planned Parenthood), then you’d be holding your breath until at least the next election.
Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith & Freedom Coalition and has been aboard the Trump Train for a while now, visited the National Press Club (just a couple blocks away from the White House) on Wednesday afternoon to take a victory lap for the evangelical and conservative-Christian get-out-the-vote campaign.
When asked about Reed and his group’s past support for immigration reform, and if Trump’s victory would mean legislative death for it, Reed responded with a shrug.
“There is [actually] nothing in Donald Trump’s position on the need to fix our broken immigration system that is at odds with the principles we laid down in… February 2013,” he told The Daily Beast.
When asked about Trump’s proposals regarding a “deportation force” and how such action would likely tear apart millions of the very families for whom Reed has alleged sympathy, the Christian-right activist dodged.
“I have not talked to [Trump] about a quote-unquote ‘deportation force’… but as he moved through the campaign… and had meetings with Hispanic leaders… my recollection is that he revised and extended those remarks, and made it clear that he wasn’t talking about some special force.”
If you thought that defense hawks in the Republican senate would stand up to Trump, the prospects are fading fast. Trump dissed Sen. John McCain as someone he didn’t respect because he was captured during the Vietnam War; and he publicly doxxed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number during the GOP primaries. Both said Wednesday that they looked forward to working with him.
“To the extent that I can help President-elect Trump, I will do so,” pledged Graham.
Conservative Jews might also have had reason to oppose Trump, considering the anti-Semitic dog whistles in his campaign and the frightening mass of anti-Jewish rhetoric used by some of his online supporters. But the Republican Jewish Coalition shook off such concerns after the election.
“I know that there has been much made about dog-whistles, and secret messages and subtle anti-Semitism throughout the course of this campaign. There’s also been overt anti-Semitism by crazy supporters. But those crazy supporters are not endemic just to Donald Trump. Every candidate typically has supporters who say things and do things who are outside of the pale,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks.
The Anti-Defamation League had suggested there was anti-Semitic imagery in the Trump campaign’s closing advertisement, something Brooks dismissed. Trump has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, Brooks continued, meaning “that the notion that he would engage in anti-Semitic messaging is a bridge too far.”
And if you thought Wall Street conservatives—who thrive on stability and seem allergic to the kind of unpredictability a Trump White House would bring—would line up against The Donald, then you were probably surprised by the stock market’s warm welcome to the president-elect on Wednesday. (All those traders shouting “Lock Her Up!” the day after the election wouldn’t have provided much comfort, either.)
After all of this, and all the ink spilled over how large a corrective the GOP needed in order to survive, the much-discussed political “soul-searching” will now fall squarely and exclusively (again, at least for the foreseeable future) on the shoulders of the Democratic Party. It’s a party establishment that was too often dismissive or outright disdainful of its own insurgent elements during the 2016 primary.
After the long, tough election slog, it is the Democrats that Trump has sent into the wilderness, not his own party or its leaders, who are now busy making a wish-list of what to accomplish in his first 100 days in office.
There are, in fact, elements within Trump’s own party that have refused to yield throughout the primary, and during the general election. Yet none of them have the ability at the moment to do much of anything about it except opine on cable news, or find new, if temporary, friends on the center-left. #NeverTrump hasn’t the energy nor the resources to launch a “civil war.” And in many ways, they already tried to do so several times over the past 12 months, before and after the nominating convention in Cleveland. They failed miserably each and every time. (Evan McMullin did not stop Trump in Utah, as he had hoped.)
Come January 2017, it’s Trump’s America, politically dominated by a Republican Party that Donald Trump has managed to remake in his own, demagogic image.
The civil conflict is, by all accounts, indefinitely postponed.