Who is more delusional?
Is it the QAnon crowd or the Reaganite dead enders?
“Trump exposed the dead consensus and rot within the Republican Party, opening the door for a new, more populist GOP.” It’s the mantra of a certain kind of conservative, and their favorite piece of evidence is the following scatterplot of voter ideology in the 2016 election, constructed by the Voter Study Group during the 2016 election. …”
This scatterplot from the Voter Study Group captured a moment in time when Donald Trump was at the height of his appeal with populist voters. It was before he started governing.
I’ve kept up with their work over the past four years.
In the 2018 midterms, Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot and Republicans ran on Paul Ryan’s Better Way agenda and control of the lost the House. This was because populist voters who are moderate on economics and restrictionist on immigration didn’t support House Republicans.
In the 2020 election, a preliminary study found that the populist share of the electorate shrank along with Trump’s margin with populist voters. He won them 3-to-1 in 2016 and 2-to-1 in 2020. Trump’s appeal increased among conservatives while declining among Independent voters.
Let’s respond to the points raised:
- The Voter Study Group found that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was extremely unpopular. It has remained unpopular. It was one of the most unpopular policies of the last twenty years. Insofar as Donald Trump never followed Paul Ryan off the “entitlement reform” cliff, it worked to his political advantage. The Republican effort to repeal Obamacare hurt Trump in the polls.
- The vast majority of Americans do not think the free market is working for them. 76% of American voters think our economy is rigged to favor the rich and powerful. 6% strongly disagree. Only 16% even somewhat disagree. The GOP lost the Senate by failing to deliver $2,000 stimulus checks. 81% of American voters supported a $2,000 stimulus check. Most Republicans even support monthly $2,000 checks now. The last Pew poll found 45% of the public supports Universal Basic Income and there is reason to believe support is even higher now after the Christmas debacle on the COVID relief bill that featured $600 checks.
- Donald Trump lost the 2020 election after signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which was an albatross around his neck. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost. House Republicans lost the 2018 midterms. Cory Gardner was easily defeated in the 2020 election. The politics of wealth redistribution have shifted to the point where Marco Rubio came out in support of $2,000 stimulus checks.
- There is no reason to believe that moving away from libertarianism or mainstream conservatism would be politically damaging. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue lost their Senate races more decisively than Donald Trump lost Georgia and it was due to the $2,000 checks issue. 63% of voters now favor universal health care including over a third of Republicans. The public is souring on performance art deficit hawk politics. Even Republicans are souring on conservatism.
The electorate is less supportive of the “dead consensus” in 2021.
The 2018 midterms were the demographic tipping point. The Silent Generation and Boomers are no longer a majority of voters. The constituency for Reaganism has continued to shrink as Silent Generation voters and Boomers have died over the past four years. It is populism or bust for the GOP.
BTW, the cost of the GOP not embracing a more populist policy agenda and feeding its voters performance art and conspiracy theories was not only the loss of the White House and Congress, but the Capitol Siege. It is far easier and politically sensible to just give voters what they continue to say in polls they want which is social conservatism and economic populism. The constituency on the Right for doing things the old way is down to somewhere between 25% and 35% of the American electorate.