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The Fracture of the Tripartite Trump Base 2.0

It’s a three-legged stool that lost two legs.

Attempts at categorizing the Trump base don’t always leave us with any useful information.  I prefer to keep things simple.  We make a generic rule and assume that there are probably thousands of different aberrations.  We need not account for every nuance.

To that end, over the summer I proposed this simple formulation regarding the Trump base.

1: Voters who hated Hillary and voters who were driven to Trump by the insanity of the left.

2: Voters who like Trump personally and support anything he does, this is the cult of personality category.

3: Voters who liked Trump’s policies and see him only as the means to an end.

If you remember, in August, the president was facing increasing scrutiny regarding corruption and it was necessary to assess to what extent his base would remain with him.

Group 1 was likely to be turned off by corruption.

Group 2 will always support the president.

Group 3 would likely remain, but they have the potential to be more fickle than Group 1.

In that scenario, I determined that Trump would likely lose two portions of his base if he became ineffective (especially with regard to immigration) due to corruption, collusion, or whatever baggage he had at the time.

Today’s scenario (the national emergency and passage of a horrendous funding bill) allows us to look again at this tripartite base.

Group 1 tends to be the erudite republicans with lofty goals regarding the character and direction of the party. If they aren’t overtly holding their nose to the smell of Trump, the certainly contemplate joining the NeverTrumpers.  As I mentioned above, the insanity of the left holds them back.  For this group, the concern here is the degradation of separation of powers and the bad precedent set by declaring a national emergency like this (that argument is covered here). They desire intellectual consistency, and rightfully so. They do not want to see the Republican Party turn into one that defers to the monarchical whims of the executive. Many have swung around to opposing the funding bill because it contains idiotic and wasteful spending while simultaneously curtailing legitimate functions of the executive in securing the border. Many would agree that a wall or fence must be built, though they are less preoccupied by it than Group 3.

Group 2 needs no explanation.

Group 3 requires progress on policy, especially the main campaign promise.  These are the individuals who are aware that the national government has lied to the American people repeatedly regarding their seriousness in addressing border security and immigration.  These are the people who called congress to shut down amnesties during the Bush Administration.  These are people who refused to vote for Rubio for his Gang of Eight treachery.  These are people who have no personal attachment to the man Trump, who is boorish in his own right.  I’ve posited that this group would vote for a baked potato if it could reasonably guarantee a wall.  Without a wall, with amnesty, and with other horrendous immigration policies, Trump loses this group.  Why should they be lied to again? They will simply stay home, having no interest in preserving the party or looking for a viable alternative.  However, some may flock to Cruz or Cotton.  They are more likely to overlook corruption and even the occasional foray into constitutionally suspect territory if it proves politically advantageous.  

As Trump signs this funding bill, he has to, as I described in August, “realize the reason why he enjoyed seemingly vast support from various types of Republicans and independents. He cannot take for granted the first and third groups by assuming that everyone is in category two. To do so would be to invite problems in the future, specifically in 2020.”

I guess the main problem is that Trump’s base is not really a base at all.  It is an amalgamation of individuals who are after vastly different goals.  On something generic like judicial appointments and tax cuts, you might get everyone to agree, but Jeb! would have given us the same things.  Trump set himself apart by being able to capture the support, though some of it reluctant, of individuals with different motivating factors.  The left doesn’t enjoy the same intellectual diversity that the right does, and that is to Trump’s detriment.  Nancy Pelosi cracks a whip and everyone falls in line.  The right is willing to take a stand over principle, well at least they used to.

He stands likely to lose many supporters because they are NOT all in Group 2.  And that seems like the only group that Trump is willing to entertain.

In political science, there are election years that illustrate a significant realignment of the national character and direction.  V.O Key, Jr. refers to these events as “critical elections” when contrasted with “maintaining elections,” where the nation does not change in a substantive way.

If we assume that 2016 was a critical election, we don’t know what it realigned.  Some in Groups 1 and 3 felt that 2016 was a last shot.  We now see a left-wing party that embraces infanticide and fetal homicide.  We have seen some truly bizarre polices that we never would have dreamed of under Obama or Bush.  What happens when a critical election cannot maintain the course it set out?  We don’t know what happens next.

The Trump administration may have immediate success in its endeavors and ensuing policy results may benefit the nation, ensuring a landslide in 2020 (unlikely).

The party could challenge Trump, refine itself, and go in the direction of someone like Ted Cruz.

The “base” could be done, leaving Trump to his failures and an energized democratic base, ensuring his defeat in 2020 and a demoralized populace living under quasi-socialism.

Bill Weld could challenge Trump, win, and turn America into a Libertarian Paradise… Sorry.

It’s all speculation at this point. 

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