In an election with mostly unsatisfactory choices, the one thing that we can do as a country is trying to avoid making the worst possible choice. This year, it is clear the Donald Trump is the worst possible choice for president of the United States. Old, white, and uneducated is not the future of this country. A vote for Trump is not a vote for the future. It is a vote for a past that never really existed. To the extent that it did, we should be seeking to leave these elements behind- not seeking to restore them. We cannot escape the world and whites cannot escape living in a multi-racial, multi-cultural country and the international community. It is not possible, and it is not desirable. We have been at our best as a country when we have embraced the world and sought to make it better. This was the dream of our founding fathers and it has always been the goal of our greatest leaders from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.
Trump is Repudiating Traditions of the Republican Party
Trump is also causing Republicans to abandon the principles that made the party great and has allowed it to dominate presidential politics for most of the 150 years since it was founded. As a life-long Democrat who appears to have had an epiphany late in life that he is both Christian and conservative, it should not surprise anyone who has followed his public life that Trump is not really a principled conservative.
But his efforts to move the Republican Party away from conservatism has been particularly jarring to watch.
Trump embodies an evolution of the party away from its most cherished traditions to the most base impulses of contemporary racism and demagoguery.
Republicans were certainly not always anti-immigrant in the way that Trump is. Check out the debate between George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Trump has completely abandoned Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy approach which is why many former Republican national security and foreign policy experts have endorsed Hillary Clinton this year.
Trump has cozied up with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s campaign is embracing anti-intellectualism in stark contrast to the best conservative traditions of William Buckley, Irving Kristol, and James Q. Wilson.
Long-time Reagan Republican and conservative commentator George Will announced earlier this year that he was leaving the Republican Party in response to Trump.
Voting for Trump to stop Clinton appropriates an argument that has been explicitly rejected by the pro-life movement in the past.
As Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist for the New York Times writes in his editorial “An Election Is Not a Suicide Mission”
Most voters agree that Trump has little or no respect for our country’s democratic institutions.
Young Voters Are Turning Away From Republicans
This is not an approach that is going to win the Republican votes over the long term. Young voters are increasingly turning to Democrats and will continue to do so in this election. For the 3rd consecutive election, K-12 readers of Scholastic magazine have chosen the Democratic candidate over the Republican.
Millennials, the generation currently between 18-30, have been supporting Democrats consistently in the past several elections and appear to be supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 almost as strongly as they did Obama in 2008 and 2012. Some thought that Hillary Clinton was at risk of losing this support this year, but Trump’s campaign has appeared to energize young people in particular to favor Clinton over Trump as a reaction against Trump’s obvious bigotry and sexism. Millennials are expected to provide record-low support for Republican candidates this year.
Even young Republicans are repudiating Trump in favor of Hillary Clinton. The Harvard College Republicans endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, the first time that the group has favored a Democrat since it’s founding in 1888.
Here’s the Harvard Republican Club’s statement:
Dear Members and Alumni,
In every presidential election since 1888, the members and Executive Board of the Harvard Republican Club have gathered to discuss, debate, and eventually endorse the standard-bearer of our party. But for the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee.
Donald Trump holds views that are antithetical to our values not only as Republicans, but as Americans. The rhetoric he espouses –from racist slander to misogynistic taunts– is not consistent with our conservative principles, and his repeated mocking of the disabled and belittling of the sacrifices made by prisoners of war, Gold Star families, and Purple Heart recipients is not only bad politics, but absurdly cruel.
If enacted, Donald Trump’s platform would endanger our security both at home and abroad. Domestically, his protectionist trade policies and draconian immigration restrictions would enlarge our federal deficit, raise prices for consumers, and throw our economy back into recession. Trump’s global outlook, steeped in isolationism, is considerably out-of-step with the traditional Republican stance as well. The flippancy with which he is willing to abdicate the United States’ responsibility to lead is alarming. Calling for the US’ withdrawal from NATO and actively endorsing nuclear proliferation, Donald Trump’s foreign policy would wreak havoc on the established world order which has held aggressive foreign powers in check since World War II.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Donald Trump simply does not possess the temperament and character necessary to lead the United States through an increasingly perilous world. The last week should have made obvious to all what has been obvious to most for more than a year. In response to any slight –perceived or real– Donald Trump lashes out viciously and irresponsibly. In Trump’s eyes, disagreement with his actions or his policies warrants incessant name calling and derision: stupid, lying, fat, ugly, weak, failing, idiot –and that’s just his “fellow” Republicans.
He isn’t eschewing political correctness. He is eschewing basic human decency.
Donald Trump, despite spending more than a year on the campaign trail, has either refused or been unable to educate himself on issues that matter most to Americans like us. He speaks only in platitudes, about greatness, success, and winning. Time and time again, Trump has demonstrated his complete lack of knowledge on critical matters, meandering from position to position over the course of the election. When confronted about these frequent reversals, Trump lies in a manner more brazen and shameless than anything politics has ever seen.
Millions of people across the country are feeling despondent. Their hours have been cut, wages slashed, jobs even shipped overseas. But Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan to fix that. He has a plan to exploit that.
Donald Trump is a threat to the survival of the Republic. His authoritarian tendencies and flirtations with fascism are unparalleled in the history of our democracy. He hopes to divide us by race, by class, and by religion, instilling enough fear and anxiety to propel himself to the White House. He is looking to to pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, American against American. We will not stand for this vitriolic rhetoric that is poisoning our country and our children.
President Reagan called on us to maintain this, our shining city on a hill. He called on us to maintain freedom abroad by keeping a strong presence in the world. He called on us to maintain liberty at home by upholding the democratic process and respecting our opponents. He called on us to maintain decency in our hearts by loving our neighbor.
He would be ashamed of Donald Trump. We are too.
This fall, we will instead focus our efforts on reclaiming the Republican Party from those who have done it considerable harm, campaigning for candidates who will uphold the conservative principles that have defined the Republican Party for generations. We will work to ensure both chambers of Congress remain in Republican hands, continuing to protect against executive overreach regardless of who wins the election this November.
We call on our party’s elected leaders to renounce their support of Donald Trump, and urge our fellow College Republicans to join us in condemning and withholding their endorsement from this dangerous man. The conservative movement in America should not and will not go quietly into the night.
A longtime student of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
De Tocqueville believed in the United States. Americans are a decent people. We work hard, protect our own, and look out for one another in times of need, regardless of the color of our skin, the God we worship, or our party registration. Donald Trump may not believe in that America, but we do. And that America will never cease to be great.
The Harvard Republican Club
But despite the fact that young people appear to be turning away from Republicans in general, and Donald Trump in particular, young people have not traditionally been opposed to conservatives. Pew Research shows that that “young people haven’t always been so enamored with the Democrats. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 18-to-25-year-olds were more Republican than older age groups.” Republicans have rarely lost among this group by more than a few percentage points and actually won majorities among this group of voters in 1972, 1984, and 1988.
Trump is Driving College-Educated Voters Out of the Republican Party
“His entire approach to the world is off-putting to college-educated whites, particularly college-educated white women,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “The fact that they are so negative on Trump is what keeps him from getting the proportion of white votes he needs to put together a majority coalition.”
David Wasserman, an election forecaster with the Cook Political Report, said that losing white college graduates “could be catastrophic” for Trump’s chances.
Trump is accelerating a long-term trend that has been occurring over the last several decades, with Republicans increasingly attracting whites with lower levels of education, and voters with college degrees and post-graduate degrees increasingly voting Democrats. This year will be unique, mostly due to the degree of this split and the margins which Clinton is expected to defeat Trump among this group.
“There have been similarly modest differences in the vote choices of college graduates and those with less education in other elections in the past few decades. The largest gap was in 1996, when voters without college degrees backed Bill Clinton over Bob Dole by a 14-point margin (51% vs. 37%), while voters with less education were more closely divided (47% Clinton vs. 44% Dole). Today, it is the more educated voters who are more likely to favor the Democratic candidate, and the gap between the groups is far wider than it was 20 years ago.“
The loss of college-educated whites has the potential to be devastating over the long-term to the Republican party, particularly when seen in the context of the growing racial diversity of the country, the voting trends among non-whites, and the trends among younger voters- both whites and non-whites, which are all favoring the Democratic Party over the long term. The last line of defense for the Republican Party, short of adapting its policy approaches to make it more appealing to younger and non-white voters, is to protect its advantage among college-educated voters. Trump’s approach is clearly not working, and is not likely to work over either the long or short-term among this group, which will make it virtually impossible for the Republican Party to cobble together a majority coalition in coming elections.
Trump is Truly a Reactionary- Reacting Against Inevitable Change
Trump’s ideology, to the extent that there is one, is based on a reactionary attitude toward change. Trump’s Republican Party is a party of racial and cultural resentment. He is banking on maximizing support among whites by playing on their perceived sense of loss, or deprivation, relative to other groups. Trump is, as Francis Wilkinson argues, the last gasp of a conservatism that never was and never will be again.
Change is Coming Whether Trump and His Supporters Like It or Not
Yet regardless of this effort to stem the tide of change by changing the rules and boundaries of American political discourse, the change is coming and there is nothing that can or will be done to change it regardless of the outcome of this election. Demography is destiny and Trump’s America is not America’s future. Trump’s strategy of running up the white vote in order to win this year’s election appears destined to fail. Over the long term, the strategy is disastrous. Whites, especially older ones, might not like that the future of this country is non-white. But that cannot be changed.
Every year, whites are becoming a smaller and smaller share of the population. Immigrants are accounting for an increasing share of the population and having children at higher rates than those born in the US.
Republicans Cannot Win by Trying to Maximize the White Vote
Every election, whites make up a smaller and smaller share of eligible voters.
And these voters are becoming increasingly Democratic. The GOP can continue to do well among whites and, perhaps even improve its position among them, and still lose national elections. Romney, for example, did better among whites than any candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
But, as well as Obama did among Hispanics in 2008 and 2012- much better than Democrats had ever done among this group before- Hillary Clinton is likely to exceed this margin, not as much because of her strengths as much as Trump’s obvious weaknesses. In just one example, Clinton is leading Trump among Hispanics in Florida by 30%.
“Republican politicians from Miami-Dade County — Florida’s most-populous county with the largest share of Hispanics — are keeping their distance from Trump.
Rubio and Miami-Dade’s three Cuban-American U.S. House members won’t campaign with him. Miami-Dade’s mayor, a Cuban-American Republican, said he’d vote for Clinton.
The takeaway, Amandi said, is that Trump’s poor standing with Latinos underscores a broader problem with the Republican Party, which has blocked immigration reform and has done little to court the Hispanic vote.
“The Republican Party has an unwillingness to learn the lessons of 2008 and 2012,” Amandi said. “Donald Trump is a symptom of the Republican Party’s problem. He’s not the cause.”
This is not just confined to Florida, but is a national phenomenon.
The Republican Party cannot win elections now or in the future by alienating the constituencies that will soon constitute the majority of the population of this country. Democrats are winning growing majorities of college-educated voters, women, young voters, and minority voters. Every election that passes, these groups will constitute a growing share of the electorate, making it harder and harder for Republicans to win without winning a larger share of an ever-shrinking population. The party will have to do this without being able to fall back on the principles and traditions that have served it well over its more than 160 year history, as Trump has in some cases deliberately and in some cases inadvertently tried to shift the party away from these values. It is hard to see how this can be a winning formulation for the Grand Old Party, and it is even harder to see why anyone should regret the demise of a party that would self-consciously try to win this way.
Modern history doesn’t supply the only lessons against a nativist political strategy. Three early American political parties committed suicide partly due to their intransigent nativism.
The Federalist Party turned against Irish and French immigrants in the late 18th century, who then turned against them, thus eroding their base of support in Northeastern cities. The Whig Party self-destructed over opposition to immigration and disagreements over slavery. In the 1850s, the nativist American Party (also known as the Know-Nothings) quickly rose but then failed after a few successful elections. Anti-immigration positions may have helped those embattled parties for an election or two but in the long run they turned off more voters than they attracted.
Abraham Lincoln would have none of this when he helped build the Republican Party. In an 1855 letter he wrote to Owen Lovejoy, an Illinois state representative and an abolitionist, “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be?” Lincoln continued, “Of their principles [Know-Nothingism] I think little better than I do of those of the slavery extensionists.”
Lincoln divorced the new Republican Party from nativism. German voters in the Midwest were attracted to the party’s support for immigration and laws, like the Homestead Act and speedy naturalizations, that rebuked the nativists. Modern Republicans would be wise to learn from Lincoln’s inclusive vision. A nativist turn would rebuke the party’s principles while paying a high long-term political cost.