Reuters is reporting that dozens of Republican officials from the Bush administration are leaving the Republican Party, letting their registrations lapse or registering as independents. According to the interviews, they blame their abandonment on the Capitol riot and on current congressional leaders not abandoning President Trump’s claims of voter fraud. It appears unlikely that, with 45 Republicans voting to declare the recent impeachment unconstitutional, the Senate will be able to convict Trump.
One quote from the Reuters article gives the impression that something more going on.
“The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists. I’d call it the cult of Trump,” said Jimmy Gurulé, who was Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Bush administration.
Indeed, the Republican Party today, and many of the 74 million people who voted for President Trump, do not look like the party or the voters that elected George W. Bush. During the 2016 primary, Trump played to issues the Republican establishment had been weak on, and he won. He entered the presidency and made good on his promises.
If the GOP establishment had been listening after the birth of the TEA Party, they would have seen this coming. The base was frustrated, and the brilliant coalition William F. Buckley had put together was starting to fray. We were tired of our leaders getting beaten up in the media and never standing up for themselves and their ideas. Tired of capitulation and furious about Obamacare, people started showing up at town halls held by politicians. A journalist covering an event with Senator Arlen Specter in 2009, where a voter told him Democrats had awakened a sleeping giant, summed the mood up perfectly:
For many opponents the health care overhaul amounts to the final straw. After seeing Obama bail out banks and car dealers, push a major energy bill and pass a $787 billion economic stimulus package that hasn’t driven down unemployment, overhauling the $2.5 trillion U.S. health care system is a step too far.
These frustrated voters organized loosely nationwide and propelled candidates to victory. The GOP retook the House in the 2010 cycle, along with making gains in the Senate. They also won governorships and state legislatures nationwide. It was the beginning of the more than 1,000 down-ticket seats Democrats lost nationwide.
Rolling into 2012, there was enthusiasm at the grassroots level. Then the establishment handed us candidate Mitt Romney. We watched the media rake this anodyne, unthreatening liberal Republican over the coals. He was literally Hitler, according to the chattering class. Someone who let people die of cancer and was a misogynist for having binders full of women’s resumes. There was no fight in the campaign, and we got four more years of Obama. Not content, the grassroots took the Senate majority in 2014 and waited patiently for 2016.
And that is how you got Trump. A significant portion of the base would not have the preferred establishment candidate, Jeb Bush, shoved down our throats. CPAC 2016 was a rowdy event that made it clear the activist class was not on board with that plan. Looking back, it should have surprised no one that the primary came down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump was willing to take on the media and Hillary Clinton directly. Cruz had taken on the GOP leadership in Congress repeatedly.
Ultimately, Republican voters chose Donald Trump. Many of my fellow activists sat out the election, horrified. The day after the election, we decided to call balls and strikes. No patriotic American wants a president to fail, so we hoped for the best. Somewhere in the intervening four years, most of us got it. To put it very simply, President Trump had a domestic and foreign policy that put the security and prosperity of working-, middle- and upper-middle-class Americans first. He was the guy throwing the chairs out of the country club windows.
He understood the political, cultural, and media elites because he had moved among them. Trump didn’t need them and saw how their preferred policies crushed the people in the middle. On some level, he seemed to understand that this was no longer about Republican vs. Democrat. Instead, it was the political, cultural, and media elite, along with the permanent bureaucracy, against everyone else. The recent GameStop stock controversy should give you a clue.
Trump’s policies lifted a record number of people out of poverty and ended decades of wage stagnation and hollowing out of the industrial base. He also received 10 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016.
So, when the media tells the base things like this, it is worthy of a shrug:
Kristopher Purcell, who worked in the Bush White House’s communications office for six years, said roughly 60 to 70 former Bush officials have decided to leave the party or are cutting ties with it, from conversations he has been having. “The number is growing every day,” Purcell said.
Two weeks of Joe Biden is already awakening the sleeping giant. Once again, Democrats are overestimating their mandate and alienating voters they believe they have a claim on. The GOP base is going to demand a return to the working-class ethos that animated the coalition in 2020. And if the RNC is smart, they can expand that coalition with disaffected union members, working-class, and suburban voters by maintaining the agenda that puts Americans first.
If we shed some members of the decades-old political elite offended by the new coalition, so be it. There are more of us than there are of them, and they have let us down repeatedly. It is time for a new generation of leaders, with solutions that work, to restore the American Dream of forming a family, owning property, and thinking your kids just might have it better than you did. The post-war consensus is over. It is past time to strike a new bargain.
This realignment is about the agenda, the willingness to stand up for the voters who brought you, and pride in America. It is less about Donald Trump, the particular package those issues arrived in. And that is what the chattering class, the political elites, and the oligarchs who fund them still do not understand.