Is Donald Trump Trying to Destroy the Republican Party?
During the 2016 Republican National Convention, one of the biggest talking points was how Donald Trump had received more votes than any Republican nominee before him. This is 100% true. But an oft-ignored side of the story is how Trump had more votes against him than any Republican nominee in history as well. In fact, in spite of Trump’s high vote count, his final vote percentage was 44.9%. To contrast, Mitt Romney earned 52.1% in 2012, John McCain had 46.7% in 2008, and George W. Bush had 62% in 2000. Trump actually finished with a lower percentage than any Republican nominee since 1968. Even after his nomination was virtually secured, a movement arose with the intention of releasing the Republican delegates to vote against him. To say that his nomination is polarizing for the Republican party would be an understatement.
A Trump supporter would point to these facts and indicate that this is simply a matter of Trump’s uphill battle against the vaunted “Republican establishment.” The speciousness of that argument aside, let’s look at Trump’s results thus far.
In addition to Trump’s primary performance, further proof of the polarization that he has brought to the GOP can be seen in the lack of fundraising they’ve brought in this year. The RNC has pulled in less than half of the amounts that they had raised at this point in recent election cycles. To make matters worse, Trump’s campaign operation was never fully established in all 50 states, causing greater financial strain on the GOP by creating the need for them to pick up the slack. As a result, less funds will be available to other GOP races down the ballot.
After Mitt Romney lost in 2012, the Republican party performed what is now known as its “autopsy report.” One of the conclusions they drew was “if Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence.” Although Trump predicted that he would win the Hispanic vote in spite of his hard-line immigration policies, he is currently polling at 18%, while Hillary Clinton is polling at 66%. Romney took 27% of the Hispanic vote in 2012.
The Republican autopsy report also recommended campaigning in black, Asian, and gay communities. Among African Americans, national polling has Trump at 5%. In Ohio, a crucial swing state, he has polled as low as 0%. Romney earned 6% of the African American vote nationally in 2012.
Has the GOP failed to learn their lessons from 2012? After their loss, the conventional thinking was that the Republican party couldn’t bear to run another campaign that alienated young people and minorities while providing fodder for the perception that the GOP only cares about the wealthy. So why did they nominate somebody like Donald Trump?
In many ways, Trump embodies the caricature of a stereotypical Republican. He’s rich, older white man that has a history of using his power and influence to crush those who are less powerful than he is. He has made statements throughout his career that can easily be perceived as racist or bigoted. He provides the mainstream media and the Democratic party with the ideal Republican villain to fit their narrative.
So let’s say that someone wanted to bitterly divide the Republican party, put it under financial strain, prevent future electoral success, and reinforce negative clichés about what the party represents, what would this person do differently than what Donald Trump is doing right now? With all of this taken into consideration, one might be inclined to think that Trump’s poor campaign trajectory could be by design.
In his book Let Freedom Ring, Sean Hannity contends that the “Republican Party is the vehicle through which conservative ideas have the best chance of thriving.” Ironically, the candidate he supports this year may be driving that vehicle off a cliff.