Republicans win too often to ever change

Florida, as the old men say, is “the place America is going to die.” This is also where the Republican Party is going, which it could relive. From Palm Beach, Donald Trump and his court are planning another run for the White House in 2024. Miami is confusing the rule that large international cities are axiomatically left-wing. As for Orlando, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have used it this week as a safe space to plan a mid-term comeback.

The form favors them: the two previous Democratic presidents lost Congress at the first request. The same goes for the demographic churn that was noted by the 2020 census. The even more conservative Florida and Texas will win seats at the expense of New York and California. After a more respectable-than-expected loss last November, House Republicans need no act of God for revenge next year.

A party with such constant success, or at least competitiveness, has no incentive to change. Indeed, this is not the case.

This week marks the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency. But the top 100 Republican opposition would always say more about America’s future.

How dismal are omens. Trump remains the unofficial leader of the Republicans. Congresswoman Liz Cheney is among apostates facing major challenge and censorship from her state party. Her most populist new colleague, Marjorie Taylor Greene, raised barely a credible $ 3.2 million in the first quarter. (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a liberal star, managed a quarter more in her own congressional debut.) The hope that there was after the Capitol siege in January to end zeal and quackery is now strange to remember.

I could cite other signs of hardening Trumpism, but by now the incorrigibility of Republicans is well known. The point is to explain it. Too often, the party’s drift to the right relies on variables as delicate as Fox News (prime-time audience: 2.5m) and Trump’s “base”, as if a courageous sect is doing all the work.

It is about exonerating an electorate that does not punish extremism as it once did. After four years in which he lived up to all but the most terrible expectations, Trump lost the presidency by a margin that was far from a landslide. Twenty-seven of the 50 states, and not just the most obvious, still have Republican governors. Now, shortly after a majority of House Republicans contested Biden’s election victory – that is, defied the will of the public – they can come together in a reasonable confidence of half-glory. course. If these are the wages of extremism, they are eminently affordable.

American voters used to throw the book at hotheads or even eccentrics. Madness in thought and style cost Barry Goldwater a 16 million vote loss in the 1964 election when there were fewer than 200 million Americans. For the crime of soggy and winding liberalism, Walter Mondale lost all states except one 20 years later. If the Republicans had had anything like an overwhelming outcome in November, they would now be six months into a reform process, or at least a constructive civil war. As it stands, there is little incentive for them to think, let alone change. In a post-landslide era, neither side is ever further from power.

It is calming, no doubt, to believe that a devout cult, drunk on disinformation, is what threatens American democracy. This gives the problem manageable dimensions. It also avoids blaming the general public. But no sect, however vehement, can prosper without complacent multitudes. They don’t share the shrillness of a few, as such, but that doesn’t bother them enough. The problem is in the tens of millions, not in the millions.

Yes, congressional gerrymandering overestimates Republican popularity. The same goes for the Electoral College and other anti-majority quirks of a constitution drafted in another world by the landed nobility. Even adjusting for that, however, the GOP finds itself on an incredibly high floor of support after Trump, after the Capitol Raid, after all. Not only the House but also the Senate are likely to be recoverable within a short time. At some point, the blame for modern republicanism must shift from the party to an electorate who could immediately cure it by levying higher political costs.

Until then, the strictly tactical argument for renouncing Trump or his legendary -ism will remain weak within the party. Rather, moderate Republicans must petition the conscience and principles of their colleagues. Just read this sentence to despair of their chances.

janan.ganesh@ft.com

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