The RNC: Playing to the “Base”

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5 mins read

And here’s the reactionary view of American history I expected to see on display at the RNC:

It all looks absurd to us because the convention isn’t aimed at us. It’s aimed squarely at Trump’s “base.”

Here’s why playing entirely to Trump’s base isn’t as stupid as it seems.

Normally an incumbent running for reelection would try to reach beyond his base of supporters. Trump can’t. He has helped the GOP morph into a white nationalist party. You can’t embrace Confederate sympathizers and reach out to liberals and minority communities. If he sincerely tries to reach out to minority communities, his ‘base’ will lose interest. Also, he’ll never attract enough left-leaners or minorities to win—so why bother?

Now consider these statistics:

This means Trump controls the majority of Republican voters. They’re more loyal to Trump than the GOP. Most former presidents don’t have much actual power. The party membership moves behind an upcoming standard-bearer.

In Let them Eat Tweets, Yale political scientist Jacob S. Hacker and Berkeley political scientist Paul Pierson explain that GOP leadership lost control of the party when they “outsourced voter mobilization.”

This happened when the GOP formed an alliance with Fox and the NRA. At first GOP officials thought it was great: FOX and the NRA could turn out voters. Eventually, FOX and the NRA controlled GOP elected officials—because as candidates they needed FOX and the NRA to get elected.

Here’s why Trump playing to the base isn’t stupid: The GOP has a lot of power—all those Senators, Congress members, governors, etc. Whoever controls the voters controls those officials Trump is setting himself up to control the voters.

The GOP set up this situation by empowering FOX. FOX created an impenetrable echo chamber by setting itself up as the sole source of truth. This allowed for the rise of a leadership cult.

Trump can now out-fox FOX.

People outside the Fox-Trump-GOP bubble believe that the fact that the Trumps have committed multiple crimes will eventually bring them down. However, people who look to Trump as a messiah are not going to change their minds if he’s brought to trial and found guilty. If they don’t think the things he did should be crimes, they won’t care. They’ll see him as a victim.

What I’m saying is that Trump will lose the election, and will be out of the White House in January—but our troubles at his hands will not end.

After Biden wins (yes he will) the Confederacy-sympathizers who think minority communities and liberals are destroying America aren’t going to fold up shop. They’ve been with us since the founding of the nation. They’ll still be around, and Trump wants to control them.

Why am I so confident Biden will win? Because of statistics, polls, and history. The Democrats won the midterms by 8 percentage points. The demographics since then have shifted slightly toward the Democrats. The elections since the midterms support this conclusion.

I volunteered in my first election in 1980 when I did internal polling for the Carter campaign. I’ve been reading polls since. I’ve learned how far to trust polls. I’m not a mathematician, but I understand something about margins of error and methods. Trump’s approval took a dive shortly after he was elected. He’s been underwater since.

(Chart from 538) No incumbent this unpopular has won reelection. There’s evidence that turnout will be huge. People are taking this seriously. I am, however, under no illusions: He will remain dangerous.

[View as a Twitter thread]


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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