09 Aug 2016

Ghosts of elections past

All the way back in 2008 – you remember 2008, right? Back when oil hit $100/barrel for the first time, and a whole bunch of Americans thought Russia had invaded the Peach State, and who can forget the International Year of the Potato? – two days after the election, I wrote the following:

About the only positive aspect of [the Democrats’ victory] that I can find, is that it might represent the death knell of the far-right, authoritarian “conservatives” that have monopolized the GOP brand for too long. […] The far-right just isn’t socially mainstream enough to form the core of a majority political party.

I stand by that statement, by the way, even in the face of Trump; what Trump shows is that a dedicated, passionate minority can get a basically-unelectble candidate all the way to the general election.

But it’s disheartening that the lesson the Republican establishment learned from 2008 wasn’t “don’t let the inmates run the asylum”, but instead was, seemingly, “don’t pick Sarah Palin as a running mate.” (To their credit, nobody has repeated that particular mistake as far as I know.)

As Trump slides towards a 10-point gap behind Clinton, and has almost certainly alienated blue-collar white voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania with his anti-military rants, it will be interesting to see whether the GOP as a party finally learns a more general lesson about the disconnect between primary voters and the rest of the country, or if – like the aftermath of 2008 – they manage only to add one more mistake to the long list of things they won’t do again.

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