After a 332-206 shellacking in the 2012 Electoral College, the Republican National Committee issued an autopsy diagnosing the failure at hand and providing guidance to future Republican candidates. In the months preceding the election and prior to the auto-autopsy, two congressional scholars with bipartisan Beltway credentials penned a notorious op-ed in The Washington Post titled, “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” In December 2014, before he had declared himself a candidate, Jeb Bush imagined that the 2016 nominee would have to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.” Roughly three years after the autopsy report was published, Donald Trump revealed his candidacy to capture the Republican nomination for President of the United States. The announcement seemed like a gag at the time, a publicity stunt to sell neckties and brand hotels; of course, it was unforeseeable that Trump intended to double down on the aforementioned evaluations in the most perverse manner imaginable, positioning himself for primary success yet general doom.
Before President Barack Obama won his second term over Mitt Romney, political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein — who was, and still is, employed by the conservative American Enterprise Institute – wrote that, “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”
Presumptive nominee Donald Trump has built his political skyscraper on brashness, superiority and fanciful policy positions.
In its autopsy report, the Republican National Committee gave particular consideration to immigration and minority outreach. On immigration, the RNC concluded, “We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, must be to embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”
Presumptive nominee Donald Trump has said of Mexican immigrants, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
And some, I assume, are good people. Outreach!
The RNC on appealing to minorities: “By the year 2050 we’ll be a majority-minority country and in both 2008 and 2012, President Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority groups. The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic or community or region of this country.”
Presumptive nominee Donald Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from the United States.
The RNC on including women: a $10 million marketing campaign targeting women, minorities and gays, along with calls to elevate women within the RNC, “to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have.”
Trump has intentionally defied the RNC prescriptions for broadening the party and winning elections, instead opting to further the inflammatory rhetoric the party leadership warned against. And half of the base loves him for it. With the last hopes of the #NeverTrump coalition resting on Indiana’s Tuesday primary and Donald Trump widening his lead in the state as the days pass, the rest of 2016 figures to be #AllTrump on the Republican side.
While Jeb Bush faltered in his 2016 bid, the former governor appears to have been prescient in his remarks regarding a willingness to lose the primary to win the general. Though a clearly paradoxical situation, it appears as though, due to his jockeying to win the Republican nomination, Trump has anchored himself to a fatal amount of toxic positions in the general election.
Before Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) launched his once-thought inevitable campaign, his pollster attempted to demonstrate Rubio’s path to victory by estimating the proportion of non-white vote necessary for the Republican nominee to win in the Electoral College. Based on projections of the 2016 electorate, if the nominee were to win 59 percent of the white vote — or what Romney won in 2012 — then 30 percent of the nonwhite vote should prove sufficient. In 2012, Romney won 17 percent of the non-white vote. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won 19 percent. President George W. Bush won 26 percent in 2004.
Sure, Donald Trump might turn out a group of white voters who traditionally lacked incentive to vote, but it’s difficult to envision these potential gains expanding the electorate in meaningful ways or offsetting likely decreases among nonwhite voters, women and centrist Republicans who will either vote for Hillary or stay home. Trump succeeded by appealing to factions of the party that scholars were beginning to identify as destructive and unproductive. When the RNC provided a party autopsy focused on a general election, it inadvertently provided a perverted playbook to primary success if deconstructed; Trump had the persona to pull it off, Jeb the wit to recognize it ultimately as a losing one. He who laughs last, laughs longest.
Jake Forken is a senior in the College of Human Ecology. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. My Forken Opinion appears alternate Fridays this semester.