Joshua Claybourn: Why GOP should listen to Never Trump
Thursday, November 10, 2016 10:20 AM
EVANSVILLE – The 2016 election was a resounding success for Indiana Republicans. Outgoing governor Mike Pence is the new vice president, Eric Holcomb will be the next governor, and Republicans won all other statewide races, including state education superintendent. Like the federal government, the Indiana Statehouse is firmly controlled by Republicans.
For the party brass and thousands of Republican political and policy advisors, the incentive will be to celebrate the victories, congratulate themselves on strategy, and rest on the laurels of a fresh victory. Undoubtedly, the Trump/Pence wave carried the day and is driving the Republican Party.
So why should they ever again listen to Never Trump Republicans they might view as losers?
That line of thinking would be a strategic blunder. Trump’s victory appears to be based more on a rejection of Clintonism and liberalism than an embrace of Trump’s ideology. Mitt Romney got 60.9 million votes and lost, while early returns show Donald Trump has 59.1 million votes and is winning. Trump also received less than McCain’s popular vote total in 2008 and came up short of Obama’s winning 2012 vote totals in all of the battleground critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio.
Indiana Republicans didn’t ride a wave of Trump support. Instead, they rode a wave of anti-Clintonism thanks to Democrats staying at home. Moreover, beneath the rosy success for the GOP is an ominous future both in Indiana and nationwide as the party comes to grips with the new Trump brand. Voters under 40 overwhelmingly rejected the party’s vision for the future under Trump, it continued its long struggle with growing minority groups, and educated suburbanites, particularly women, broke ranks with the party.
Ignoring those factions opposed to the Trump brand and the growing demographic changes risks forfeiting an important component of the Republican Party, both now and in the future.
Even those who openly profess to back Trump, or ultimately settled on him as the lesser of two evils, have long harbored substantial misgivings in private about whether he is even equipped to serve as president. When I resigned this spring as a delegate to the Republican National Convention over disgust with Trump’s inevitable nomination, I was inundated with messages of support and agreement from top members of Mike Pence’s staff. Within months their boss was Trump’s running mate and these very same people were decked out in “Make American Great Again” hats and professing their love of all things Trump.
These Republican leaders failed a fundamental test of courage and political leadership by not speaking the truth about what they saw as obvious. And when all else seemed to fail, they resorted to the catchphrases of 1990s-era talk radio.
A small but important and demographically growing divide exists among Republican factions. The future health and vitality of the Indiana GOP depends on mending these divisions. Democrats will not always stay home as they did with Clinton.
Fortunately, there are a number of things which can help heal the GOP in Indiana. Hoosier Republicans would do well to remember the legacy of Mitch Daniels and embrace his optimism and focus on ideas, not ideology. Hoosier Republicans should also begin planning for the future and outlining ideas for the millennial era. Millennials, for example, do not want propaganda and social issue warfare. They want a vibrant and innovative government willing to embrace new challenges.
The Indiana Republican Party is embarking on a new chapter of political dominance, but there is danger in failing to keep the future in mind. It needs to send a clear message that it is forward-looking and working on behalf of all citizens. Hoosiers are counting on them to do the right thing.
Claybourn is an Evansville attorney.