Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, whom I esteem and admire, warned Tuesday that post-election the GOP could descend into civil war, with the controversial candidate and Republican Congressional leadership fighting for preeminence.
That pessimistic scenario would have been slightly more likely had Trump lost, but is not, I think, the most likely scenario and is certainly not to be expected now.
GOP establishment leaders can do the math.
They will realize there aren’t enough votes for them to continue as a party without Trump’s supporters, or Trump himself as he is now the official head of the party. So the Republican establishment needs to focus on reaching out to Trump’s base and showing these voters that they see Trump’s supporters not as an enemy or splinter group that threatens unity, but rather as a key part of the future of the party.
GOP leaders by now know that this election year was no mere whim, and that while policy purity has its uses, even Ronald Reagan imposed quotas on car imports when political demands warranted it.
After all, there is much more in common than there is that divides.
What Trump did was focus on the issues that were important to millions of Americans across parties, specifically jobs, illegal immigration, security/strength, and affordable healthcare, creating along the way a huge movement of people united by a simple core set of values and needs — “America First.”
Then, once united, he was successful at educating this group on the value of a conservative (balanced) supreme court, a stronger military, school choice, the right to bear arms, eliminating counterproductive regulations and so on.
Trump took a voter-centric approach. Rather than selling the party policies in an attempt to build a base, he started with what people wanted and needed, communicated it using their own vernacular, and created a platform to deliver it.
The Republicans would benefit from understanding what America First means to millions of Americans at this critical point in time.
Trump, rather than being intimidated by received opinion, outsmarted the liberal and biased media to get his message out against amazing odds. Think Republicans might benefit from this? Duh.
Trump ran a campaign of the future, and by embracing the successful how-to’s of his campaign, the GOP can embrace and incorporate his followers and attract a varied and loyal following going forward.
The GOP needs to show Trump loyalists that they understand what led them to support Donald Trump, reject the media's cartoonish version of them as “deplorables” motivated by the basest aspects of tribalism, and be sincere about once again becoming a party that is of, by, and for the people.
The GOP also needs to show that they recognize and truly understand voter’s concerns, and, like Reagan, want to find a balance that will mitigate the harms that affect too many Americans and restore our economic vitality.
Recrimination is going to be a natural sentiment, though in reality the greatest fractures after Hillary’s loss and DNC candidate-rigging will be among the ruins of the left. But on both sides, these sentiments have been running too high for too long for healing not to need to take some time.
Yet if GOP leadership makes a concerted effort to include in their ranks at least some who have sincerely supported Trump’s candidacy, that will start the process of moving toward policy wins in ’17 and beyond.
And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell precludes the Democrat’s misuse of the stealth filibuster, which they use to prevent consideration and then pretend Senate Republicans are do-nothings, that too will help the GOP dispel that myth.
Mid-term elections in 2018 are just around the corner and, with them, the opportunity for major GOP gains in the senate, and control of the nation’s governorships — as at least 36 states will feature gubernatorial races in the 2018 cycle, and a majority of them will have a say in the reapportionment and redistricting battles of 2021.
Far from being a force for division, Trump may well prove in the end to be the road map that helped the GOP’s different component parts merge and face 2018 truly stronger together.
Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice.