A Less Trumpy Version of Trumpism Might Be the Future of the Republican Party
Yves here. Democratic-party adjacent media keep declaring the Republican Party dead. Wishing does not make it so.
By Morgan Marietta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell and David C. Barker, Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University School of Public Affairs. Originally published at The Conversation
Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, but his populist ideas may continue to animate the Republican Party.
Populist conservatism accepts those views but adds something different: the interests and perceptions of “ordinary” people against “elites.” So populism rejects the notion of a natural aristocracy of wealth and education, replacing it with the idea that people it considers elites, including career politicians, bureaucrats, journalists and academics, have been promoting their own interests at the expense of regular folk.
The populist interpretation is that elites benefited from the globalization and technological advancements they encouraged, while the advantages of those trends bypassed ordinary working people. Calls for trade protections and national borders appeal to Americans who feel left behind.
In that sense, populism is driven by identity (who someone believes they are like, and perhaps more importantly, who they are not like). For populists, the like-minded are ordinary folk – middle income, middle-brow educations at public high schools and state universities, often middle-of-the-country – and the dissimilar are the products of expensive educations and urban lifestyles.
The GOP could conclude that its loss was only due to an outside event and not a fundamental rejection of policy. That would give the party little incentive to change course, aside from changing the face on the poster.
Over the next four years we believe the GOP will solidify the transition to a populist base, though not without resistance from traditional conservatives.
Republican victory in a future presidential election would likely require an alliance between traditional and populist conservatives, with both groups turning out to vote. The question is which one will lead the coalition.
The competition for the 2024 Republican nomination will likely also be a contest between these two party bases and ideologies, with the emerging winner defining the post-Trump GOP.
The 2024 standard bearers
The Republican contenders for the 2024 nomination and the new leadership of the GOP include a broad range of populists versus traditional conservatives.
Perhaps a leading indicator of the move toward polished populism is the shift in the rhetoric employed by Marco Rubio.
These two Republicans and several others see a potential president in the mirror. Which one mirrors the current GOP will depend on the realignment or retrenchment between the populists and the traditionalists.
Polished populism – Trump’s policies without his personality – may be the future of the GOP’s identity.