Gary Johnson: "This is the demise of the Republican Party"

Via Red State, I’m skeptical. There may not be a majority out there of movement conservatives or nationalists or evangelicals or libertarians, but there may be a majority between them of anti-leftists. Where are those anti-leftists going in 2018, when the Senate will again be in play and the map strongly disfavors Democrats? Gary Johnson imagines the Libertarian Party succeeding the GOP as a major party, but there simply aren’t enough small-government advocates on the right to make it the right-wing party. Trumpers, for instance, have little in common with libertarians apart from isolationism. It may even be that, if forced to choose between Democrats and Libertarians, most Trumpers would swallow their anti-left sentiments and tilt uneasily towards the left on the theory that Democrats will at least protect their entitlements. And even if Trump fans stand firm and insist on their own nationalist party, Ben Domenech’s right that Democrats may have an opportunity to pick off moderate Republicans who are uncomfortable with nationalism and libertarianism. If Clinton wins and McConnell and Ryan sell out the base on a terrible amnesty deal, the party may crack — and Democrats will have a chance to seize the center:

The opportunity this gives the Democrats is clear: they will have the latitude and incentives to expand their coalition, forming the equivalent of a new American Tory party. Socially liberal in the sense of redistribution and the occasional catering to identity politics appeals, Democrats will have the opening to become even more corporatist and pro-business, collaborating with groups and companies who find the Republicans too toxic to sponsor. This would give Democrats the freedom to ignore a number of their more radical members and just offer lip service to the Democratic Socialism of Bernie Sanders, instead expanding their appeal to suburban voters who have proven more difficult to win in recent years. As the only globalist game in town, the elites will naturally sort into the Democratic coalition, which currently looks to dramatically expand its foothold among the college educated. Republicans will be left with a messy coalition patched together with duct tape, which cannot agree on just about anything, including on whether they agree.

The GOP, or what’s left of it, would be a mishmash of social conservatives, populist nationalists in the Breitbart mold, and “conservatarians.” How do Libertarians emerge from that? With whom do they build a coalition? Evangelicals? Hawks? Gary Johnson is a wonderfully genial guy running against the two most phenomenally unpopular major-party nominees in modern American history and he’s still stuck at 10 percent. There’s no reason to believe there’s a major-party-level constituency out there for the Libertarian Party in the near term, and in the longer term, as more libertarian-leaning younger voters age, one of the remaining major parties will likely figure out a way to cater to them. (To paraphrase De Gaulle, the Libertarian Party is the party of the future and it always will be.) I think Johnson’s assertion about the demise of the GOP is patently true and false at the same time. Substantively, the party has already dissolved; for years now it’s been an unhappy coalition of four or five discrete constituencies with little in common except that they fear and loathe the left. But there’s also no reason to think they won’t reassemble to move the needle back in their general direction in 2018 under the Republican umbrella.

Even if Domenech is right and Ryan makes a deal on amnesty in 2017, which would be incredibly foolish after watching Trump tear through the primaries this year running on the idea of building a wall, Trump fans will take a hard look at the outcome this November and calculate what staying home in 2018 would mean for advancing populism or nationalism. Most of them will play ball — assuming Ryan’s not still in charge at that point. I think it’s more likely that the next few years will see a reprise in congressional primaries of what happened six years ago, as the tea party asserted itself against the establishment, except this time it’ll be Trumpists like Paul Nehlen joining the running battle between establishmentarians and grassroots conservatives. It may even be that Trumpists trump conservatives as the new favorite protest vehicle of disgruntled grassroots voters. But it’ll all be done under the auspices of the Republican Party. What that party looks like circa 2020 is unclear, but I’m … pretty sure it won’t be libertarian.