This leaves a few of us entirely homeless in American politics. If you had asked me 10 years ago, when I left government, whether the Republican Party could be won and rallied with George Wallace’s campaign themes, I would have thought you ridiculous. Now it is my naivete that deserves ridicule. If a significant portion of the GOP finds this equally disorienting, it is being disoriented in silence.
Trump is a politician famous for following his “gut” to some odd and sketchy places. But the political question of the 2020 election is quite practical: Can Trump keep Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania (he doesn’t need them all) while avoiding any defections in Sun Belt states such as Arizona? The answer: With a flawed enough Democratic candidate, yes he can. If Democratic primary voters view Trump’s vulnerability as an opportunity to get all the ideological goodies they’ve ever wanted, rather than a rare chance to expand their coalition to moderate voters, they would again oppose a weak candidate with a weaker one. And they would reelect the least fit president in U.S. history.
Given the social and demographic trends of the country, it will soon be impossible to win a presidential election with an ethnonationalist appeal. But we aren’t there yet. Meanwhile, Trump commits political vampirism — sucking the last remaining life from a dying coalition.