By Brian McKay
In the past, the GOP candidates for the Presidency followed a pretty standard approach. The nomination process was spent appealing to the evangelical base that showed up en masse to vote in the primaries. Making it to the general election meant a swing to a more centrist position with the base having to accept the nominee, even if their views weren't totally reflected. It was an act of compromise by the voters, both centrist and right. The centrist voters had to forget the candidate’s previous catering to the far right and base voters had to excuse the candidate’s softening stance in the general election. All for the chances of the party to carry the Presidency and prevail in the national elections.
It changed this year. Big time. Sure, the candidates have been on a collision course, but in the end it will be the voters that tear the GOP apart. This year's crop of candidates, especially Trump, started to reveal the party polarization that previously existed and their supporters are going to take it the rest of the way.
Democrats are also more polarized this year than normal, mostly due to divisions in who takes the big money and who doesn't. Nevertheless, they will still easily jump behind their nominee. They will be united where the Republicans are completely divided. Much of this is due to the fact that the Democrats have never had to straddle such a diverse population.
Democratic voters typically fall behind a common position whereas the Republicans have to deal with everyone from “I am socially liberal but fiscally conservative” to “God decides the course of America”. Yeah that is brutally hard. I actually congratulate the Republicans for keeping it together this long.
A new poll from NBC News finds that the split between Republicans has animosity in yields reaching atom bomb proportions. Large amounts of voters for each candidate simply say they won't settle and forget this time, but will simply not vote.
Ted Cruz supporters say that only 56 percent of them will vote for Trump if he wins the nomination. The man who has frequently referred to his opponent as “Lyin’ Ted”, so turns off Cruz supporters that 6 percent say they will vote for Hillary Clinton instead of him (WTF? 6 percent will vote for the devil first?). 9 percent said they will not vote at all and another 26 percent said they would vote for a third party candidate (who?, there isn't one).
On the Trump side, only 53 percent of his supporters claim they would vote for Ted Cruz if he wins the nomination. 15 percent say they wouldn't vote at all if Cruz won the nomination, 2 percent said they would vote for Hillary Clinton and 28 percent would jump ship and support a third party candidate. Well hell, that third party candidate might be Trump.
Essentially, there is very little chance of Republican voters coming together behind one candidate this year. Even if we were to find Paul Ryan in the general election, a large portion of Trump supporters would follow him to a third party. The Donald’s impact will be felt no matter what. This is better than his book and board game combined.
Both Trump and Cruz show significant losses to Hillary Clinton in general election polling, but that is a given. The true impact would be felt in Senate and House races. It may not seem like a lot, but if even only 15 percent of Trump voters don't show up at the polls, or even 9 percent of Cruz voters, the amounts are enough to tip the balance of power in favor of the Democrats across both the Senate and House. Think of it this way, 9 percent of Cruz voters represent about 4 percent of Republican voters. 4 percent is huge when it comes down to close House and Senate races. Trump voters that would abstain represent close to 7 – 8 percent of the Republican electorate. Either candidate as the nominee means a veritable landslide for the Democrats in 2016.
The Republican leadership has the toughest job now that they have ever had since the nomination process moved to the primary process in the 70’s. All candidates have been decided by primary voters or caucus goers ever since. For the first time in 40+ years they might be heading into a contested convention. Instead of 3 days of feel good speeches and a freaking weird Clint Eastwood talk to a chair, it is now a fight for the nomination. A gladiator display worked well for emperors of Rome, but it is going to be a serious problem at the convention in Cleveland. It is doubtful that a spear in the side of either candidate will produce a decent outcome.
Well shit, you have voters polarized and not willing to vote at all and now you have 3 days that you can’t use to pump them up with rhetoric. It’s like the margarita mixer just died and the juice, ice and rum have no chance of being blended together. Better just do a couple shots of that rum and deal with the coming shit show.
Yes, this time it is different. What the candidates started with the most belligerent nomination process in history, the voters are happy to finish up. It started as a mess and will end as a mess. This time Republican voters won’t forget and won’t compromise.
I for one am excited to watch this convention. It will be the most fun thing that whole week. I might even skip going to the bar.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his B.A. in political science from Gonzaga University and his M.B.A. from Boise State University. He is already stock piling beer and pizza coupons for Republican Convention time. He says we can go out drinking during the Deomcratic convention as it will be comparatively boring.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license