Thursday, July 21, 2016
Call it the unconventional convention.
For starters, John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio and an unsuccessful candidate for the GOP nomination this year, didn’t show up even though the convention is in Cleveland.
Gone, too, are the Bushes, Mitt Romney and many other of those who have been the public face of the Republican Party since the Reagan revolution. The problem for many Republicans, though, is that these are also the same people they think betrayed that revolution, pitching instead a big government conservatism with aggressive nation-building ambitions abroad.
Seventy-three percent (73%) of Likely Republican Voters believe GOP leaders have lost touch with the party’s base. That’s what they’ve been saying for years about Republicans in Congress which makes it all the more surprising that the GOP elites were so stunned by Donald Trump’s primary success.
Even after Trump won the Republican presidential nomination with the biggest primary turnout in history, 66% of GOP voters think most of the party’s leaders don’t want to see him elected president. In short, two-out-of-three Republicans believe their so-called leaders don’t care what their voters think.
In place of the usual party bigs, different voices are being heard at this year’s convention - several of Trump’s children, a black police chief angry at the political rhetoric that is causing a war on police, a mother who lost her son in the political debacle of Benghazi, a woman astronaut, the neurosurgeon who ran one of the most thoughtful political campaigns in recent memory.
Not that elected officials aren’t on the dais. Some of Trump’s primary rivals like Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are on hand to endorse his bid for the White House.
The media, however, is more interested in another convention oddity - the surprising performance of Senator Ted Cruz, a failed Trump rival who instead of calling for party unity in his remarks to the gathering urged voters to vote “their conscience.” Delegates who viewed this as a pointed non-endorsement of Trump jeered Cruz as he left the stage.
It’s interesting to see Cruz, an outspoken critic of the Republican establishment in Washington, complaining now that the outsiders have won, but political ambition often reveals surprising contradictions.
Cruz has already signaled he intends to run for the presidency again in 2020 even if Trump is elected this year. Obviously what the Texas senator is really betting his future on is that Trump will lose and that the Trump phenomenon is a fleeting one.
Some media critics have complained that there is too much anger being directed at Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from GOP convention speakers. But when only 21% of all voters think the country is headed in the right direction and voters expect Clinton to continue the divisive policies of Barack Obama, is that really any surprise?
Besides, Republicans strongly believe the media is just another arm of the Clinton campaign.
The 2016 version of the Republican Party, at least as seen in this year’s national convention and this year’s nominee, is skeptical of international free trade deals, pro-America First when it comes to foreign policy, less obsessed with conservative social issues and more interested in spending money here at home than abroad. It still holds to the long-standing GOP ideals of smaller government, lower taxes and less government regulation.
After years of the two major parties seemingly growing closer on many things, this change in agenda suggests the arrival of a recharged and realigned second party. How long it’s around remains to be seen. Cruz, Kasich, Jeb Bush and many of those who are no-shows at this year’s convention are banking that the Trump-styled Republican Party is a passing fancy.
Fran Coombs is the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.
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