Here’s some of what’s changed since Tuesday, Nov. 8. Donald Trump is now the President-elect of the United States. The Republican Party is no longer the conservative party. It’s also not imploding like so many people (including me) thought. Instead, it’s now the populist party. The Democratic Party is no longer a well-oiled machine using data and modern campaign techniques. It’s now the party in the wilderness with a thin bench and no clear direction.
Here’s what has not changed. Donald Trump is still unfit to serve as President of the United States. He’s still a bully who flirts with white nationalists and has emboldened hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. He’s still a misogynist who has spent his entire life demeaning women in public. He’s still never released his taxes so we don’t know what kind of nefarious connections he may have with foreign governments or corporations who will do business the government he oversees. He’s still the man who threatened to lock up his political opponent and sue the press for their coverage of him. He’s no more qualified to be Commander-in-Chief today than he was a week ago.
The national Republican Party has emerged from the election looking a lot more like the North Carolina GOP than the Party of Reagan. Here, small government conservativism takes a back seat to big government authoritarianism. The Republican legislature has usurped local power by seizing local assets, redistricting local political jurisdictions, and overturning local ordinances. Under the guise of “religious freedom,” they’ve allowed government employees to deny service to people because of their sexual orientations. They tried to limit access to the ballot box for minorities and inserted themselves between women and their doctors, ordering unnecessary ultra-sounds and waiting periods for abortions. In North Carolina, Republicans won power as the free-market, libertarian party of Art Pope, but they’ve governed as the hard right religious populists led by Phil Berger and people like Franklin Graham.
If North Carolina’s experience is a guide, don’t expect the fiscal conservatives, neo-cons, or free-marketeers who made up the party of Reagan and the Bushes to exert much influence over Trump and his white-nationalist senior strategist, Steve Bannon. They’ll look the other way while individual rights get trampled as long as they get their tax cuts and deregulation. “Look at the growth” may become the 21st century equivalent of making the trains run on time. There will probably be a few voices from the right calling out abuses, but most Congressional Republicans will turn a blind eye.
The Democratic Party. for its part, has focused so much on tactics that they’ve forgotten the importance of message. Their data machine has cut up the electorate into constituencies and campaign strategists have tried to motivate them with narrow messages while lacking any unifying one. They’ve failed to appeal to the nation as a whole.
While Obama emerged virtually out of the blue in 2004, the party has failed to groom many other new leaders. The chief challenge to the Clinton machine in primary wasn’t a young firebrand. It was a 74-year-old socialist. The next minority leader of the House will be the same minority leader who was elected Speaker of the House ten years ago, but hasn’t been able to win it back since losing it six years ago. Accountability and new perspectives matter.
Donald Trump has exploited the divisions in this country and, so far, has shown no inclination to heal the divide. If he wants to be the country’s leader, then it’s his job to reach out to the people he’s scaring and the ones he threatened. Given all he’s said and done, it’s his responsibility to prove he’s worthy of the position he won.
Contrary to the voices of some, our job is not to give him a chance. It’s to hold him accountable and to resist, as mightily as possible, his authoritarian impulses. It’s our job to protect the rights promised by our constitution. It’s our job to be the nation’s conscience because we elected a man who doesn’t have one.
Thomas Mills is the Founder and Publisher of PoliticsNC.com