The Coming Republican Reckoning

Bill Scher

Over at Real Clear Politics, I observe that about “Half of America Is About to Get Gut-Punched.” Despite the polls clearly showing Hillary Clinton leading, both sides appeared convinced of victory, a recipe for a rude awakening on one side tonight.

As someone who does not think everything in the media is rigged, I accept the data at face value and assume Clinton will win, and TrumpNation will suffer the proverbial punch in the gut. The question then becomes how they will respond.

They could either turn on Trump – the man who conned them into believing – or they could dig in for a longer battle against the forces in both parties which they have perceived as shepherding America’s decline at the hands of internationalism and multiculturalism.

If the Republican rank-and-file can break with Trump, and nationalist Trumpism, Republican leaders will be more able to finally adopt the spirit of the 2013 “autopsy,” embrace immigration reform, gay marriage and climate science, and reposition to compete in 21st-century America.

Nothing to date suggests that is the most likely scenario. Trump die-hards appear less interested in winning American elections than raging at the American electorate. If Republican leaders are stuck with a sizable faction – possibly a majority faction – that refuses to accept any recalibration on politically pragmatic grounds, then they have to either surrender to their base, condemning themselves to being a minority party for another decade or more, or they have to break the party up (which I argued for back in February.)

There’s an even darker scenario that many have speculated about: the possibility of right-wing domestic terrorism. I wrote about this recently for the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung. (If you can read German, you can read it here.)

The headline is unnerving: “Gewalt endet nicht am Wahlabend” or “Violence Doesn’t End on Election Night.” But my underlying argument is that the extremely violent white nationalist strain of the America that Trump has brought out of the shadows has always been here. As I wrote (in English):

Right-wing domestic terrorism simmered during Barack Obama’s presidency, most shockingly when Dylann Roof murdered nine people in an African-American church hoping to ignite a “race war.” Bill Clinton’s presidency was marked by the deadliest domestic terror attack in history, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in which militia member Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, as well as the 1996 bombing of the Olympics in Atlanta, committed by the anti-abortion radical Eric Rudolph.

This dark corner of American political life has long existed. It was not created by Trump. Trump’s rhetoric may be shining a fresh light on right-wing extremism, but we can’t know yet if it is inspiring people to cross the line into domestic terrorism in greater numbers than what has occurred during other Democratic presidencies.

There is no doubt that hateful voices existed during and before the Obama Era, and it only takes one to turn that hate into something deadly. But we need not presume we are heading for something uglier than what we’ve dealt with before. We simply need to be vigilant about a threat that is long-standing.

Recall that in 2009 the Department of Homeland Security released a report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” But conservatives quickly accused the Obama administration of trying to chill political dissent, and Homeland Security responded by dismantling its “Extremism and Radicalization Branch.”

Hopefully, we won’t make that mistake again, and that both Democrats and Republicans will work together to stamp out right-wing domestic terrorism. Not only could it save lives, it could also save the Republican Party.

Get updates in your inbox

Comments