It is very uncontroversial to say that Donald Trump is – well – controversial.
The Republican nominee for president has burned bridges with a number of communities: he mocked a reporter with a disability; he attacked the Muslim Gold Star parents of a fallen solider, alienating veterans and veterans’ families as well as Muslim-Americans; his attacks on women are too many to enumerate here, but a couple of highlights include the “grope” video describing how he sexually assaults women as well as his insinuation that moderator Megyn Kelly was perhaps menstruating during a Republican primary debate last year; he has also continuously suggested that black Americans live in some sort of post-apocalyptic hellscape.
Much to the chagrin of the majority of the United States electorate, none of these incidents seemed to dent Trump’s popularity among his support base, which helped reenforce the narrative of a viable Trump campaign by turning out in droves to his speaking events.
But as we edge closer to the end of this historically bizarre (and exceedingly long) election cycle, it appears a near-certainty that Trump will fall to Clinton on November 8. While Republican senate candidates are faring a little better than their toxic presidential nominee, the fact remains that the “Trump effect” has impacted their poll numbers. The result? Democrats are now the cautious favorite to retake the senate, dividing congress and sapping Republicans of the ability to completely stonewall a Clinton administration.
A quick look at the polling map lends some interesting insight into just how divisive Trump has been. Even if they still fall in Trump’s electoral basket come election day, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia have drifted very close to the toss-up column. This is a huge alarm for Republicans, who – following defeat to Barack Obama – drafted a plan to appeal to demographics pushed away by the Republican party’s rhetoric and policy, including millennials and Latin Americans.
Even before Trump’s scorched earth campaign, Republicans were worrying about demographic changes that indicate that traditionally safe conservative states – such as those mentioned above – could become more competitive as soon as the year 2020. This cycle did the party no favors; the political transition underway in conservative states may accelerate as Trump’s strategy of catering to white nationalist voters has alienated large swaths of the population Republicans were eager to mollify.
Republicans’ task of broadening their appeal will only be further complicated by a post-election Trump, who – analysts are suggesting – could use his formidable base and powerful media allies to target GOP leadership for failing to adequately support the pugnacious nominee. This “Republican civil war” could end in a number of ways. Perhaps it will end with a more 21st century party in-tune with contemporary social norms, women’s rights, and climate change. Or, the party could dissolve entirely.
We’ll have to wait and see.