Which raises a question: What will happen to the GOP in the After Trump era? Will it become a more nationalist party, along the lines of the “America First” vision that Trump has been articulating and implementing — to mostly disastrous effect?
Back in April 2018, this poll found that only 38 percent of Trump voters said the United States had no responsibility to do anything about the fighting in Syria, while 30 percent said it did.
But now, in the new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Trump voters now say by 56 percent to 21 percent that the United States doesn’t have any such responsibility.
A similar thing is happening in mirror image among voters who backed Hillary Clinton: They now overwhelmingly say that the United States does bear such a responsibility.
But for now, let’s focus on the Trump voters. What seems to have happened, as HuffPost’s Ariel Edwards-Levy explains, is that positions on this were previously not that deeply held — but Trump’s pullout suddenly sent cues to voters, resulting in a much larger percentage holding a real position. Thus, among Trump voters, a solid majority now sees no responsibility.
It’s often suggested that Trump’s base supports his pullout from Syria because it is “war weary,” and Trump campaigned on a promise to end entanglements in the Mideast. But it’s likely that the Trump base is also hearing something very different from Trump about what his Syria posture really means.
For one thing, while Trump regularly casts this decision as fulfilling a promise to end our “Forever Wars,” Trump’s actual prosecution of current conflicts and other engagements abroad isn’t at all dovish and is actually quite militaristic, as The Post’s Ishaan Tharoor details.
Indeed, Trump didn’t really campaign on an antiwar position. What he really promised was to use overwhelming force to smash the terrorist enemy — and vowed to do so effortlessly, while also magically avoiding entanglements abroad. Remember how he talked about “bombing the s--t” out of the Islamic State, vowed to revive waterboarding and “much worse,” and even said of terrorists that he would “take out their families”?
What’s more, in justifying his Syria stance, Trump often articulates what sounds less like a principled antiwar stance, and something that sounds more like an affirmative, unabashed hand-washing of responsibility for outcomes abroad. This brash renunciation, this flaunting of the proposition that he will (supposedly) put America first, no matter what the consequences elsewhere, is a key feature of his posture, one that regularly eludes commentators.
It’s perfectly plausible that this stance is what Trump voters — and the Republican base — are increasingly gravitating toward.
Consider some other issues — such as, say, immigration.
Ron Brownstein recently undertook an extensive analysis and concluded that Trump’s xenophobia, his hate-rhetoric about migrants, is pushing the GOP overall into a more nativist posture than it had held previously. As Brownstein noted, more than four-fifths of House Republicans and nearly two-thirds of Senate Republicans voted for Trump’s proposed deep cuts to legal immigration.
What’s more, there’s a geographic dimension to Trump’s increasingly nativist GOP. As Brownstein pointed out, fewer than 1 in 10 House Republicans now come from districts with more foreign-born residents than the national average, and Republicans now hold 30 of the seats in the 20 states with the smallest shares of immigrants.
Meanwhile, a recent CNN poll found that large majorities of Trump-approving voters oppose allowing Central American refugees to apply for asylum in the United States and approve of how migrants are currently treated. Meanwhile, only small minorities of Americans overall held those positions.
On top of all this, by pushing so hard for a border wall, Trump has forced the electorate to polarize around a massive symbol of xenophobic exclusion. And Republican voters have taken this up with gusto: Overwhelming majorities of them support not just the wall, but also Trump’s abuse of emergency powers to build it.
Taken all together, then, one can envision a future GOP that’s much more Trumpified around this middle-finger-to-the-world-unfurling set of supposed “America First” priorities. Which could mean it’s time to start seriously thinking about future GOP presidential candidates such as conservative nationalist and friend-of-the-blog Josh Hawley.