Yesterday, I looked at voters who are shifting parties and what that might mean. As Republicans transition away from the GOP, they may bring back an endangered species—the swing voter. For the last decade or so, persuadable voters have been disappearing, swallowed up by the rancor of increasingly partisan politics. Now, with a lot of former GOP voters becoming homeless, they could become targets of both parties again.
Donald Trump is the largest factor in the revival of the swings. He’s split the Republican party and alienated libertarians and more traditional, Buckley-type conservatives. They have little use for authoritarian government–or any government for that matter—and were appalled by the events on January 6. They’re not only fleeing the party, they’re dumping Fox News. The network’s viewership was down 17% in January.
The party apparatus has clearly been usurped by the Trumpists. In North Carolina, they censured Richard Burr for voting for impeachment and further drove a wedge between thinking conservatives and the reactionaries who make up the populist wing of the party. They are quickly becoming a radical party, abandoning the tenets of democracy and fighting a losing culture war that prefers White nationalism to Black Lives Matters or any sort of immigration reform.
They’re also abandoning the fiscal conservatism that they claimed to promote. They blew up the debt and the deficit under Donald Trump, cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans while withholding support for those suffering during a pandemic. And the Trumpists were demanding $2,000 stimulus checks that the establishment Republicans rejected. After forty years of railing against government handouts, they’re now the party leading the charge.
And the homeless Republicans may find things to like about a Democratic Party that kept it’s left flank in check, if not silent, and embraced the centrist wing of the party. Joe Biden is pushing measures and legislation that have broad support. While the Trumpists are yelling “Socialism!” the rest of the country largely approves. Calling policies like immigration reform and the stimulus package “radical” shows just how far right the GOP has moved.
Biden is more than just a centrist. He’s a traditionalist. Nobody doubted his sincerity in marking the deaths of 500,000 Americans to COVID. And nobody is waking up in the morning anxious about what he might have tweeted. He’s been a welcome relief to the last four years of chaos, lies, and assaults on institutions. He’s made sure that the news is not all about him. His temperament is setting a tone for the Democratic Party that might be attractive to Republicans in the wilderness.
For those outside the hothouse of GOP crazy, the Republican Party looks comical. Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert shows up at a virtual Congressional committee hearing with a wall full of guns in the background. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz keeps the tradition of Florida man alive with his brazen statements, clambering for media attention. State Republican Parties across the nation are censuring and criticizing conservative stalwarts who have served faithfully for years. Most of the country looks on, saying “WTF?”
For former Republicans who are as appalled as the rest of the country, Democrats may not be an ideal choice, but they are better than the alternative. Those people may be the new swing voters. If Democrats can appeal to them, they could be part of a broad governing coalition that renders the populist GOP an irritant more than an opposition party.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >