After a video leaked to the Washington Post containing Donald Trump’s disturbing adoration of sexual assault and misogyny, the Republican Party has begun looking ahead. David Frum, writing for the Atlantic, argued even if Trump loses, “The problem is that pro-Trump Republicans may not agree that Trumpism failed.”
Trumpism is not the way forward for the GOP. Rebuilding a party platform on the ideologies espoused by an insecure bigot would undermine the foundation of American progress; a foundation having already weathered a tremendous blow.
Though largely outpaced by Hillary Clinton, an Oct. 7 poll from Quinnipiac showed Trump maintained 27 percent of the 18-34 demographic in a four-way race, with 34 percent in a two-way contest. Millennials now account for 75.4 million Americans, outpacing the declining Baby Boomer population, which stands at 74.9 percent.
While viewing Millennials as a monolith is wrongheaded, the social views of this generation diverge from orthodox conservatives. This is a generation made skeptical by endless wars and the Great Recession. Polling from the Pew Research Center shows Millennials hold progressive values and are wary of religious dogma and dominant, infallible ideologies.
This generation has an often negative view of the nation’s finances, as well as their personal financial future. Further, while Millennials are largely in favor of legalizing marijuana (69 percent in 2014), and are the most vocal proponents of equal rights for LGBTQ Americans, they are not in lockstep with the Democratic Party on all matters; this contributes to their increasingly-independent political stance. Millennials do not slot into the traditional conservative base, but are not so distant as to be unattainable.
In 2014, 56 percent of Millennials said abortion should be legal in all cases—a declining majority. In the same year, only 49 percent found controlling gun ownership to be more important than protecting the right to bear arms.
Here, Conservatives have an opening.
Frum noted “[if Trump loses] anti-Trump conservatives will be thrust back into exactly the position they held from 2013 to 2015: exponents of an ideology that does not command majority assent even within the Republican coalition, never mind the country as a whole.”
The GOP, if set on survival as a political entity, must adopt a more progressive social platform. It is conceivable that a substantial portion of the Millennial vote would look favorably upon fiscal conservatism, hawkish foreign policy and a reasonably pro-gun platform. However, maintaining an anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigration and anti-progressive social platform will ensure repeated defeat.
Though Conservatives can win a significant portion of the millennial vote in coming elections, the problem of Trumpism has created a monster capable of undermining more than a century of political existence. What to do about the Trumpets?
Those who fueled the insurgent rise of the GOP nominee will not retreat silently after Nov. 8. Widespread anger, bigotry, anti-immigrant and anti-trade forces will continue on as a toxic force in American society, with this election cycle undoing the undervalued tool of progress that is the “taboo.” Normalizing the deplorable views of Trump and his platform has walked by the forward march of progress.
For the GOP, the best path forward might be a wholescale embrace of Millennials. This generation, as well as the “post-Millennials” will being a defining force in future elections.
To gain traction, the GOP must burn bridges rapidly, and cut-off air to the Trumpist movement. Do not allow sentiments, swellings and remnants of Trumpism to carry on through a future platform.
It is possible to return to a domestic and foreign policy of traditional Conservatism, without obsolete social views, and gain some Millennial support. It is the duty of the GOP to develop opposition to forces of their own creation. Figures like Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) have some Millennial appeal, but still require a substantial shift in social policies to gain traction.
If the GOP allows Trumpism to self-destruct after November, returns to a policy of legitimate conservatism, and moves their understanding of social views toward the policies of acceptance and diversity, they will gain some favor in the eyes of the future kingmaker of American politics—the Millennials.