Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the state of the parties.
Trumpism cannot be declared a “success” or a “failure” because it did not exist. The administration, which neither emerged from nor erected institutional infrastructure or an intellectual framework, lacked both overarching vision and an integrated policy agenda. For most statements, appointments, and policy actions there exist equal and opposite ones.
Although every House and Senate Republican voted against the rescue plan, it has not generated anything like the uprisings against new government spending and programs that engulfed Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama during each man's first year in office. Indeed, throughout the legislative fight, congressional Republicans and conservative media outlets like Fox News appeared more interested in focusing attention on peripheral cultural issues, like whether Dr. Seuss had become a victim of liberal "cancel culture."
That stress on cultural complaints reflects the shifting source of motivation inside the GOP coalition, with fewer voters responding to the warnings against "big government" once central to the party's appeal and more viscerally responding to alarms that Democrats intend to transform "our country," as former President Donald Trump often calls it, into something culturally unrecognizable.
"Concerns about cultural influence, political power and status are really overwhelming other ideological concerns on the right," says Daniel Cox, a research fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who recently published an exhaustive national survey of attitudes among GOP voters. "Traditional conservative principles, whether it's commitment to a strong national defense or support for limited government, do not animate Republican voters."
As in the famous Sherlock Holmes story, the most revealing dynamic in the legislative debate over the Covid plan may have been "the dog that didn't bark": in this case, the absence of a grassroots conservative uprising against the plan, even though its price tag vastly exceeded the Clinton and Obama proposals that ignited more resistance. Polls have consistently found significant majorities of Americans support the Covid relief plan, with Gourevitch's firm releasing one survey last week that showed it winning support from more than two-thirds of adults, including a plurality of Republicans.