The Big Tent is dead. Time of death? 9:00 pm Hawaii Time, November 3rd, 2020, or if you prefer, the closing time of the last polls in the country. Though, perhaps it should be later as there were still mail in ballots being counted beyond that.
So what is the big Tent? Well, here is where the idea comes from. In a speech on April 1st, 1967, Governor Ronald Reagan said:
The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party. There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths. Let no one, however, interpret this to mean compromise of basic philosophy or that we will be all things to all people for political expediency.
In our tent will be found those who believe that government was created by We, the People; that government exists for the convenience of the people and we can give to government no power we do not possess as individuals; that the citizen does not earn to support the government, but supports a government so that he may be free to earn; that, because there can be no freedom without law and order, every act of government must be approved if it makes freedom more secure and disapproved if it offers security instead of freedom.
Within our tent, there will be many arguments and divisions over approach and method and even those we choose to implement our philosophy. Seldom, if ever, will we raise a cheer signifying unanimous approval of the decisions reached. But if our philosophy is to prevail, we must at least pledge unified support of the ultimate decision. Unity does not require unanimity of thought.
And here is the challenge to you. It is the duty and responsibility of the volunteer Republican organizations, not to further divide, but to lead the way to unity. It is not your duty, responsibility of privilege to tear down, or attempt to destroy, others in the tent. As duly chartered Republican organizations, we can all advance our particular sectarianism or brand of candidates for the party to pass on openly and freely in a primary election.
But there is no unity any longer, and the long term prognosis is even less assured. In listening, and reading from, both far right conservatives and, what have essentially become, the centrists, I see two most likely outcomes, and neither are good.
One outcome is that Donald Trump does not run in 2024 and that the Republicans return to putting up milk-toast political candidates like George W. Bush who won't even hold the line against expanded liberalism, let alone fight it back, but will be a nice guy.
What is the most likely result of that outcome? Well, after speaking to them, I think that about half of the hard core Trump supporters will go Libertarian. They'll be so repulsed by the cowed and muted "nice guy," that they'll not see him or her as worthy their vote.
The other half? Well, they'll feel the same way, but they'll want to punish the 12% who didn't vote for Trump by not voting for their candidate either. You think that won't happen? Just go talk to those who voted for Trump. I bet you won't get past four people before you find AT LEAST one who says that if the party doesn't run Donald Trump again or someone just like him, that they won't vote Republican again for any reason at all.
The second outcome is that Donald Trump decides to mount a third party presidential bid. He'll likely capture about half to 2/3s of his supporters, a small percentage of independents, and various small numbers within demographic pockets such as fiscal conservatives and the anti-war slate. Though with his age this is the less likely outcome, he's stubborn enough that I wouldn't put it past him. This would shatter Republican hopes of winning back the White House even more than when Ross Perot run as a third party independent.
And therein lays the death of the Big Tent. One part of the coalition followed Mitt Romney and broke the ties of unity that held us. As well meaning as they were, they have forever changed the Republican party and it's politics and political outlook. They cut off a section of the tent and told them to go away. Well, they will oblige, and others who saw that happen have to be wondering if they're next.
Now we are a fractured party, with no one believing that their primary vote will matter because if the other part of the coalition doesn't like the choice, they'll just go vote for the other side. Well, two can play at that game and it shouldn't surprise anyone when it happens. I predict the 2024 election will be bad, and I mean REALLY bad for Republicans, no matter which of the above outcomes ends up being what happens. The one thing I can't see happening, no matter what, is for the party to heal and rally around a candidate, because outside of MAYBE a Ted Cruz, Mia Love, or Kristi Noem, I don't think there is one single candidate the tent can agree on, and since there is no more coalition of unity, that means each small fragment will have to try to push their candidate across the line without help from the others.
It was always a fragile alliance, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Then again, I'm really not surprised, I guess it's more fair to say I'm heartbroken. I'm just glad that the great Ronaldus Maximus is not here to see the mockery that we've made of his dream.
I'm sorry, Mr. Presidentus Magnus, I've done all I can. Maybe some day we can stitch the tent back together, but it's going to be a long, long time.