Republican Party Reform Is Probably Dead For At Least a Decade

It's a nice thought, but unfortunately it's only half true.Jan Scheunert/ZUMA

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I don’t agree with Ezra Klein that our problem is too little democracy—more about that later, perhaps—but I do agree with this:

Imagine that, four years ago, Donald Trump lost the presidential election by 2.9 million votes, but there was no Electoral College to weight the results in his favor. In January 2017, Hillary Clinton was inaugurated as president, and the Trumpist faction of the GOP was blamed for blowing an election Republicans could have won. The GOP would have been locked out of presidential power for three straight terms, after winning the crucial popular vote only once since 1988. It might have lost the Supreme Court, too.

And so Republicans would likely have done what Democrats did in 1992, after they lost three straight presidential elections: reform their agenda and their messaging, and try to build a broader coalition, one capable of winning power by winning votes. This is the way democracy disciplines political parties: Parties want to win, and to do so, they need to listen to the public. But that’s only true for one of our political parties.

This is what we lost in 2016: a chance for the Republican Party to finally face up to its problems and start moving back toward the center. As Ezra notes, it generally takes at least three consecutive losses before a party is willing to do that, and the GOP win in 2016 reset that clock back to zero. Then 2020 reset it again. At this point, there’s little chance of Republican Party reform happening any time this decade.

This is what the New York office of the FBI bequeathed us. Rarely has so much been owed by so many to so few.

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