June 17, 2024

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 25 February 2021 Will 2024 be as 1912
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
2024 as 1912
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON— For Republicans, 2024 could be 1912 all over again, a year when former President Teddy Roosevelt formed the “Bull Moose” or Progressive Party after he failed to win the Republican nomination. The Bull Moose Party with Roosevelt as its candidate came in second that year ahead of the Republican Party headed by President William Taft, but the split handed the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
          This analogy does not include personalities. Taft was no Trump, and no Republican has emerged to channel Roosevelt. Rather it is about coalitions. Both Democrats and Republicans claim to be big tent advocates because no successful national party can survive unless it attracts a wide swath of the public. But, for now, the Republican Party is in the grip of Trump and facing a dwindling coalition, an ever-smaller tent.
          The Trump wing of the GOP can no longer win as a national party, and mainstream Republicans cannot win without the energy of the grassroots. They need each other, but to be a national party in this era of racial reckoning, they have to own up to the racist dog whistles Trump used to divide America. Make America great again is simply a dog whistle way of saying make America white again.
          They don’t say this but that’s what they’re doing with Trumpian scares about the suburbs changing, and immigrants coming to take jobs. It’s divisive politics that have a long and deep heritage going back to Nixon’s administration. By the time the white supremacists assaulted the Capitol to press Trump’s case that he won the election, you would think most Republicans would agree that these coded appeals had gotten out of hand. Not so. Roughly three-fourths of registered Republicans side with Trump and the “big lie” that he was cheated out of a rightful second term.
          The other 25 percent who consider themselves Republicans in good standing fall on either side of the divide epitomized by Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s determined stance in the GOP House caucus to stand for the truth despite pressure from the Trump base. Several of these stalwarts have already been censured by their home state Republicans.
          In the end, this is a civil war with both sides in search of a winning coalition. The Liz Cheney side is betting Trump will lose stature in the party as the reality of what he’s up against becomes clear in multiple lawsuits. He did bring millions more voters into the GOP, but he didn’t deliver for the forgotten working men and women of the Rust Belt, specifically Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, whom he courted and mesmerized with wild rhetoric. In 2020, those three states returned to the Democrats, who with Joe Biden as their candidate, even made inroads in the sunbelt, notably Georgia and Arizona.
          Do mainstream Republicans have a prayer of a chance to wrestle their party back from Trump? The answer is no, at least not any time soon. Trump’s grip on the GOP has gotten some Republicans talking about forming a third party, but the history of third parties is not encouraging. Their only other choices are to wait it all out, perhaps for many years, or to become Independents as a way station. Already, the diaspora has begun as self-identified Republicans are fewer in number after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, for which Trump bears some responsibility.
          After the debacle of 1912, Republican progressives eventually found their way to the Democratic Party. But by 1920, the reconstituted Republican Party coalesced around a winning coalition of women’s suffrage (as did Democrats), isolationism, and post-World War I prosperity. What could constitute their big tent winning coalition for 2024?
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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