By Alan Draper for RealClearPolitics
Politics is like boxing. Prize fighters maneuver looking for weaknesses to attack within a set of rules designed to protect them and limit the mayhem in the ring.
But Donald Trump is not a boxer who appears in the ring according to a sanctioned set of rules. He's a street fighter who breaks the rules.
He showed Republicans that they can win by breaking the conventions that set limits on party conflict – limits that protect us by preventing party competition from dissolving into civil unrest.
After the 2012 election, when President Obama received a second term in the White House, the Republican National Committee performed an autopsy titled "The Growth and Opportunity Project" to investigate why Republicans lost to Obama. Once again.
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The party concluded that it must do a better job of targeting Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and gays if it is to be competitive in the future.
The GOP had to modernize its program to attract growing segments of the American electorate.
But another analysis called "The Missing White Voter" was circulating. It offered a different explanation for the GOP's defeat. Political scientist Sean Trende argued that 6 million seedy white workers were missing in action; You didn't vote and it cost Mitt Romney to vote.
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In other words, there was another way for the GOP to win than to try to keep up with demographic trends as outlined in the “Project Growth and Opportunities”.
Enter Donald J. Trump, the street fighter who ignores the rules of political struggle.
He formulated a program and perfected a style that attracted and mobilized these missing white voters.
His norm-shaking nihilism perfectly matched this group's lack of trust in a Democratic Party, which reflected the "lively" obsessions of educated elites, the distrust of a government gripped by special interests, the lack of hope in a future that was out a dead end consisted of jobs and little trust in democracy, which didn't work for people like her.
It's ironic that almost every Republican benefited from mobilizing these voters in the 2020 election, with the exception of Trump, the man who inspired them to act.
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Trump was the victim of his own sorcery. He absorbed the aversion of suburban, independent and moderate voters to his rudeness and division, while GOP candidates who voted down avoided his stain and took advantage of the millions of voters he mobilized and attracted.
Knowing it or not, Republican officials are excited about Trump for creating a new party base that has helped them win.
He made Republicans competitive again in the presidential election, which resulted in a vote to advance their careers.
In 2020, Republicans got at least eight seats in the House. Not a single GOP incumbent has lost.
In the Senate, Republicans lost only one seat (until the runoff results in Georgia), even though twice as many Republican as Democratic seats were at risk.
At the state level, Republicans increased their control over legislatures and governorates in which they held majorities before the elections.
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Trump borrowed from Newt Gingrich's playbook, who advised House Republicans in the 1990s that the only way to ever regain a majority in Congress was to blow it up and break congressional norms.
It worked. Gingrich led Republicans from a permanent minority to a majority in the House.
Trump took this strategy to a new level. We now have a two-party system in which one of the parties has become rogue and believes it is in its own best interest to break norms.
The extent to which Republican officials clung to Trump's savage claims of electoral fraud shows how much they have given up boxing where certain ground rules in favor of street fighting apply where there are none.
The only way to bring rogue parties back to their knees is for voters to punish them for their stubborn behavior. That didn't happen in 2020.
The Republican Party has done very well. Without an election penalty, Republicans have no incentive to return to the more sophisticated art of fistfighting.
Joe Biden has made it his business to convince Republicans to work with him when their professional incentives are pointing the other way.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
Alan Draper is the Michael W. Ranger and Virginia R. Ranger Professor of Government at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
The opinions of contributors and / or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Political Insider.