Someday, when historians look back on this moment, our guess is they will fix on one particular point that President Trump made at the White House last night. It won’t be his allegations of voter fraud, though that is in the headlines at the moment. Rather it will be the part where he said, “Democrats are the party of big donors, big media, and big tech, it seems, and the Republicans have become the party of the American worker.”
We’ve heard a lot of arresting claims from politicians in the lengthening span of our newspaper years, but few rival that one. We’ve also heard a lot of caviling by Democrats — and some Republicans — to the effect that Mr. Trump has changed the Republican Party. Yet last night was a rare glimpse at Mr. Trump himself describing in his own stream-of-consciousness what are the changes that he reckons he has wrought.
“I won,” Mr. Trump boasted, in words calculated to get the goat of the progressive, liberal, Democrats on the coasts , “the largest share of nonwhite voters of any Republicans in 60 years, including historic numbers of Latino, African American, Asian American, and Native American voters, the largest ever in our history. We grew our party by 4 million voters, the greatest turnout in Republican Party history.”
Last night was hardly the first time that we’ve heard this language from Mr. Trump or that it’s been picked up in the press. Before Mr. Trump was nominated in 2016, the Atlantic put up the headline “A Trumpist Workers’ Party Manifesto.” After Mr. Trump was nominated, the Times issued a dispatch about making the GOP into a “workers party.” Rolling Stone had an early piece saying “Democratic incompetence” had made the “previously unthinkable possible.”
What’s startling is that the boast has been so roundly ratified in the election just ended. That theme will be studied even if it turns out that Mr. Trump has lost the election. If so, it will be by a much slimmer margin than the pollsters predicted. And after a polling campaign that was so uniform in its errors that even the most level-headed Americans are starting to grapple with the concept of voter suppression through polling.
This too, we suspect, will have to be sorted out by historians. Those impish gnomes might well conclude that the erroneous polling did serve to suppress some of the Trump vote, meaning there’s even more support out there for Mr. Trump’s brand of Republicanism than so far discerned. It could also be an example of the aphorism that the scandal is often found not in what’s illegal but what’s legal.
All of which is something to think about if it does turn out, as is so — yet again — widely being predicted, that Mr. Trump has been defeated. What, then, might Mr. Trump do? Might he, or his followers, try to finish reconfiguring the Republican Party? And try for a second term in 2024? Or form a new “workers party” to seize sizable parts of both the Democratic and Republican parties?
Two years ago, a book called “The Republican Workers Party” was brought out by the law professor F.H. Buckley. He is quoted on his book’s page on Amazon as calling it the future of American presidential politics — a “socially conservative but economically middle-of-the-road party, offering a way back to the land of opportunity where our children will have it better than we did.” How, after this election, could that be ruled out?
Drawing by Elliott Banfield, courtesy of the artist.