Republicans Are Switching Parties-- But Is That A Good Thing?
Former Bush officials, reported Reuters this morning, have been leaving the GOP, calling their old party a Trump Cult. They're right about the cult, but who cares what they're doing? They were, after all, as much-- no, more-- a part of the reason for the rise of Trumpism as was the Democratic Party establishment. And they remained in the party after Trump's takeover until after the coup attempt!
"[W]with most Republican lawmakers sticking to Trump," wrote Tim Reid this morning, "these officials say they no longer recognize the party they served. Some have ended their membership, others are letting it lapse while a few are newly registered as independents, according to a dozen former Bush officials who spoke with Reuters. 'The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists. I’d call it the cult of Trump,' said Jimmy Gurulé, who was Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Bush administration. Kristopher Purcell, who worked in the Bush White House’s communications office for six years, said roughly 60 to 70 former Bush officials have decided to leave the party or are cutting ties with it, from conversations he has been having. 'The number is growing every day,' Purcell said. Their defection from the Republican Party after a lifetime of service for many is another clear sign of how a growing intraparty conflict over Trump and his legacy is fracturing it... 'We have QAnon members of Congress. It’s appalling,' Purcell said."
Normal GOP voters all over the country have also been switching parties, either to register as unaffiliated or as Democrats. The Republican Party registration numbers have gone down precipitously since the insurrection. NPR covered how it's impacting Colorado, "a once-competitive state that swung strongly left in the Trump era," this morning. "In the week from Jan. 6 through Jan. 12," they reported, "about 4,600 Republicans changed their party status in Colorado... The number of people changing parties spiked immediately after the Capitol breach. The same phenomenon is playing out nationwide. News outlets documented about 6,000 defections from the party in North Carolina, 10,000 in Pennsylvania and 5,000 in Arizona... All told, the Colorado GOP lost about a half a percent of its registered voters in the week after the riot."
Ironically, the GOP has also lost some members because they feel the party hasn't been loyal enough to Trump. They expected the Republican Party establishment to help him steal the election. "They cut ties with the party because they felt its leaders had abandoned Trump by blaming him for the riot and refusing to overturn the election. 'I quickly realized that I would probably never vote for another Republican again. They have let America down,' said Cara Samantha Toney, a 45-year-old mother of three who switched from Republican to Libertarian and lives in Jefferson County, a suburb of Denver. Phil Trubia, a 52-year-old Mesa County voter, made a similar move to the American Constitution Party. He sees himself continuing to vote for Trump loyalists like Rep. Lauren Boebert, but not for mainstream Republicans. 'I do feel there is a split,' Trubia said. 'I'm not necessarily doing it to hurt the Republican Party, but the way they turned their backs completely on Trump, that kind of got me really upset.' The change was especially pronounced in Colorado's politically competitive counties. In fact, nearly 800 of the switchers were in Douglas County, a Republican stronghold where the party has recently been losing strength-- another dangerous signal for the GOP. While Douglas is only the seventh-most populous county in the state, it had the largest number of voters who left the Republican Party."
Suburban Douglas County is the wealthiest in Colorado, geographically halfway between blue Denver and red Colorado Springs. Traditionally, Douglas County has been the heart and soul of the state GOP establishment. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate carried the county was in 1964 when the GOP ran Barry Goldwater against LBJ and even then it was just with a 100 vote margin. But the share of votes for Republicans has dwindled since Trump took over the party. In 2012 Romney beat Obama in Douglas County 62.1% to 36.4%. In 2016, Douglas County Democrats backed Bernie over Hillary but in the general, Douglas wasn't thrilled about the choice they had to make. There was a big drop off in GOP votes but Trump still beat Hillary-- 54.7% to 36.6%. In 2020, that trend continued, with Trump's share sinking to 52.4% and Biden making huge headway with 45.2%. Douglas is behaving like Orange County did in California, many formerly reliable Republican voters slipping away from a radicalized GOP.
Douglas County is split between 2 districts, CO-04 and CO-06. In 2018 Ken Buck in the 4th district still cleaned up in the county but in the 6th, Jason Crow ousted GOP incumbent Mike Coffman, as Douglas County voters failed to balance out the big Democratic wave in Arapahoe County. This year, for the first time in living memory, the Douglas County part of CO-06 went blue-- albeit narrowly:
Jason Crow (D)- 34,383 (49.0%)
Steve House (R)- 34,181 (48.7%)
Douglas County's vote on Prop 115-- to ban late term abortions-- was also a shocker for Republicans (and Democrats). It failed countywide: 112,862 (50.7%) to 109,706 (49.3%). The Republican proponents of the proposition needed at least a 60% win in Douglas County to win statewide. It failed.
But this isn't necessarily good news for progressives-- not by long shot. NPR noted that some Colorado voters "are taking a pragmatic approach: Where will they be able to influence politics the most as Colorado stays reliably Democratic? 'I've gotta tell you, the vast majority of my friends are laughing at me, that I switched over to Democrat. They think I'm crazy,' said Martin Lee Hussman, 45. A well-connected resident of Alamosa in the southern part of the state, he was previously a registered Libertarian but voted for Trump last November. As he watched the fallout of the riots, he decided that Democrats would hold power for the foreseeable future. 'Honestly, I think the Republican Party is dead. I don't think there's going to be a Republican Party in the next couple years,' said Hussman, a plumber. Hussman figured that being registered as a Democrat would help him moderate the party's candidates by supporting centrist candidates. But Hussman didn't feel very different after changing his party registration. 'Aw, hell,' Hussman said. 'It's easy to switch back to something else if I don't like the way this one's going.'"
This morning, political science professor David Ost acknowledged that most of the time most of the right-- including fascists-- don't resort to violence. "Fascists always turned on and off the violence. They won support and introduced their system not just through violence, which most of the population opposed, but by boasting loudly of their nationalism and patriotism and by taking steps, symbolic and real, to make things better, or at least make things feel better, for 'real' Germans, Italians, Hungarians or Americans. Before fascism can win power, it has to win support, which it seeks to do by polarizing politics to the point where only fascists represent the 'true' nation. One way of doing so is to treat political opponents not as opponents but as enemies. Fascists denounce the free press also as enemies, and insist on the indisputable truth of their fantasies. They reject the legitimacy of any governmental administrations they do not control. They try to turn professional civil servants into partisan warriors. And they say they do all this in order to restore the power and dignity of some nebulous and mystical 'Nation.' Although they interpret this notion in different ways, depending on the specific country and its history, their concept of 'the Nation' always excludes large numbers of people actually living in the country, people who don’t share the racial or cultural identity of what fascists claim is the nation’s dominant essence. Fascists use this concept to build a 'small solidarity' with those accepted as legitimate parts of the Nation and against all those others now considered a threat. Violence follows from this."
What so many suburban Republicans are fleeing from "is not 'right-wing populism.' It is a fascist revival... For two generations after World War II," wrote Ost, "no one could claim to promote openly racist and authoritarian ideas and hope to stay in politics for long. That is no longer the case. Fascist ideas are reemerging in the United States and in much of Europe. But the right tries to get off the hook by saying that it too opposes 'fascism.' Fascism, after all, is associated with Hitler, and if they’re not acting like Hitler, then they can say-- and many might even believe-- that they cannot be fascists. This is why we must understand fascism not as constant violence and repression but as the mobilization of dominant-essence non-elites against minorities. Fascists seek popular support for a fight both against democracy and against the minorities democratic leaders allegedly protect." Don't expect the Republicans leaving their wretched party today to understand this, let alone embrace it. They will work from within to transform the Democratic Party into a conservative vehicle that is more representative of reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems like Abigail Spanberger, Josh Gottheimer, Henry Cuellar, Jim Costa and the right-wing Democratic losers-- from GOP-lite conservatives like Kendra Horn (OK), Joe Cunningham (SC) and Anthony Brindisi (NY) to Orange County DINOs Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda-- rejected by the voters in November than of actual Democrats like Bernie, AOC, Ted Lieu, Barbara Lee, Jamie Raskin, Cori Bush and Pramila Jayapal, FDR-Democrats fighting for working class equity.