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Can the Republican Party survive Donald Trump?

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Posted: Aug 22, 2018 9:35 AM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 9:35 AM

Mike Murphy has long been on the "A" list of the Republican consulting world, having served as a lead adviser to Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, among many others. Since the rise of President Donald Trump, he has emerged as a leading voice within the party against Trump.

Murphy told The Washington Post this weekend that his party and its leaders were displaying "moral cowardice" in their refusal to face down Trump over his weaponizing of race, gender and ethnicity. I reached out to Murphy to get him to explain more of that notion and to find out where he thinks the party will go in a post-Trump era.

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Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.

Cillizza: Over the weekend, you condemned the "larger moral cowardice that has overtaken the party" in the era of Trump. Expand on that idea.

Murphy: It's one thing to accept the normal array of slippery political cheats and dodges in the name of tribal party loyalty with the usual tired rationalization that the "other side is always worse," but Trump's activities are so corrupt and corrosive as to elevate the problem way beyond cynical politics.

Trump's actions as President have created a clear moral test: Are you complicit or are you against? Trump has gone so far -- racial demagoguery and slurs, abuse of office, dictator appeasement, nepotism and family corruption, blazing incompetence, contempt for the rule of law, betrayal of public institutions, epic dishonesty, authoritarian thuggishness... the list never ends -- that he is damaging public institutions and debasing the Presidency of the United States.

You either have the courage to oppose that, regardless of blind party loyalty, or you don't. And the bulk of our party's elected leaders are showing moral indifference and cowardice about Trump. It's tragic and sad and makes of mockery of the legitimate criticism the GOP used to level at erring Democrats. It's a stain on the party that sadly will now last.

Cillizza: How different do GOP lawmakers -- and governors, etc. -- talk about Trump privately versus publicly? And if it's different, is that delta entirely explained by fear of losing?

Murphy: I don't talk to all of them, but there is widespread contempt. They think he is vain and stupid. But many say they are powerless to change his behavior. The thinking goes: "If I publicly criticize him he won't change one bit, but I'll lose my seat in a primary to a nut and the nut will give the seat to vile socialists on the other side, who are no better than Trump in many ways. Plus we cannot let the liberal Republican-hating media 'win.' So I keep quiet while we rack up important ideological victories -- judges, regulatory reform, taxes -- and wait for this dark storm to pass."

It's a rationalization I understand, but it gives Trump a moral pass as he ethically urinates all over the institution of the presidency and (the idea of rule of law.) My response is usually that if 100 of you stood up, he would change. They reply, "Perhaps... so call me when you get the first 25 signed up and I'll think then about joining you."

Cillizza: Is there any real Republican Party aside from Trump at this point? If so, what does it look like -- and why don't we hear more about it?

Murphy: It's pretty much a Trump cult in the GOP primary electorate, particularly outside the blue states of the Northeast. He's very strong in the sunbelt, Midwest and West. But like all cults, it'll end badly. Somehow the GOP campaign mindset has gotten aligned to this stupid idea that the general election is essentially nothing more than a big GOP primary, and that primary voters are swing voters who need to be constantly sucked-up-to, while ignoring everybody else. We'll see how that works out on Election Day outside of hardcore Republican areas.

Cillizza: Let's say Trump loses in 2020. What -- if any -- is the lasting damage the Republican Party will have sustained from his presidency and the way the party reacted to it? Does that change if he is a two-term president?

Murphy: I think the bigger question is what happens if we lose the House -- and more -- in the 2018 midterms. If it does happen, such a meltdown will shake the party badly -- no political party endures a major loss without repercussions -- and Trump, the supreme magical winner of 2016, will become an epic party-killing loser. (My guess is Trump will compound this by attacking the party for its loss, since nothing can ever be his fault.)

At that point the idea of running in 2020 under Trump will look like a march to the guillotine, particularly for the GOP Senate majority. That's when Trump will find himself on the sharp end of the same kind of cynical self-preservation thinking that he's benefited from to date. Nobody in the family stands up to Tony Soprano until they stop making money and start going to prison. Then it's time for change. Tony is the last to know.

Still, if we hang on to the House by two votes, it'll read in the expectations bazaar as a big Trump comeback win and he'll probably be the nominee. Then we'll be near-certain to lose big 2020. It'll be our McGovern '72 and out of that rubble the 2023-4 GOP primary race will redefine the party, hopefully back to opportunity conservatism.

(One crazy prediction: if Trump does hang on, I predict he'll start talking about dumping Mike Pence as VP. Such a story would create irresistible drama for the reality show producer POTUS. Next year, after the media gives over-implied but loud credit to female voters for any Democratic gains in 2020, White House press leaks will start to appear indicating that while Trump likes good old Pence, he wants to shake things up and after a flurry of hysterical who's next drama in the media with various names bouncing around, Trump will eventually float the name of Nikki Haley. The media will buy it hook, line and sinker: "A clever Trump master-stroke to get back female and minority voters, blah, blah, blah." That move will also allow Trump to plunge a satisfying Shakespearean dagger of revenge into Pence, whose own future presidential maneuverings are a bit too transparent for the insecure Trump. Team Pence really needs to read a few Stalin biographies.)

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "The Republican Party needs to be _____________ in order to survive." Now, explain.

Murphy: "The Republican Party needs to be freed of Donald Trump and Trumpism in order to survive."

It's no small thing that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by millions. He stumbled to a lucky lock-pick win in the Electoral College, but the popular vote -- and all the current polling -- shows he decided to pick a fight to the death with the fast-growing segments of the electorate. Only true suckers fight demography.

His election was a dead-cat bounce and is extremely unlikely to be repeated. I'm not sure he'll survive his first term, but if he does and can win re-nomination, he'll find a re-elect very daunting. The demography is worse and getting even more difficult every day, the novelty is gone, incompetence is always punished in the fullness of time and the staff machine that exists to prop up an existing POTUS is a weak shambles of dregs and enablers.

Ideologically, Trump has cashiered the Republican Party's longstanding equity as a force for free trade, fiscal conservatism, tough foreign policy and hard-headed competence. Trump now provides political fuel and success only to those who would destroy the conservative movement. He's driven the GOP into a moral and political ditch, which will likely in time put the county on the left's road to serfdom at least through the next political cycle. The GOP went on a wild, stupid bender with Trump and now the hangover will be very painful.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 484675

Reported Deaths: 9480
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33151493
Hinds31184589
DeSoto30803365
Jackson23735349
Rankin21390373
Lee14963221
Madison14206272
Jones13430227
Forrest13199241
Lauderdale11623307
Lowndes10501176
Lamar10258130
Pearl River9151221
Lafayette8268137
Hancock7534113
Washington7144152
Oktibbeha6989124
Monroe6533167
Neshoba6489201
Warren6486166
Pontotoc632993
Panola6278127
Marshall6165126
Bolivar6129145
Union576089
Pike5626138
Alcorn540590
Lincoln5310132
George473572
Scott461596
Leflore4495140
Tippah448180
Prentiss447979
Itawamba4457100
Adams4429117
Tate4420103
Wayne434667
Simpson4339114
Copiah432988
Yazoo423686
Covington417192
Sunflower4155104
Marion4111104
Coahoma3986100
Leake398286
Newton372375
Grenada3565104
Stone351360
Tishomingo338389
Attala325987
Jasper316062
Winston305691
Clay297374
Chickasaw287866
Clarke283290
Calhoun267741
Holmes262887
Smith252249
Yalobusha224347
Tallahatchie221150
Walthall211758
Greene209945
Lawrence207034
Perry201054
Amite199452
Webster196942
Noxubee179339
Montgomery172954
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162537
Tunica154235
Benton143035
Kemper138840
Choctaw128826
Claiborne127134
Humphreys127038
Franklin116928
Quitman104227
Wilkinson102036
Jefferson91533
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 790648

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1117431765
Mobile709021237
Madison50032633
Shelby36350315
Baldwin36278495
Tuscaloosa34034548
Montgomery33229678
Lee22712220
Calhoun21297410
Morgan19852335
Etowah19341462
Marshall17716274
Houston16862386
St. Clair15479305
Cullman14659258
Limestone14609188
Elmore14507264
Lauderdale13557281
Talladega13015236
DeKalb12214237
Walker10604330
Blount9735157
Autauga9691137
Jackson9400158
Coffee8934175
Dale8631173
Colbert8545184
Tallapoosa6688181
Escambia6599121
Covington6466167
Chilton6395144
Russell608755
Franklin5805101
Chambers5425134
Marion4818120
Dallas4713189
Clarke464079
Pike463297
Geneva4433117
Winston427395
Lawrence4124108
Bibb410281
Barbour347470
Marengo326485
Monroe320253
Butler318490
Randolph306656
Pickens306474
Henry302658
Hale293085
Cherokee290855
Fayette280373
Washington245548
Crenshaw238770
Cleburne236751
Clay229265
Macon220658
Lamar200443
Conecuh182046
Coosa170835
Lowndes170858
Wilcox159736
Bullock149543
Perry136537
Sumter124736
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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Columbus
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Oxford
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Starkville
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Little bits and pieces of low pressure move back into our area over the next several days. This will bring back into our weather forecast some more chances for some isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms.
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