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David French | Republicans Have Overestimated the Conservatism of the Base





David French, National Review:

I live in Donald Trump country. Maury County, Tenn. — like much of the South — was dominated by the Democratic party until just a few short years ago. Tennessee’s legislature didn’t flip red until 2008, and my own legislative district in my own “conservative” county was blue until 2010. Tennessee didn’t change dramatically between 2004 (when Democrats were in total control of state government) and 2011 (when control flipped to Republicans), but national politics changed. And — as Donald Trump is proving — they can change again.

If there is a consistent refrain among former Democrats (and there are lots in the South), it echoes Ronald Reagan: They didn’t leave the Democratic party; the Democratic party left them. That means many things, but it does not mean that they’re small government, constitutional conservatives. It means that while they may have been attitudinally “Tea Party,” they were never on board with the core substance of the movement…

The GOP underestimated Trump in part because it overestimated the conservatism of its own southern, rural northern, and Midwestern base. It underestimated the extent to which many of its voters hadn’t so much embraced the corporate conservatism of the Chamber of Commerce or the constitutional conservatism of the Tea Party as much as they had rejected the extremism of the increasingly shrill and politically correct Left. And, yes, the size of this population calls into question the very process of building a national Republican electoral majority, but it also threatens Democrats who seem intent on drumming every blue-collar white male straight out of the party.

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