Virginia’s Splintered GOP

by James A. Bacon

Shaun Kenney a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, offers a useful perspective into the state of Virginia’s GOP in a post-Trump presidency. The Grand Old Party in the Old Dominion is so fractured, he suggests in a new post on The Republican Standard, that it soon may descend into a “five-way civil war.”

Of particular interest is Kenney’s typology of the ideological factions within the party (here I quote him directly):

  1. Nationalists are adopting the Donald Trump rhetoric and adapting it to their own cause. Their ideas … at the local or state level have yet to play out. While the leadership (sic) would prefer to tap into the energy of the alt-right, the rank-and-file are far from it. Most of them see the violence of BLM/Antifa and say “not here; not ever” and define themselves likewise — knowing that the America their values helped build is an America worth keeping. Whether they can find better champions remains to be seen.
  2. Libertarians have offered the most stout resistance to this idea. Call them the inheritors of the Tea Party or the modern-day Sons of Liberty, but their idea of the Republican Party is much more in line with the values of Ron Paul than Donald Trump. Classical liberals, lowercase-L libertarians, and Tea Party types all find their home here.
  3. Conservatives remain the 800-lb. gorilla in the room, if for no other reason than conservatives have identified the landscape for so long. Built in the mold of Ronald Reagan and Edmund Burke, the purpose of government is to set the rules and then get out of the way. A strong education system, good roads, and well paid teachers and deputies with as little red tape as possible.
  4. Moderates are a trickier bunch. They really haven’t had a champion since former Rep. Tom Davis — and Davis was in truth no slouch on taxes or economic freedom — but should the disaffected “law and order” moderate come back home to the Republican Party in a 2021 tidal wave, it will be through someone who is willing to set down Divisive Social Issues (TM) in order to carry home a fiscally moderate yet prudent agenda.
  5. Traditionalists are a more complicated bunch who are on the horizon and more prevalent a force than people realize. Restoring the dignity of human life, restoring marriage to its proper role in society, restoring a sense of self-reliance and self-worth, and restoring faith to its proper role alongside conscience are all necessary for the moral ordering of society. If the secular left can regiment our children to believe certain moral values, the religious right can do very much likewise.

The main thing I would add is that, at this moment in time, the Republican Party appears to be undergoing a seismic realignment. The fundamental divide in the United States today — the new class divide — is between the cultural and political elites, who with their smug sense of moral superiority I call the Insufferables, and the non-elites, who have proudly taken to calling themselves the Deplorables. To burnish their self-righteousness, the Insufferables have championed the causes of what they described as “marginalized” elements of society, often at the expense of the Deplorables. The Insufferables are on a crusade to transform society; the Deplorables mainly just want to be left alone.

It is useful to view today’s GOP as a party of working-class and middle-class Deplorables, who feel increasingly alienated from the nation’s dominant cultural, political and economic institutions, including Big Business. Insofar as that pattern continues to hold true, the GOP will remain the party of Trump even without Trump. The soon-to-be-ex president did a superb job of turning out the base. However, he did an even better job of turning out the Democrats’ base. Other than his modestly effective outreach to Hispanics and African Americans, Trump did not expand the GOP coalition.

How can the GOP expand its coalition in Virginia without losing the Nationalists and Traditionalists who comprise its base? If someone can answer that question, he or she could become the next Republican governor of Virginia. If not, Virginia will become a one-party state… and it won’t be Republicans running the show.

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46 responses to “Virginia’s Splintered GOP

  1. GOP must move closer to the center. Democrats need to keep moving further from center. The Nationalists and Traditionalists won’t like it, but what is their alternative, vote Democratic?
    A major risk is a third party, led by Trump and his family. They won’t win anything but they will cut the Republicans off at the knees.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Let the factions fight it out for a while. Maybe a few good ideas and a candidate will emerge from the slugging.

  3. First, let me say, without apology or qualification, I believe Trump did a great job as president on:

    1/ US Foreign Affairs (including w/o limitation trade policy), and in,

    2/ rebuilding the US military, US Federal courts and border security, and in

    3/ restoring and growing the US Economy, and in

    4/ “Restoring the dignity of human life, restoring marriage (and the nuclear family) to its proper role in society, restoring a sense of self-reliance and self-worth (among our people), and restoring faith to its proper role alongside conscience as necessary for the moral ordering of society, and also in (enabling and empowering) the religious right and center to (rebuild and reinforce) their many faceted, traditional, and (critically needed) positive rolls in American society,” and in

    5/ standing up for American values, traditions and culture (incl. American constitutional government) against the onslaught of the increasing dominate and vicious left wing of the Democratic Party. He restored courage within the Republican Party.

    I believe that items 1 – 5 were and will continue to be of enormous benefit to ALL elements of American society, most particularly to America’s lower and middle classes (including those called by liberals “people of color”), as well as to those called upper middle classes, and yes the very wealthy too.

    I believe all this to be true, and easily demonstrated. And that this accounts for many of the very significant shifts and surprises (to the liberals) in the 2020 elections to GOP advantage.

    On the minus side of Trump’s Administration and its campaign, I suggest these key points.

    He failed miserably in bringing the country together, and unnecessarily polarized America instead, including frightening and offending many who otherwise may well have come to be his supporters or at least not his enemies instead. This failure played into the hands of his political enemies and the opposing party, causing him in the end to lose the popular vote, and perhaps now it seems, the electoral college, although that ain’t over ’til its over, which it ain’t. In any case, its an election he never should have lost, if he does.

    He also failed, I believe, in very significant ways, in showing significant numbers of the Americans how and why he had achieved so many successes in items 1 – 5 above and how and why his successes were and will continue to be an enormous benefit to them and ALL elements of American society. Note too, his task here was made far harder by reason of the minus sides of his Administration and campaign as briefly described above.

    In short, if Trump loses this election, one he never should have lost given all his successes, and his very weak opponent, he has no one to blame but himself. This opens great opportunities for the GOP in the future, if only the GOP will grasp it. This includes the GOP in Virginia. Trump’s successes can be sold with or without Trump, if the Virginia GOP has the courage, imagination, and talent to make that sale. That is the great question.

    Thus I agree with Steve Haner when he says:
    “All it takes to win is the right candidate and a recognition by all factions that on their own, they don’t stand a chance. Easy, right?”

    Well, perhaps far easier than many think. Because the Democratic Party is turning Virginia into a dysfunctional leftist state on the Banana Republic model. And doing it at a rapid rate. So this is an election that the Virginia GOP should not lose.

    • It is interesting that you think that a man who has been married three times, publicly flaunted on the front pages of New York newspapers his affair between marriages one and two; had an affair shortly after his third wife had given birth; and later paid off a porn star to keep her quiet was successful in “restoring marriage to its proper role in society.”

      • I’d rather have a Trump who at least aspires to such things as strong families and marriages, the dignity of human life and the importance of faith and self-reliance, than a Democratic party that pretty much mocks and demonizes people with those beliefs. I suppose you gave Bill Clinton a pass back in his day because he never claimed any of those things?

        • I see no evidence or indication that Trump “aspires” to a strong marriage or family. Not have I seen evidence or indication that he places any importance on “faith”. As for self-reliance, it is difficult to associate that virtue with a person who inherited a fortune, squandered it, and was saved only by declaring bankruptcy several times.

          And, no, I do not give Bill Clinton a pass.

        • I give him 2 two points for aspiration and -100 for performance.

          But I also give him, Clinton, Vitter, Hart, Sanford, etc., a pass. I only EXPECT them to keep the public trust, not their marital vows. They are my political leaders, not my moral guides, and boorish behavior is a negative but not a disqualifier. Unless their dalliances involve criminal behavior, e.g., diddling minors (Hastert), grabbing crotches (make that -1000), etc., they may still get my vote and even two thumbs up (Clinton only gets one thumb up; he could have at least done as well as Condit. Hart done good. Yowza, yowza, yowza).

          Personally, I’m up to here (use your imagination, this ain’t TV) with the “I like to watch” religious leaders driving the conversation.

      • Could this be true, Dick?

        Not only did Trump win the 2o2o election, he also won in Virginia, before it was stolen from him.

        Check this out. Dick. You’re a government numbers guy, give us your expert analysis.

  4. Can you please provide examples of #2 re: “A strong education system … and well paid teachers”?

  5. “The main thing I would add is that, at this moment in time, the Republican Party appears to be undergoing a seismic realignment. The fundamental divide in the United States today — the new class divide — is between the cultural and political elites, who with their smug sense of moral superiority I call the Insufferables, and the non-elites, who have proudly taken to calling themselves the Deplorables.”

    Pretty spot-on.

    “To burnish their self-righteousness, the Insufferables have championed the causes of what they described as ‘marginalized’ elements of society, often at the expense of the Deplorables. The Insufferables are on a crusade to transform society; the Deplorables mainly just want to be left alone.”

    This confuses me. I think you’re half-right, Jim, in that the elites often wield the underclass’ cause as a proxy hammer against the broad middle. The old high-low coalition, Crown and peasant folk, reasserts itself in Anglo history time and again.

    The part I find questionable is the “crusaderism vs. just want to be left alone” angle. I’ve heard this before and I think it’s true in a limited sense — educated elites enjoy tweaking complex systems to produce optimal results, while conservative-minded folk believe evolved systems (including “traditional societies” and the self-ordering logic of the market) are better off with a minimum of human meddling. That said, most everything worth conserving in America has been subjected to the cultural dietary equivalent of microplastics, corn fructose, endocrine disruptors, and battery acid for the better part of 50 years. In material terms, the status quo *sucks* for a great many people.

    “Leave us alone” may solve the meddling, but it doesn’t reseed the wasteland. The market will reassert itself over rust and used needles, not green fields. I’ll tentatively raise the aquila of Kenney’s Traditionalist faction and say we as conservatives need to be Johnny Appleseeds for the nation — let’s offer a tangible and actionable platform that encourages family formation, affordable and useful educational opportunities, job market bargaining power for those lacking capital or influence, and the redevelopment of a sustainable domestic industrial base.

    To quote Oren Cass, we must restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity.

    • The problem is your “leave me alone” crowd are the very people who won’t leave others alone, e.g., The Evangelicals.

      • To the degree the religious right possesses real cultural power or lawfare battalions, yeah, they’re insufferable meddlers. What have they fought and won on, though? In functional terms their power is nil, and a broader GOP coalition will only dilute it more.

        The Rs approach the cultural fight the complete wrong way round, I suspect because R leadership is more-or-less agnostic on this stuff. They just say whatever seems to boost turnout, which is usually “get people mad.”

        It works, but there’s an upper ceiling to success under that strategy. Get people mad about progressive radicalism and then…what? Magically return to 1950? No — you need to offer a positive, actionable agenda which is progressive in its own right.

        The correct tack on stuff like the Bathroom Stall Wars isn’t to cast aspersions on the intent of transgender folx who want to pee sitting down. It’s to say, “Ok, sure, whatever. Do as you will. If you want to have a serious discussion on how to tangibly benefit the lives of undernourished children, directionless high schoolers, young wageslaves, struggling families, and aging nursing home exiles, we’ll be over here.” No more battles over statistically irrelevant demographics.

        This logic applies to the Democrats just as well — anybody who can unambiguously advocate on behalf of normal people without non-sequitur callouts to The Aristotelian Ethics Of Not Baking Gay People Cakes or BLM will conquer the working vote, and mine as well. I just see the GOP as trending better on this than the Dems, is all.

  6. So, who’d everyone vote for this time around?

  7. “The fundamental divide in the United States today — the new class divide — is between the cultural and political elites, who with their smug sense of moral superiority I call the Insufferables, and the non-elites, who have proudly taken to calling themselves the Deplorables.”

    Perhaps it makes sense to describe the divide this way if you identify with the “non-elites” however deplorable they may be. But I still think that merely reflects, or equates to, educational level. Whatever smugness comes from education, it comes with economic advantage and all the personal attributes and business connections that drive the uneducated up the wall. The Republicans cannot run the country or succeed as a political party without such people.

    • It’s hard to describe oneself as a Deplorable when you declare yourself so intellectually and morally superior as to say that there are only the Insufferables and Deplorables.

      After all, there are only two types of people. Those that say there are two types of people, and those that don’t.

      Bring me a smuggery!

  8. The Democratic candidate has received the plurality of the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections. That is a span of 28 years, going back to 1992. In this most recent election, the Democratic candidate received the largest percentage against an incumbent since 1932.

    In Virginia, the Republicans last won a statewide race in 2010.

    The results speak for themselves.

    • Dick Hall-Sizemore: “In Virginia, the Republicans last won a statewide race in 2010.”

      How much of that is do to changes in the electorate?

      “From 2010 to 2015, 42% of Virginia’s population
      increase was due to net migration. In some areas,
      net migration surpassed the natural population
      increase.”

      “In 2015, about half of the eight million Virginia
      residents were not born in Virginia. In other words,
      for every 10 Virginia residents there were five who
      were born in Virginia, four who were born in other
      states, and one who was foreign-born.”

      https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/10/2017/02/DEMOGRAPHICS_FINAL.pdf

  9. Well, the good news, unlike the last time, is that the factions are spatially integrated and homogeneous thus making large fortresses impossible. The will be no ability to marshal and amass large armies with logistical support. It will be a series of small skirmishes akin to school shootings and theater bombings, which should be quelled quickly. Ultimately, once the militias have been dispatched, Michigan maybe a nice place to live again.

    • Big fan of local law enforcement deploying MRAPs and tac teams, huh? Go Team Blue!

      The whole “systemic police brutality” rhetoric kinda reeks of BS when you joke about systematically bringing arms to bear against whomever you choose to characterize as “dangerous miscreants.” Every partisan, red or blue, wants the police to pack heat — they’d just like them to deploy it on partisans of the opposing camp.

      • Whatever works. It could as easily be ANTIFA, whatever that is, but the boys in the woods have proven more than once to be willing to go first. Well, them and the Branch Davidians.

        • My point was that radicals of all stripes put a lot of mental energy into wish-fulfillment wargaming against fellow citizens who they think speak funny and believe creepy things. 90% of that dynamic stems from BS posturing by politicians and media figures who don’t understand how (or don’t actually want) to campaign on economic issues. It’s false consciousness, and if we’re interested in helping people, the whole “who’s got more guns?” discussion needs to be left behind.

          • My point is that the police don’t like two types of people, those who amass arsenals and then use them, and people of color. So far, these are mutually exclusive.

          • LEOs like to target people who can’t sue and who don’t have the ACLU as backup. So, historically, they liked to target people of color and bunkered-up survivalists — either could be killed with impunity, which nips the whole litigation/blowback question in the bud.

            Both political parties offer target lists, they differ only in specifics.

          • Funny. Same is true of the IRS.

  10. Or, as they are better known,
    1. Nationalists — Jingoism is the solution, everything else is unAmerican.
    2. Libertarians — Don’t Blame Me! I waste my vote on third party candidates.
    3. Conservatives — No!
    4. Moderates — Well, maybe.
    5. Traditionalists — What worked on Monday will work on Wednesday no matter what the Hell happened on Tuesday.

  11. Harumph, the problem with Shaun Kenney pontificating on the splintered nature of the Virginia’s GOP is that he and his shameless, sellout cronies at Bearing Left are to a great degree those most responsible for splintering the party, both through their written diatribes and behind the scenes actions. Desperate to maintain some sense of relevancy, there is no level to which they, both individually and as a group, won’t stoop.

    Nothing but a bunch of whiny, butthurt losers that could not get over Cantor’s loss or the repudiation of Bill Bolling, both of which diminished their “stature” within the GOP and in their own minds.

    • The whole Bearing Drift saga was stunning to watch. Talk about Trump Derangement Syndrome. After insisting he couldn’t be nominated they insisted he couldn’t win while insisting that Hillary would not have a meaningful impact on the US Supreme Court if elected.

  12. The hard science tells us GOP is in fact deplorables…I would call that a euphemism for something worse, but the word euphemism is already over-used in this thread. But the deplorables include a lot of scientists who are well, deplorable.

    Meanwhile where is Tom Davis when we need him? I think he envisioned the dire severity of the problem, except he under-estimated.

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