The popular refrain of the #NeverTrump movement basically amounted to, “He’s not one of us.” Donald Trump didn’t believe in Republican values, they said, and he would change the party.
Engel agrees with the premise. “Trump doesn’t care a wit for social issues,” he says. But he also sees shades of Barry Goldwater when he looks at Trump’s candidacy – which could mean short-term losses and long-term salvation for the Republican Party.
“Trump will get completely trounced (in November) and all the people he brought into the party will just as quickly leave the party when they realize they lost,” Engel says. “The traditional narrative is Goldwater gets destroyed in ‘64, but lays the foundation for Reagan’s advance by making conservatism appear more acceptable. We’ll see a long-term replay of Barry Goldwater’s (consequences in the years ahead).
“People will look at the fallout of this election just as they did in 2012 when they warned the Republican party it can’t win if it doesn’t appeal to minorities and Hispanics,” Engel continues. “(Republicans) will never win in the 21st century America unless they get rid of this fascist nativism that Trump represents, and it will move closer to a Rand Paul-like libertarianism after he loses.”
Engel sees gradual libertarian revolution, not collapse or the rise of a third party, in the Republican’s future. He also doesn’t see a return to the past, despite Trump signaling an attempt to rebuild the Reagan coalition.
“Reagan won by bringing in Reagan Democrats, who were blue-collar, white, male old-labor types,” Engel says. “Non-white voters made up 14 percent of the electorate then. Today they make up more than 30 percent, so I don’t see that old-fashioned nativism succeeding in the 20th century.
Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History. He can discuss:
- comparisons to past presidential races
- foreign policy
- presidential rhetoric