Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

Republicans versus Trumpicans: A New York State Case Study

In 1861 after winning the presidential election, Abraham Lincoln traveled by train to Washington, D.C. from Springfield, IL. His journey took him through New York State.

On February 18, he arrived in Albany. A riot ensued. While all this fuss was occurring over the arrival of the President-elect and he was dining at the Executive Mansion, the drama “The Apostate,” was staged at the Gayety Theater on Green Street. During the performance, the 23-year-old male lead who held a dagger accidentally fell and stabbed himself. He lived. The actor’s name was John Wilkes Booth. What if the wound had been more severe? There is no indication that Booth and Lincoln met then although obviously the former was aware of the latter.

So how did the new Republican Party fare in the Empire State?

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln won New York State with 35 Electoral College votes.

In 1864 Abraham Lincoln won New York State with 33 Electoral College votes. Confederate states did not participate in the election. Who knows what would have happened if they had voted and sent electors to be counted. After all, according to Lincoln, the Confederate states were legally still part of the United States. Another “what if” question.

In 1904, New York Republican Teddy Roosevelt won New York State with 39 Electoral College votes.

In 1948, New York Republican Thomas Dewey won New York State with 47 Electoral College votes.

In 1980 Republican Ronald Reagan won New York with 41 Electoral College votes.

In 1984 Republican Ronald Reagan won New York with 36 Electoral College votes.

That was the last time a Republican Presidential candidate won New York.

In 2016, New York was down to 29 Electoral College votes.

There was even a time not so long ago when both New York State Senators were Republicans. Then it became one. Then it became none.

The 21st century has not been good for Republicans in New York State. Once upon a time Republican New York State governors were national figures who became President or who tried to become President. When George Pataki sought national office he barely registered on the Presidential Political Richter scale. For that matter the Democrats have not done much better. Since the days of Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt, the Democratic New York presidential candidates have been a carpetbagger and former Democrat and Clinton supporter who attended future Democratic Governor Andy Cuomo’s bachelor party and used the Republican Party instead to become President before moving to Florida.

So where did things stand now for Republicans in New York State?

No Republican can win a statewide election in New York. The best one can hope for is around 40%. Consider the example of Marc Molinaro. In an earlier time period, he was the type of person who had future in the Republican Party at the state level and therefore perhaps at the national level. Now he has neither. He tried once at the state level and was victim of the 40% rule. He could try again for a state-wide position but why?

Molinaro could aim smaller and run for Congress, but why? First, his background is in executive positions so he would be a fish out of water in Congress. Second, he would be in a minority party which in the House of Representatives means you have no power whatsoever. Third he would be obligated to constantly travel both in his geographically-large Congressional district and to Washington. Fourth his district probably would change after the 2020 census and for the worse for him. Finally, does he really want to settle for making a name for himself like Elise Stefanik? For what purpose? Is that all there is?

During his gubernatorial campaign, Molinaro stated that he wrote in Republican former Congressman Chris Gibson for the 2016 presidential election. The father of a daughter with developmental disabilities, said that Trump mocking a disabled journalist, Serge Kovaleski of The New York Times, during a late-2015 campaign rally was the tipping point. Therefore even if elected to Congress, the non-Trumpican would have no standing within the Trumpican Party. So here he is in what should be the prime of his political life ready to make the big move like a Roosevelt or Dewey and instead he has nowhere to go.

Note: Since I first wrote these words, Molinaro has announced he will not be a candidate for Congress.

The Republicans continue to be irrelevant in the Legislature as they have been for years.

In 2018, the Senate Republicans experienced the full onslaught of the vaunted red wave the Trumpican President had predicted. For decades the Republicans had been able to retain control of the Senate despite the statewide changes. Finally all the maneuvering and lack of Democratic unity came undone. Now the Republicans are struggling to maintain a 1/3 position in the Senate. There is no constructive purpose even talking about it becoming the majority party again.

The trends are running against the Republicans. The most recent news from the Census front is that New York is the biggest population loser in the country. As one headline in USA Today put it, the new motto is “I LEAVE NY.” Roughly 1.4 million left from 2011-2018, a huge number of people equaling about 7% of the 2010 population. In the past, New York had been losing both upstate Republican and downstate Democratic population. The difference was that when people left upstate, no one replaced them; when people left downstate, they were replaced by Americans who wanted to relocate to New York City and by immigrants.

At the Congressional level, the result after the 2020 census will mean the loss to the state of another Congressional seat. It will probably be a Republican one although it keeps getting harder and harder to find one. The Democrats are advised not to flip all the Republican congressional seats. Leave at least two in proximity to each other so they can be combined into one district.

At the state level, the number of Senators and Legislators will remain the same. What will change is the allocation. As downstate grows to be an increasingly larger percentage of the total state population, the number of districts will grow accordingly. That change won’t go into effect until the 2022 election but the handwriting is on the wall. Already, Republican State Senators are dropping in droves. As the headline in City&State New York blared:

The state Senate is hemorrhaging Republicans
Life in the minority has some GOP incumbents getting out of Dodge.

Nine and counting with others at risk even if they run as incumbents or drive into a ditch.

So what is the New York State Republican Party going to do? At the national level, the Lincoln Project represents an attempt to restore the place of Lincoln in the Republican Party. Good luck with that. Polls show that Lincoln has lost favor with Republicans. That was true even before the 2016 elections. It is only because the party of Lincoln already was dead [R.I.P. Party of Lincoln (1856-2016), March 12, 2016] that it could become the Trumpican Party. So far this cycle, 26 Congressional Republicans are leaving the House. Soon only Trumpicans well be left.

As more and more evidence emerges during this interim between House impeachment and Senate acquittal, the transformation of the Republican Party into the Trumpican Party becomes more and more obvious. Consider the example of Mike Pompeo. He did not fight for his people in the State Department against the President. Why should the people of Kansas believe he will fight for them when he runs for Senate there? Why should they believe him period, about the Ukraine, about Iraq and Iran, about anything? Do you think he would tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth if he did testify? How much of party can you build on that?

In the Westmore News, my local weekly newspaper, there was a column by Dick Hubert entitled “The Republican political divide in our community.” He wrote about how the Republicans (Hubert does not use the term “Trumpicans”) oppose the effort of Wilson and Conway to save the Republican Party. He cited the example of New York State Trumpican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy urging political warfare against anyone even questioning Trump. Hubert quoted a media release from December 18, 2019, by Langworthy:

Neither the voters nor history will not (sic) look kindly upon this political hit job….[The] Democrats who went along with this sham will be held accountable.

It is unlikely that the new evidence further documenting the attempted extortion and cover-up will have any impact on a true Trumpican.

Hubert quoted Rye Town Republican Chairman Dan Panicia as being more forthcoming than the Westchester County Republican Chairman Doug Colenty who did not respond to this inquiry:

As far as impeachment, this has been purely political theater from the start, the sooner it is over the better. What a waste of time. Congress needs to focus on passing legislation that will benefit Americans.

This claim ignores the hundreds of bills the House has passed including on a bipartisan basis that the Senate has yet to consider.

These Trumpicans are fiddling with the Trumpican Party burns. Hubert noted the party professionals and volunteers who worked on the various campaigns of Republican former Rye Town Supervisor and Congressional candidate Joe Carvin who have informed Hubert that they have left the Party in disgust and/or cutoff communications with the Trumpicans.

At the national level, it is well known that white, college-educated, suburban Republican women have abandoned the former Republican Party in droves when it became the Trumpican Party. When Molinaro ran for Governor, his Lieutenant Governor candidate may have been just such a person. Julie Killian, former Rye City Councilwoman, declined to state for whom she voted. Her refusal to declare her loyalty means she has no future with the Trumpican Party. Not that the Trumpican Party has a future here. Republicans cannot win a county-wide race in Westchester and has been practically obliterated in the County Legislator. It has become difficult enough to find people to run yet alone who can win as Republicans or Trumpicans. When our Congressional Representative Nita Lowey decided not to run for re-election (she is older than the leading Presidential candidates), she created a once-in-a-generation opportunity. So far 8 Democrats have announced their candidacy; the Democrats have a deep political bench. BY contrast, although the Republicans do have an announced candidate this time, he comes from business wealth and not a political bench: there isn’t one.

Hubert ends his column with a dismal depiction of the Trumpican Party future in New York State.

Altogether, it’s not a pretty picture. Like the fate of Humpty Dumpty, it’s not at all clear the pieces can ever be put back together again….
Locally, at least, a safe prediction would be that policy and political disputes may be settled in our environs by Democratic primaries and the possible emergence of new parties.

Hubert’s conclusion echoes my own comment that Wilson and Conway would be better served trying to create a new party based on Lincoln than on trying to transform the Trumpican Party back to a party that admires Lincoln.