No political party in any country has a completely predictable or unified base, however the Republican Party of the United States has definite characteristics which can be outlined. The Republican base, broadly speaking is predominated by white Americans, religious conservatives and rural voters.
Free Market Meets Church
Republicanism since President Ronald Reagan has been defined by what theorist Frank Meyer termed “fusionism,” which basically means a marriage between libertarian free market global capitalism and religious, traditional conservatism. In order to win elections, religious conservative figures like Paul Weyrich and others agreed to work hand-in-hand with those who were not very concerned with social issues but more with market dominance and free trade. It was a logical partnership during the Cold War when communism threatened the world, but the fusionism of the past has increasingly fractured, exposing the fault lines between religious conservatives and classical economic liberals (free market advocates).- Advertisement -
The Republican Base Has Shifted
In many ways the fracture between free market economic liberals and populist economic nationalists was made perfectly clear in the 2016 election of Donald Trump. The Trump voters howled with agreement and anger when he talked about NAFTA “raping” the country and cheered in approval as Trump slammed the “elites” on both sides selling out the American worker to China and taking advantage of conservative patriotism to pursue “globalist agendas.” Many mainstream Republicans were horrified and left the party, or spoke out against Trump, becoming known as the “Never Trump” wing of the Party. The problem is Never Trump never had any significant sway because they were thoroughly alienated from the new, actual base: the Trump base.
The Trump Base
Trump infamously quipped that his diehard supporters “my people” (his base) would still stick by him if he shot a man in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York. So, who is Trump’s base? They are not quite the same as the usual Republican base. They tend to be white, male and rural, but there are also many independents and Democrats in the Trump base. Indeed, Trump broke through to victory by smashing the Democratic “blue wall” of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which Hillary Clinton took for granted as her territory. Trump, a nationalist-populist, enjoys support from a minority but ardent core base who cross political lines but broadly converge around his “America First” message and anger at the Democratic leadership, liberal immigration policy and social liberalism.
See also: Who makes up the Democratic party base?