The Realignment of the Republican and Democratic Parties: Rachel Bovard

November 5, 2020 Updated: November 8, 2020

According to exit polls, Trump won a higher share of non-white voters than any Republican presidential candidate since 1960. And blue-collar workers donated large amounts to the Trump campaign.

On the other hand, donor data shows that Biden received large amounts of donations from big corporations, including big tech.

The two parties in America are seeing a major political realignment, says Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute. And both the Republican and Democratic Parties will need to respond to this change, she says.

This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.

Jan Jekielek: Rachel Bovard, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Rachel Bovard: Thanks for having me.

Jan Jekielek: Rachel, it’s been a crazy night. No one has any idea at this point who the next president of the United States is going to be. It might even be a while before we have an idea. It sounds like are most of the polls were wrong. That’s one thing we all know for sure. How do you see all this?

Rachel Bovard: The first thing that I take away is how drastically different the situation we’re in right now is from what we were told to expect. Even Monday, The Wall Street Journal NBC News poll had Biden up by something wild like 10 or 15 points. Biden was supposed to run away with this race. We were supposed to see a blue wave in the House and the Senate. It was going to be a unified model, with a Democrat control of the government.

We are literally in the opposite position right now. The blue wave was more like a blue trickle. It looks like Republicans are going to actually gain seats in the House and hold the Senate. That’s my cautious, optimistic assumption right now. If they do, it’ll be by a bare minimum, but they’ll still hold it.

And then obviously, I think there’s reason for cautious optimism for President Trump as well. I think it could go either way. But I don’t think it’s clear in one direction or the other, so the polls were completely repudiated. All of the conventional wisdom inside DC was overturned. I think it tells you just how detached this city is from the rest of the country.

Jan Jekielek: Well, let’s talk about the polls briefly. It was suggested that if the polls don’t pan out this time, in comparison to 2016, it’s basically a complete repudiation of the entire profession. What are your thoughts?

Rachel Bovard: I think that there is a lot of reason for self-reflection for these pollsters. I think it more broadly speaks to some concerning trends in America itself. For some reason, people are not comfortable telling pollsters that they were going to vote for Donald Trump.

I think you can unpack that a number of ways, but to me, it says that people are concerned about expressing their political views in public. They are concerned about the social opprobrium or even violent blowback in some cities in America.

That goes to the core of what America is. I think that’s a real problem that we as a society have to deal with going forward. We’re so divided that if someone has a political opinion you disagree with, the answer is to never speak to them again or to denounce them. We have some problems in our self government, if that’s the case.

Jan Jekielek: This is one of the things that we’ve been seeing that basically repudiates different narratives, from the exit polls, “unexpected” groups—according to the mainstream narrative—coming out in support of the president.

Rachel Bovard: Yes, it’s really interesting exit polling that we’re seeing right now. Again, exit polls are what they are, but they’re usually honing in on some grains of truth. If they are to be believed, then from 2016, Donald Trump made gains with African-American men and women, and Latino male and female voters, and actually lost white men who were the base of his support in 2016.

That is astonishing, particularly given that the mainstream media narrative for four years was essentially that Donald Trump is an unrepentant racist, that he is analogous to Hitler, that everything he does is racially motivated. They spent four years telling America this, and America’s minority communities responded by coming out more for Donald Trump than they did in 2016. So the message from the mainstream media is clearly not reflective of where the rest of the country is.

Jan Jekielek: Why do you think this is?

Rachel Bovard: A couple of reasons. I think the first is that the mainstream media really has bought into this identity politics narrative, that race is determinative of behavior. That it is a politically controlling narrative exclusive of all other motivations, and they went with this.

It doesn’t reflect reality, because at the end of the day, I do think that race is important to some voters, but broadly speaking, all voters are unique and respond to many motivations. And minority communities just like every other community cares about other issues.

They care about bread and butter issues—they care about jobs; they care about economic security; they care about the threats from globalism to low wage and middle class jobs. That was the core of Donald Trump’s 2016 message, and to a great extent the goals he tried to accomplish as President. I think that, more than this appeal to race and gender and sexuality, they’ve responded more to those policy goals from the president than anything else.

Jan Jekielek: Which policies then do you think are the most important to these voters?

Rachel Bovard: It’s interesting when you talk to Latino voters. For a lot of them, it’s economic security. They tend to be a little bit more middle class, working class, voters that care about the availability of jobs and the ability to put food on the table. Interestingly, a lot of that community, not broadly speaking, but a portion of that community is very concerned with border security as well.

Because they’ve come here legally, they want a chance to get at those low-wage jobs that a lot of times big corporations undercut with cheap foreign labor that don’t actually come here as citizens, they come here on the H-1B visa program. Donald Trump really took action against that. He said, “No, H-1B visas have a place, but it’s not undercut Americans who are qualified for those jobs.” So there’s a portion of Latino voters that actually care about that.

And then in Florida, specifically, you have the Cuban community that’s very sensitive to this socialist drift of the Democrat Party. A lot of these Cuban-Americans either grew up themselves or had parents or grandparents that did with socialist governments.

They’ve seen the actual damage of the ideology. It’s not some sort of fairytale unicorn land where everybody has free cash every day. It’s actually terrible. I think they are very responsive to that message from Donald Trump, which is, “Look, these Democrats are embracing socialism, and this is not what you want.”

Jan Jekielek: To your point, last night I was out on the street, and I interviewed a gentleman in front of the Trump hotel who actually had come from Miami and was talking about the enthusiasm. I’m going to roll that clip in a moment. But he was expecting a win, which it seems like [Florida] was a win for the President.

He was mentioning this sort of enthusiasm that he was seeing, this energy which again was very, very counter to the narrative. I want to talk a little bit about these narratives, because they’re all-encompassing in what I would call the legacy media, if there’s different names for it. What do you think will happen now, given what we’ve seen in terms of how Americans are voting?

Rachel Bovard: Well, from a media perspective, what’s been interesting to me and we’re only almost 24 hours out, right? So it hasn’t been that long. There needs to be some self-reflection there to say, “Wow, we got it really wrong. We did not predict at all any of this that was about to happen.” So I would say legacy media should engage in some self-reflection that maybe they don’t actually speak for America.

I haven’t seen that today. I’ve seen them double down on this idea that they were right, and it’s the rest of America that’s wrong. It’s “Donald Trump’s voters, half the country is irredeemably racist, and it is those voters that are the problem.” That is not sustainable.

And you know what? They can take that tack, and they can take that narrative, but they no longer speak for America when they do. I think that they have to recognize that. Politically speaking, the parties are undergoing major shifts. That is something that was the loudest siren that I heard last night—how far along this political realignment is in America.

As someone who watches this from DC and is aware of it, I wasn’t even prepared for how far along this realignment is—much less most of DC who isn’t even acknowledging it. What we took away from that is Republicans are now a multi-racial working class party. Democrats are now the big-money, corporate Wall Street, globalist party. In the parties, their bases have almost completely flipped. And it’s incumbent upon Republicans in particular to recognize and respond to that.

Jan Jekielek: I’ve seen this commentary or elements of this commentary a number of times. Is this really such a shock? Isn’t this what we saw in 2016 already, or at least the incipient vision of that?

Rachel Bovard: I think so. But I think there’s a significant portion of the Republican party that was really hoping that that was just a blip, that it wasn’t really indicative of a major shift. That it was just interpersonal dynamics between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and it was just a phenomenon that’s ephemeral and would dissipate. We’d go back to the neo-liberalism as it defining the Republican Party prior to Trump.

It is now undeniable that realignment is taking place. To the extent that the Republican Party wants to remain relevant to its new base, it is going to have to grapple with and respond to that reality. That is going to require a different policy emphasis from the Republican Party, because up until now, it’s been very focused on fiscal issues like the deficit, like the debt, big corporate tax cuts, this trickle down economics.

All of those things are fine and important. But the emphasis can no longer be just there to the exclusion of other issues that their base last night told them that they care about, which is border security, which is culture war and social issues, which is dealing with woke corporate power. All of these issues now need to resonate in the Republican party in a way that they have not for years. That’s a real shift I hope to see in the Republican base.

Jan Jekielek: So are you saying the Republicans have become a populist party? Is that what I’m hearing?

Rachel Bovard: I don’t know if I would go that far yet. I think the party is still working out what it’s going to look like. But there are elements of populism that are resonating in the GOP base. And the institutional Republican party has not yet come to terms with that. Trump represented that, and he tried to go a lot in those directions. But in many cases, he wasn’t necessarily supported by a Republican Congress that was ready to do that yet.

And if we have a Republican President Trump with a Republican Senate and a robust Republican minority in the house, they have no more excuses. They’ve survived for years under Trump without really committing to his policies. Every now and then they’ll put out a strongly worded letter in favor of whatever he wants, but no actual policy shifts. That’s no longer going to be sustainable. I think if President Trump gets a second term, he should expect far more from a Republican senate than what he got in the last four years.

Jan Jekielek: Let’s talk about Congress. You mentioned your own cautious optimism on this side of the Senate. But extensively, by all accounts looking at both left and right perspectives, the Republicans have overperformed. What are the implications of that?

Rachel Bovard: Well, I think Congress is going to have to be a better ally to President Trump, if there is a President Trump, in the second term. But also, again, they really can no longer hide from the realignment that’s happening in their base. This is something they actively have to respond to. It’s not that the Republican Party has been hostile to everything President Trump wants to do, although they have in some respects.

It’s just that they haven’t yet shifted in their emphasis to where the Republican base is, which I think to a great degree now is socially conservative, and to some extent, economically moderate. I think there’s been this narrative that Republicans, by and large, are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I think that was reputed last night when the base said, “Actually what we are is fiscally moderate, and definitely socially conservative.”

That’s not always reflected in issues or bills or fights the Republicans pick in Congress. It tends to just be about tax cuts for Wall Street, or free trade deals. That’s not necessarily what the base wants them to focus on. So you’re going to have to see much more of a focus on cultural issues and issues of corporate power from the Republicans in the Senate than you’ve seen and in the Congress generally than you’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years.

Jan Jekielek: Let’s talk about the Democratic Party. On the surface, there seems to be a unified face, so to speak. But again, what I’ve been hearing is that there are actually a lot of different perspectives and there may be some kind of an internal reckoning like perhaps the Republican Party has gone through or is going through, as you’re suggesting. What are your thoughts with respect to the Democratic Party given these results?

Rachel Bovard: Yes, I think Democrats—the soul searching they have to do is maybe even almost bigger than what the Republicans have to go through, because ours has been ongoing. But again, these Democrats, institutional Democrat politicians in Washington, told their party, “We are going to have a blue wave.” We’re going to emphasize court packing, the Green New Deal, we’re going to end the filibuster. We’re going to add DC and Puerto Rico as states. We’re going to enforce identity politics across the government.

This was what they sold their base on, and their base rejected it. I really do think the Democrat Party is going to have to ask themselves, how did we end up alienating all of the working-class voters that were formerly in our party? That’s something they haven’t yet dealt with. If they want to remain relevant to their base and continue to serve government with a mandate in this country, they’re going to have to reckon with that as well.

Jan Jekielek: You’re, of course, conservative. I’ve seen a number of conservatives say they wouldn’t mind have a strong, vibrant minority in the house, a small majority in the Senate, alongside a Joe Biden presidency. Your thoughts?

Rachel Bovard: Americans don’t dislike divided government. This is something we’ve seen across history. We saw it most recently in 2010. And that may very well be what we get: a Democrat president, a narrowly Republican senate, and a robust minor Republican minority in the House. It’s going to be gridlock for the next couple of years, if that’s the case. But again, in deeply partisan times, the voters producing a divided government is not that unusual. And to be honest, sometimes it’s the best thing for America.

Jan Jekielek: Well, so that this is what I wanted to ask you. What would that look like practically on the ground? When it comes to presidential appointments and this kind of thing, there’s a lot of question marks in people’s minds on how such a government would work.

Rachel Bovard: Yes, the gridlock in the Senate will be significant. Remember, for political appointments now, the filibuster is gone. It is a narrow 51 vote majority that can confirm all political appointments. If Republicans have that 51, they can virtually block most of a President Biden’s cabinet.

I think that there are enough institutionalists in the Republican party who would say, “That’s not the role of the Senate, the president should be able to pick their people.” You’ll see the Susan Collins’ of the world come across and help Democrats confirm those nominees.

But by and large, you’re going to see gridlock on a number of priorities of whatever President Biden would want to get through the Congress. And because of that, you’ll see him take the executive order approach that President Obama did in 2010, where he said, “Well, if Congress won’t do it, I have a phone and a pen. And I’m going to do it that way.” It is an approach; you’ve seen President Trump do some of that as well.

The downside is that it can be easily undone by the guy that comes next. So you’re not really creating a legacy so much as you’re creating a shared a series of short term gains. You can have a pen and a phone, and you’ll give the next guy a giant eraser, essentially.

Jan Jekielek: So let’s flip that around. Now, let’s say President Trump ends up carrying the day, what does it look like?

Rachel Bovard: Well, I think this is a huge opportunity for President Trump if he gets a second term, because his first term was effectively squandered by Congress, pushing his flimsy impeachment, trying to say he wasn’t valid because of this fake conspiracy theory about Russia.

Now, I expect Democrats will do that again. But this White House will have learned the lessons of the first term, which is to give it no quarter, and to waste little time on it. In a second term from President Trump, he will feel he does have a mandate to come in, and really aggress on the issues that got him elected in 2016. Which were taking on China— seriously taking on China—and addressing some of our global disparities with our trading partners, to make sure that America is being treated fairly by our partners.

You’re going to see a second term President Trump take on big tech, in a way that he’s threatened in the first term but hasn’t really carried out. He’s going to do as much as he can to start reining in those tech giants. That’s going to have a significant impact that he wasn’t able to do in the first term, but hopefully he can do in the second.

Jan Jekielek: Speaking of big tech, I couldn’t help but notice that the President’s tweet last night was suppressed or hidden. What do you make of this? This is your other hat as part of the Internet Accountability Project.

Rachel Bovard: It’s interesting because Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was sitting before the Senate a week ago telling senators with a completely straight face that Twitter has no ability to impact the election outcome. Yet they’ve spent the last 24 hours moderating content for election integrity solely in one direction.

So if Twitter can’t impact election outcomes, I’m not sure why Twitter is censoring the president for misinformation. But the cat is out of the bag with big tech. They are clearly politically motivated in one direction.

When the biggest speech platforms in the world are no longer allowing people to speak freely and engaging in blatant viewpoint censorship, then yes, I think it’s incumbent upon the Congress to say, “Are we benefiting from this? Are our policies actually encouraging this? Let’s do some oversight here of the subsidies that we’re giving these industries.” I think that’s the entirely appropriate role of Congress.

If Congress can’t or won’t do it, President Trump is looking to do this in a second term with FCC regulations that will bring Section 230—which is big tech’s financial subsidy—back to its original intent. Which is effectively to say, “Look, clean up the internet, don’t let harassing, lewd, obscene material flourish, but let Americans speak freely, whatever political persuasion.”

Jan Jekielek: You had some commentary recently about some of these legacy media actually pushing the tech giants to censor more. That always strikes me as an odd thing for media to be doing.

Rachel Bovard: Yes, it’s interesting. The left wing media, we’re talking primarily about NBC News. You saw them go after The Federalist. They basically got Google to deplatform The Federalist, which is conservative news site, or threaten to deplatform. Last night, NBC News reported President Trump’s tweet to Twitter in an effort to get it censored.

There is a line of thinking that the mainstream media, the left wing media and Democrats when it comes to big tech, they want to censor all political activity they disagree with on these platforms. Republicans take a different approach. And they say “No, the answer to bad speech or speech you disagree with is actually more speech, not less.”

That represents the divide in how we deal with these tech platforms: more censorship or more speech, and that’s the divide between Democrats and Republicans. But to your point, the mainstream media is working very hard and with success, I would say, to weaponize these big tech platforms against speech they disagree with. It’s a very, very concerning and troubling trend, when woke corporate media combines with woke corporate power to stifle out legitimate political speech. That cannot stand in a free society.

Jan Jekielek: Rachel, a number of even left leaning voices like Matt Stoller, author of “Goliath,” have been commending this DOJ antitrust lawsuit against Google. What do you think the fate of that would be, assuming the President would leave office?

Rachel Bovard: So it is a very good lawsuit. I would agree with Matt Stoller, that it’s a very pragmatic laser focused on the things Google is doing that are anti-competitive and unlawful. It doesn’t try to answer every problem. It just focuses on what they can win in court. And so for that I commend the DOJ.

But I don’t think that this suit survives under a Biden administration. And the reason is because Google in particular was in this situation under President Obama in 2015. His FTC was looking into opening an antitrust investigation into Google. The staff report … is usually the governing document for what FTC determines; it’s how they determine their course of action.

The staff report found evidence of anti-competitive behavior by Google. And in an unusual line of action, FTC said, “No, we’re just going to not do it. We’re going to close this.” There was a lot of speculation about Google’s lobbying efforts to that end, what they were able to do to get that investigation closed.

So I suspect a similar course would take place under a Biden administration. Joe Biden was from that Obama administration. You would have a Vice President Kamala Harris, who was notoriously friendly with the tech giants, having decided as former Attorney General of California not to pursue any antitrust investigation into them. So I suspect they would either settle the case or it would die a quiet death of attrition.

Jan Jekielek: Since we’re talking about this, what other of President Trump’s policies would you think might go by the wayside in this sort of scenario?

Rachel Bovard: A significant portion of his agenda, a President Biden would try to undo. All of the executive actions that President Trump has taken to secure the border, which have been very effective, President Biden would take aim at those, even though some of President Trump’s policies were reflective of the Obama Biden administration, particularly some of the family separation policy began under President Obama. I’m curious if Joe Biden would continue those policies or not, I suspect not.

Also some of the steps that President Trump has taken to make the immigration system and our legal labor system more equitable to American workers. I specifically mean the steps Trump has taken on H-1B visas. Big corporations abuse these visas to bring in cheap foreign labor that often undercuts very qualified Americans, preventing them from getting those jobs. Trump’s team has taken aggressive action on that on the regulatory front.

It would take the Biden team some time to undo that. They would attempt to same with the President Trump’s executive order on big pharma. A couple of months ago this did not get a lot of press coverage. President Trump basically said to big pharma, “You are no longer allowed to fleece seniors in Medicare Part B.”

Big pharma was essentially telling the government what to pay it for these drug prices. Under President Trump’s administration, he said “No more, you’re going to charge us what you charge, the lowest rate that you give Europeans. That’s what you’re going to give American seniors.” I suspect that would be undone as well.

Jan Jekielek: I think the first policy that you mentioned earlier that came from President Trump is the policy on China. What about that?

Rachel Bovard: Yes, a lot of people are going to be watching how Joe Biden handles China. I suspect just based on the comments he’s given on the campaign trail. He refuses to call China an adversary, when in fact, China is our biggest geopolitical adversary at this moment, both militarily but also economically. That is an area where I do not think President Biden will aggress. That is an area where President Trump has stood very firmly and has brought America to a very good place in relation to China. I suspect President Biden would happily undo that.

Jan Jekielek: Let’s jump back to big tech for one second. You mentioned Twitter last night putting its finger on the scale, so to speak, if I’m reading you correctly. Do you see any more evidence of big tech bias over the last 24 to 48 hours?

Rachel Bovard: President Trump is being censored. A lot of conservative accounts are being censored for simply raising questions. There was a tweet earlier today that questioned the fact that—I can’t even remember what state it was—that 100,000 ballots showed up 100% for a President Biden and zero for Trump. Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire pointed this out on Twitter was immediately censored.

You’re going to see more aggressive action on any kind of speculation as to how these races and states are contested. Again, this is what these platforms say they’re designed to do, which is to foster free thought, free inquiry, and to allow people to make up their own minds. The way they act is very much in contradiction to that. Again, Congress should have acted on this in the last four years and they have not. So this is where we find ourselves.

Jan Jekielek: There are a number of states that are contested at the moment. Yes, it may be changing even as we speak, even as we’re speaking right here. Where do you see the biggest question marks? Of course, there’s been allegations of irregularities and so forth, but which which states are you concerned about?

Rachel Bovard: It sounds like the Trump team is going to demand a recount in Wisconsin based on some irregularities. That will be a battleground for the next couple of days, hopefully not weeks. But who knows? Pennsylvania is going to be the site of a lot of contested issues. You see Philadelphia, but you also have western Pennsylvania which hasn’t been counted, which the Trump team seems to feel confident about.

So I do think that those two states are going to be in a lot of focus for the campaigns, as well as Arizona. There’s a lot of questions about Arizona today that hopefully will resolve in the next couple of days. I would say probably Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin—there’s going to be some spicy news coming out of those states in the next couple of days.

Jan Jekielek: How long do you think this period of uncertainty will last based on what you’re seeing now? Obviously, this can change.

Rachel Bovard: I said in an interview in the beginning of this week, I think November is going to be a very long year. I could see it going all month. I hope it doesn’t. But again, both campaigns have the right to pursue some of the stuff in court. Each campaign has the right to contest, and it remains to be seen kind of how how frequently that ability will be used. But I can see this running a couple of weeks.

Jan Jekielek: Any final thoughts before we finish up?

Rachel Bovard: There’s going to be a lot of talk about the election itself and the votes and what’s coming and who’s going where. But for me, the biggest takeaway from last night was how far along this realignment in our political parties is taking place. We cannot lose sight of it, because it is fundamentally transforming our politics.

Jan Jekielek: Rachel Beauvoir it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.

Rachel Bovard: Thank you.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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