Trump sends GOP pivoting to nowhere

To watch members of the elite GOP political class refuse to support Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE, their party’s presumptive candidate for president, is like being called to witness a most incredible feat of political illusion in the making.

In short, they intend to pivot to nowhere, explained Baylor Political Scientist Curt Nichols.


"Political parties are rather dumb beasts," he said. "They tend to run the same type of candidate again and again and then blame everyone but themselves for electoral defeats."

We had a bad candidate. They ran a poor election. Economic conditions were against us, Nichols said, listing off typical excuses. "These tropes tend to prevail under normal circumstances, that is, until what is obvious to everyone else becomes so painfully clear as to be unavoidable; the electorate just isn’t into the stale product the losing political party is repeatedly trying to sell them."

Historically, this realization doesn’t come until a political party has lost three presidential elections in a row running incumbents and establishment types.

This is what Nichols calls “returning to a dry well three times.”

Think Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis in 1980, 1984 and 1988.

Once a party realizes that their the product that stinks, they normally pivot.

And, they pivot in a very predictable way. They move to the center and co-opt parts of the other party’s program in order to become more mainstream in a new political climate.

Think Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Pelosi: Trump trying 'to suppress the vote' with attacks on mail-in ballots MORE ending welfare as we know it.

Which brings us back to today’s Republican establishment. It has attempted to run three decent men, but uninspiring candidates in a row: McCain, Romney, and (unsuccessfully) Jeb Bush.

And, no matter what happens in November, the GOP establishment knows that it has now returned to a dry well three times in a row and its product leaves much to be desired said Nichols.

So Republicans must pivot. But, pivot to where?

The GOP establishment is already at the center of its coalition said Nichols, "It is already happy to live with and co-opt much of president Obama’s agenda, as long as it can complain loudly while going along. If the GOP truly pivots anywhere it must be away from its current, tired, leadership,"he said.

This creates a real problem for the Republican establishment.

What they desperately need to do is give the impression they are shifting away from their stale product and moving on to something new. All the while, in fact, doing nothing of the sort.

Donald Trump provides GOP leadership with a rare opportunity to attempt this trick by appearing to be #nevertrump.

A neat illusion that Nichols says that will go nowhere, but will be called change.

"But, don’t be fooled by the magician’s hocus pocus. The only place the Republican establishment is interesting in pivoting to – is back to itself," Nichols said, something he believes voters will consider stale.

Salena Zito is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page columnist. E-mail her at