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Midterms Were A Rebuke Of Trumpism, Commentator Max Boot Says


All right. We're going to turn now to commentator Max Boot. He is a former Republican. Before the midterms, he called on people to vote against all Republicans. He wrote about his break from the Republican Party in his latest book. It's called "The Corrosion Of Conservatism: Why I Left The Right." Max Boot, good morning.

MAX BOOT: Thanks for having me on.

KING: So voters have spoken. Republicans lost hold of the House but solidified their majority in the Senate. How do you feel about that outcome?

BOOT: I think it's a mixed outcome. This was a rebuke, not a repudiation of Trumpism. I was hoping that the Republican Party would be devastated for their embrace of Trump and their squalid tactics - demonizing immigrants, engaging in race-baiting. This was the worst face imaginable of the Republican Party. And there was a rebuke in the House races where, in the popular vote, Democrats had an edge of about 9.2 percent across the nation and, of course, they picked up the House. But unfortunately, Trump's tactics worked in a lot of statewide races with the Republicans increasing their majority in the Senate and winning some key races in places like Florida and Georgia after a disgraceful campaign. So it was something but it was not quite as much as I had hoped.

KING: You said a rebuke, not a repudiation. What's the difference between the two, as you see it?

BOOT: Well, a complete repudiation would have been a much more devastating defeat for Republicans in both chambers, which might have made them rethink their allegiance to Donald Trump and the way that he has transformed their party out of all recognition from the party that I grew up with in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, there were enough victories on Tuesday for Republicans following this Trumpous (ph) course of attacking immigrants and people of color and minorities, that the Republican Party will be more firmly embedded within the Trumpian orbit than ever before. There's going to be even less separation, and there was very little before, between Trump and the Republican Party.

KING: You said that Trump's messaging is working and I wonder, which part of his messaging do you think is working? Because the president sort of quite famously did not talk a ton about the economy leading up to the midterms. He did talk a lot about immigration. Which part of the president's message do you think reached people?

BOOT: Well, it worked for some people, did not work for others. Clearly, he ran his campaign not on morning in America but on midnight in America. It was a completely outrageous, disgraceful, hysterical and false attack on immigrants, conspiracy mongering about George Soros, vitriol against Democrats. You know, a lot of that, I think, over-the-top partisanship and bigotry backfired in suburban House races. That helps to account for the fact that Democrats did win the House. But sadly, and it truly saddens me, that there are people for whom this worked. And I think it did work in places like Florida and Georgia. It did contribute to the Democratic gains in the Senate. So clearly, that Trumpian message of fear and loathing of outsiders resonates in a lot of red states.

KING: Why?

BOOT: Well, you know, there's a lot of bigoted people out there, what can I say? I mean, he's found a constituency that I, as a former Republican, did not realize existed to this extent in the Republican Party. You know, after 2012, Republicans were talking about how they needed to reach out to minority voters, and that was something I wish they had done. But instead of reaching out to minorities, Donald Trump has vilified minorities. He is essentially appealing to this angry, old, undereducated, white demographic in our society. And he's figured out how to mobilize them with fearmongering about this supposed caravan invasion and all the rest of it. This is not the Republican Party that I grew up with. This is not the Republican Party I want to see. But this is what the Republican Party has become, which is essentially a white nationalist party.

KING: A white nationalist party - strong words. Washington Post columnist Max Boot. Thanks so much, Max.

BOOT: Thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.