ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: And I'm Robert Siegel on the road all this week in Ohio where I'm asking voters here about the future of the Republican Party. Donald Trump is not supported by the Republican governor of this swing state, John Kasich. Trump polls very well here with blue-collar voters, people you'd expect to vote Democratic. He polls very poorly with college-educated, suburban voters, people you would expect to vote Republican.
I spoke with two editorial page editors for Ohio newspapers. Each paper broke this year with a long history of backing Republicans to endorse Hillary Clinton. Cindi Andrews is Opinion Editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Glenn Sheller is Editorial Page Editor of The Columbus Dispatch. The Dispatch endorsement faulted Donald Trump for not supporting traditional Republican values such as fiscal prudence, limited government and free trade. I asked Glenn Sheller if the party should be rethinking those values.
GLENN SHELLER: Well, I think that's the big question. It's not clear to me who represents the Republican Party anymore. If it's Donald Trump, I don't know who belongs to the Republican Party anymore.
SIEGEL: But he appears to be doing well with white, working-class voters in part because they agree with him that trade deals like NAFTA have hurt more than they've helped. Should the GOP rethink its commitment to free trade, for example?
CINDI ANDREWS: Cincinnati's a little bit different than some other parts of the state. It's a little bit less blue-collar. But I don't hear a lot of discussion about trade, honestly. I hear, we need change; we need to throw out the bums. That's what I'm seeing in Ohio that he's really tapped into - is just frustration with Washington with nothing getting done more than any particular policy.
SIEGEL: Glenn Sheller, do you agree with that, that you don't hear any particular economic ideas out of Trump that resonate with some voters?
SHELLER: We do have a blue-collar demographic in Ohio that that message appeals to, but I agree with Cindi. I think when I look at our letters to the editor and the people who call me, it's that frustration with the system that comes through loud and clear.
SIEGEL: Well, in Washington, we've had great partisan hostility between the Obama administration and the Republican majorities in Congress. Is the message that that kind of block everything; block the Supreme Court nominees; block the administration's spending - does that work, or should the Republican Party just as a tactical matter say, no we're going to be more compromising legislators in Washington? What do you think about that orientation?
SHELLER: What we have is an American electorate that is divided right down the middle. And so that electorate puts a Democrat in the White House and then hands a majority in Congress to the Republicans. It's almost as if the American people want gridlock. This election to me crystallizes that basic divide.
SIEGEL: Well, let me put two interpretations to both of you, and I want to hear which one makes more sense to you. Trump is an individual who happens to have contributed an odd twist to the plot this year, or America is changing, and he's reflecting that change.
SHELLER: Well, I think Trump is a demagogue. He has appealed to fear and xenophobia. So I tend to think that he's a flash in the pan. But I do wonder, if he loses the election, where do those Trump supporters end up?
SIEGEL: Cindi Andrews?
ANDREWS: I don't think he's a flash in the pan. I don't think in six months we'll be saying, Trump who? But does the Republican Party itself actually change? I mean the populist sentiment that he's tapped into is not really what I consider to be traditional Republican values. I kind of wonder at what point party leaders and particularly party donors say, wait; this isn't what we're about.
SIEGEL: But when you speak of Republicans who should say, this isn't what we're all about, I mean one can take a couple of inferences from that statement. One is, well, we've done so badly this way; we'd better get back to what we've always been all about. Or two - wait a minute; maybe we shouldn't be what we've been all about in the past. Maybe it's time for us to change on some basic scores. I don't hear you saying that.
SHELLER: If the Republican Party decides to be the party of Trump, there are going to be a lot of Republicans who leave the Republican Party. Where do they go? I don't know where your traditional, conventional Republican finds a new home if Trump is the leader of the party.
ANDREWS: The other issue about that is the changing demographics of the country. A lot of the Trump supporters are older. They're whiter than the direction that the country is headed as a whole. I don't know that that's a winning strategy for a party going forward and especially if they lose badly this year.
SIEGEL: Is it clear that the Republican Party as an institution survives this year? (Laughter) I mean are we thinking of splits? Do you imagine such dramatic developments as that, either of you?
SHELLER: You know, parties go through these evolutions. It doesn't happen often in American politics, but sometimes their coalitions come apart at the seams. You know, you see a new version of an old party that loses some of its subdivisions because they can no longer coexist under that big tent. And I would not be surprised at all if something like that results from this election.
SIEGEL: Glenn Sheller of The Columbus Dispatch and Cindi Andrews of the Cincinnati Enquirer, thanks to both of you.
SHELLER: Thank you.
ANDREWS: Thank you.
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