For the good of the country, for the good of the world, the Republican Party as it is currently configured needs to be destroyed. There are no caveats here. No “except for.” Any effort to delay a final trumping of the party is ill-founded. What has evolved over the last four decades or so has been a party that appeals to the dark side of U.S. politics and has cultivated an electoral base that is fighting tooth-and-nail to hold back the future.
The sky-is-falling panic that has gripped the Republican establishment and the conservative movement over the impending nomination of Donald Trump as the party’s standard bearer and 2016 presidential nominee is misguided. Trump is not the problem; trumpism is and will increasingly become so.
If Donald Trump dropped off the face of the earth today, the basic facts would not change. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, nor any other national Republican figure can – or want to – stem the tide of bigoted outrage that has gathered around Trump and defines today’s GOP. The hard and inconvenient truth is that the Republican electorate in significant numbers wants a candidate that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and war mongering. The polls show it. Certainly the votes show it. All three of the top remaining contenders – and throw Dr. Ben Carson in that pile – fit the profile.
Their voters, according to polls, believe in large numbers that Obama is a Muslim, that he was not born in the United States, think slavery should have continued, believe all Muslims are terrorists, think whites are more victims of racism than people of color, see homosexuality as a crime against nature and the bible, want the U.S. government to torture suspected terrorists, believe women should not have control over their bodies, and deny human-driven climate change as a fact. Who in the Republican Party has stood up against this wave rather than jump on it?
Trumps differs from Cruz and Rubio in degree and decorum, not in substance, not in policy, not in political opportunism. To the degree they do differ with Trump, as Cruz and Rubio have aggressively attempted to demonstrate, it is that they want to be seen as more extreme than he is on domestic, economic, and foreign policy.
While the party is willing (out of political desperation) to declare that there is no room in the GOP for Trump, it is not willing to say the same in clear, bold and unambiguous terms of his supporters. And neither are Cruz and Rubio. Where is the logic in calling Trump every name in the book and then saying you are willing to accept his supporters who essentially hold the same views? Where is the integrity in saying, as Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich did at the most recent debate, that they would support Trump if he is the nominee despite their characterization of him in the worst terms imaginable? So much for #nevertrump.
The country cannot move forward as long as the Republican Party remains and grows as a party of bigots, bullies and extremists. And that is exactly what it has become in the main. These tendencies are not just expressed in the name-calling, detention room atmosphere presidential race, but in Congress, governors’ mansions and state legislatures across the nation. Is Trump’s behavior more egregious than dozens of wasted votes to repeal or gut the Affordable Care Act or refusal to consider a nominee to the Supreme Court? Is Trump any worse than Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Maine’s Paul LaPage, Kansas’ Sam Brownback, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, or Indiana’s Mike Pence? It is a national surge of far-right Republicans that are launching policy bombs at working people, communities of color, the gay community, and women.
And there is a base of support for those views; one that is disproportionately white, male, lower educated, southern, and angry. Clearly, there are women and people of color who are in the party, but to be clear most adhere to the base principles that are now roiling the party. Can second-generation children of immigrants hold anti-immigrant views? Without a doubt. Can black Americans and Latino Americans sprout racist venom? Absolutely. Can women express sentiments that are against the interests of women? Uh, yeah. However, the multicolored and gendered diversity of Sen. Tim Scott, former Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. Nikki Haley and for that matter Cruz and Rubio, cannot conceal the deep contempt and rage that is rising from the GOP ground troops as manifest in Trump’s National Socialist-like rallies whose tone and actions make it likely that someone will be seriously injured or killed at one of his events. And the candidate seems more encouraging of such an outcome rather than a mitigating force.
The real conservatives in the party who want to focus on arguing conservative principles and policies that are not intolerant, extremist, and buffoonish should embrace the current chaos. A cleaning and splitting of the party is exactly what is needed.
The question is who will have the courage, likely to require sacrificing their political career, to stand up and call out not only Trump but Rubio and Cruz, and those in the party in Congress and at the state level who have actually passed and implemented discriminatory policies. It is difficult to see a difference between Trump’s mumbling position on David Duke and the KKK and the party’s all-out assault on voting rights, or Trump’s retrograde views on women and the effort by the party to close women’s health centers around the country, or Trump’s “ban all Muslims” and “build a wall” rhetoric from Cruz and Rubio’s battle over who is the most willing to go after immigrants.
Trump’s dip into Republican racial waters can be traced back and linked to Ronald Reagan and the escalation of Nixon’s “southern strategy” to woo racially-resentful white southerners to the GOP. On August 3, 1980, in the heat of the race for the presidency, Reagan spoke to 10,000 screaming whites at the Neshoba County Fair right outside of the town of Philadelphia famous for being the killing ground of three young civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. More than his full-throated endorsement of “states’ rights,” rightfully interpreted by many to mean support for white southern leaders to be allowed to implement segregation, was the symbolic nod to white nationalism that continues today.
But who in the party is speaking out against the forces showing up at Trump’s rallies? Who is calling out that part of the base that is edging toward violence? Who is willing to lose, nay, cast out those voters and supporters?
Former 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s parachuting in to call out Trump is a pathetic and empty effort at leadership that evades all the serious questions about where the party stands at this moment. And, despite all the vitriolic condemnation he threw at Trump, he stills prefers the billionaire plutocrat to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats and will ultimately support him as the nominee. The remarks by the 2008 nominee, Sen. John McCain, are equally discredited by his own role in building the current configuration of Republican politics. Beyond his unforgiveable role in delivering to the world the political catastrophe known as Sarah Palin, he, like Romney, sought Trump’s support without qualification during his campaign.
The best thing that could happen to the GOP and the nation is for the party not just to lose in the fall, but to lose big. Losing the White House, U.S. Senate, and multiple state and local offices would perhaps give some in the party the courage to either leave or fight for a political restructuring. To be honest, I am doubtful that even with a disastrous all-sided defeat that voices of moderation and tolerance can be heard above the din of recriminations that will surely follow especially given the current leadership as reflected in the swath of candidates who ran or are running in this year’s election.
There is every indication that the ugliness will continue and worsen. It is impossible to imagine that the attacks on the Democratic nominee will be genteel, mature, and civil. Trump is already laying out his hard case against Hilary Clinton, a fight that will degenerate to the lowest low despite the previous friendly relationship him and the Clintons. And he is aware that polls demonstrate that Bernie Sanders would clean his clock. Whether Trump becomes the nominee or not, the utter collapse of the GOP would be the best outcome of the 2016 election cycle.