In 1984, my first-grade class held a mock Presidential election and I proudly voted for Ronald Reagan. I was a naïve six-year-old, who would understand much later that the policies of the former actor and California Governor wreaked havoc on giant swaths of the nation, its economy and a number of minority groups (African-Americans, LGBT). But there was something about Reagan, at least when he spoke, that seemed so cuddly and likable, America’s kindly grandfather. That was more than enough to sway the allegiance of bomb drill-raised school girl toward the end of the Cold War.
In 1988, I had nothing for Michael Dukakis either. The Yuppie Decade was a rough one for Democrats, devoid of both charm and mainstream support. I still consider George H.W. Bush the best Republican POTUS of my lifetime and could I have voted at 10 years old, Poppy Bush would have been my pick. As a leader, he made tough choices about war and taxation. He could be gruff and certainly lacked the charisma of his predecessor, but Bush the first is a decent man, uncompromising in his moral code. His refusal to endorse Trump under any circumstances is a testament to character.
By the time Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America” built its entire 1990s agenda upon government shutdowns and Clinton administration witch hunts, whatever was left of the rational right had started to give way. Pandering to the base, legislative obstruction and intransigence took the place of responsible, bipartisan governance. As Democrats claimed the electable center, the decay of the once-viable RNC fermented into liquefaction under the leadership of George W. Bush and his budget-busting, war mongering, one-percent favoring agenda.
As a vocal, politically active undergraduate college student approaching the new millennium, some peers began to label me a “radical.” But it’s not I who was radicalized. Nor was it the droves of citizens and pundits who wonder today about the sanity of half of our two-party system. In May, Daniel Larison of The American Conservative published [George W.] Bush Wrecked the GOP Long Before Trump Appeared. Though I’d place the beginning of the end much earlier on the historical spectrum, Larison’s argument is well heeded:
“It will unfortunately take more than one defeat in the presidential primaries in one year to make sure that Bushism is thoroughly driven out of the GOP for good. While its supporters didn’t have much luck at the polls this year, Bushism continues to be well-represented among the party’s elected officials and pundits, and for all their theatrical declarations about the GOP’s death right now almost all of them will remain in the party and continue to have their baleful influence on it.”
The absolutely pathetic Republican showings in the 2008 and 2012 national elections are on track to be a source of GOP wistfulness this year, as numerous polls show Hillary Clinton set to trounce Donald Trump. As of this morning, The New York Times has the former Secretary of State at an 87 percent November victory likelihood. Memories of the electoral disappointments of 2000 and 2004 prevent relaxed exhalation but given the Republican nominee’s post-convention nose dive and Clinton’s stellar debate skills (if there are, in fact, debates), there’s reason to believe we’ll get through this without a President Trump.
But what will be left of the Republican Party? I don’t pose this rhetorical question as an exercise in schadenfreude. I happen to agree with President Obama, who said in June:
“I am worried about the Republican Party. Democracy works, this country works, when you have two parties that are serious and try to solve problems…at the end of the day, you want a healthy two-party system. You want the Republican nominee to be somebody who could do the job if he wins.”
It’s hard to fathom now, but we enjoyed a relatively long 20th Century stretch where genuine platform and policy agreements co-existed alongside the confidence that everyone running for highest office passed the mental competency test. Do you hear me Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and every other Republican coward putting party before country? THE EMPEROR IS WEARING NO CLOTHES! Paul Thornton wrote an Op-Ed this week for The Los Angeles Times. Appropriately titled, It Isn’t Enough for Republicans to Repudiate Donald Trump, he placed Republican Senator Susan Collins’ rejection of Trumpism within the following context:
“Such a recitation of grievances this late in the campaign — after the country has been tormented for more than a year by the very real possibility that a hateful authoritarian will succeed Barack Obama as president — would earn your [regular] Uncle Joe no points for morality or bravery. You’d stop listening to the political ramblings of someone who couldn’t long ago identify the existential threat to our democracy (and probably the world order) that a Trump administration posed.”
Yes. Disdain for the modern Republican Party, with particular revulsion at the cynicism evident in this election cycle, does not equate to general hatred for conservativism. It is working form, it’s a necessary counterbalance to the anarchistic tendencies of the far left. But this? Let’s stop pretending there’s anything normal or tolerable about a man who encourages physical violence against his opponent, invites international espionage to gain electoral advantage and disparages just about every non-white, female, non-Christian demographic in existence.
I’ll finish this rant with one final quote from The New York Times Editorial Board, published earlier this week. In Further Into the Muck With Mr. Trump, the members conclude:
“Seldom, if ever, have Americans been exposed to a candidate so willing to descend to the depths of bigotry and intolerance as Mr. Trump. That he would make Tuesday’s comment amid sinking poll numbers and a wave of Republican defections suggests that when bathed in the adulation of a crowd, Mr. Trump is unable to control himself…The time has come for Republicans…to repudiate Mr. Trump once and for all.”
Help voters help you regain some semblance of political sustainability, GOP. Stop this now.