Four years ago, after Bill O’Reilly race trolled the world by saying that the only reason Mitt Romney didn’t win was that there weren’t enough “traditional Americans,” I set my lilly-white Mayflower-descended butt to writing that nope, y’all got some structural issues and it ain’t a lack of white people. I made a forecast – either the Republican Party strategically widen their scope to include people who believe in math and science and history and decency, or they would perish.
The election is five weeks away, but last night I realized that the ascendancy of Trump, even though it might be close in the polls, is the sign that the GOP is over. There is still a lot of noise and activity, but it’s no more a functioning political party than Syria is a nation at the UN. It’s a failed state with a group of radicals who have seized the radio towers and threw up a new flag.
What is left of the Republican Party that it used to cherish?
I’m in my early 40s, which means I’ve been hearing the Republican Party’s messaging for four straight decades.
The last twenty years have been particularly focused on “family values,” and a pretty strict version of same: one spouse, no divorce, no pre-marital sex, no sex education. Not a sane version of what makes a healthy family, but pretty clear messaging nevertheless.
Now, their standard bearer is a dude with three marriages, kids from different women, and the closest they come to scolding about family issues is hinting that they really want to – in case you hadn’t heard SHHH – point out in public…soon! that Bill Clinton got blown by an intern. Twenty years ago. So…family values platform, not so much.
Respect for the military – that was always a big one. And in the 20th Century, the party of Lincoln gave us Five-Star General, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who beat the damn Nazis.
The party also promoted Navy Commander O-5 Richard Milhouse Nixon, who served during World War II in the South Pacific, to the highest office in the land.
He was immediately followed by Navy Lieutenant Commander Gerald Ford, decorated for his service in the South Pacific as well.
Ronald Reagan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1937, but due to his poor eyesight he never deployed overseas for WWII, instead making 400 training films for the armed services.
George HW Bush went straight from Phillips Academy to become the youngest naval aviator in history at age 18, going on to meritorious service in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Trump got himself exempted from service due to sore feet, and dishonors Gold Star parents because he doesn’t think they have the right to talk back to a presidential candidate famous for real estate development and reality TV. He also plans to order the military to commit war crimes of torture and pillage. So…respect for the military, not so much.
Paragons of success were always big carriers of the Republican brand. Reagan was supremely successful in the film business and politics, respected on both sides of the aisle. I mean, the guy carried California, if you remember when it wasn’t just a sure-thing Blue State.
Poppy Bush: millionaire by 40, Congressman, diplomat, spy master, and excellent president.
George W. was…well, the guy should have been baseball commissioner…moving on.
McCain survived what almost none of us could and thrived in way that defies belief following such trauma.
And Romney, say what you will about Bain Capital’s ethics, the homeboy got shit done. Saved the Olympics. Got Massachusetts the pre-cursor to the ACA. Would have been a fine president.
We’ve now got a six-time bankruptcy veteran who’s followed by a riptide of lawsuits for flimflammery. Claims every time he loses – which is a lot – the Whole Thing Was Rigged Against Him. So…success, not so much.
I guess overall, what I associated with the Republicans was dignity. The Democrats have been the ones agitating, fighting for labor and the little guy and new rights. They’re messy, arguing in public like the buncha philosophy and comparative lit professors that actually make up a lot of the party. A joyous shitshow with a big tent pushing us, usually reluctantly, in the right direction of history. The Republicans have been the guys in suits who Know How Things Work and go, “Hold on now. Let’s not get crazy.” Actually, as a binary dynamic, it’s a pretty good one – push and pull, progress and tradition, speed and friction. The Republicans were supposed to be the stoic, dignified, traditional anchor of America, and even when caught for some nasty shit (looking at you, Mr. Nixon) they took a knee without reducing America any further.
Now, we have the least dignified public figure in our history. I can’t even bear to recap, because you know there will be twenty new outrages by the time you finish this.
Bottom line, there’s this thing, it’s called the Republican Party – but it ain’t. The only guiding principle this new thing has is white supremacy, plainly evident by the new people running the joint and the freak show that is excitedly emerging into the mainstream at their behest. But it’s no more the GOP than Aleppo is a city in Syria. All we see left is wreckage. And we need something better. We need a second political party to counter the excesses of the Democrats, and there are plenty.
But that will need to be for a future election. For now, this is all that remains.