To many, including several writers here, the Republican Party is “dead.” To others, it “died” a long time ago when it ceased being a voice for conservative values that stressed the individual and families. It is true that we have nominated and elected candidates who paid lip service to these values, but governed much differently.
In a certain perverted way, Donald Trump did the Republican Party a favor by revealing weaknesses in ideology, messaging and the nominating process. In previous entries I argued that direct democracy need not be the sole criteria by which a nominee is chosen. Political parties are, in effect, closed organizations. There are no constitutional mandates on how candidates are chosen. To the extent “democracy” is injected into the process, having closed primaries would, I believe, go a long way to legitimizing the ultimate nominee. At least Republicans and ONLY Republicans would have a say in who that nominee is in the end.
He also did the Party a favor by highlighting the ideological rifts within it. In many respects, the GOP is actually broader-based, ideologically-speaking, than the Democratic Party. They basically have socialism and socialism-lite. There are more factions within the GOP- libertarians, big business interests, Tea Partiers, evangelicals, etc. There is no reason that the GOP cannot accommodate all and advance an agenda where interests intersect.
Whether it was his ignorance of David Duke or his veiled remarks, Trump brought out a sinister element- racists and white nationalists. Neither should have a place within a new Republican Party. Lest we forget, it was the Democratic Party that once housed the Ku Klux Klan and who thwarted civil rights legislation. Let them return there since the Democratic Party is the perfect home for identity politics historically and presently.
Unlike many, I view the Trump candidacy as a perfect opportunity to rebuild the Republican Party and the conservative brand…if they really want to. The next head of the RNC- Reince Priebus is out one way or the other- has a huge task ahead of them. Who that will be is a big indication of that resolve.
What I find most disturbing and disheartening is that this campaign season started out with so much promise for the Republican Party. There was history and a terrible candidate on the other side. A deep bench put up 17 candidates which, quite frankly, was an unruly situation where the bully in the class drowned out the more rational actors. But, that promise was wasted amid a chorus of personal insults over faces, hairstyles, and hand sizes.
As a result we got a candidate totally devoid of ideological principle of any kind whatsoever, and even less in the way of true policy other than broad catch phrases. We got a candidate that may quite likely be mentally ill and who speaks on a third to fifth grade level. When I say “we,” I mean the approximately 58-60% of primary voters who did not vote for Trump.
Trump has said that he hopes to transform the GOP into a “worker’s party.” That smacks of socialism, although that may not be his intentions in the technical sense…or maybe it is; you just don’t know with him. NO! It must be a party of the individual and the family who may be a worker or a single mother or a married couple or a Latino or an African-American. A new GOP must speak to the individual/family and how Republican ideals and policy solutions will help them, improve their lot in life, provide choice in education and health care and other areas, and how it is superior to the alternative.
Above all else, the Republican Party must restore that belief in the American dream, of American greatness and exceptionalism despite its problems and warts, and in optimism for the future. Eight years of Obama has widened the wage gap like no president before him. Poverty rates are higher than eight years ago. Perhaps the investor class has made out well, but Democratic policies actually thwart and retard more entrants into that class. Obama laid the groundwork of pessimism that allowed for a Donald Trump to seize the moment. A new GOP would do itself a great service to read de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, the speeches of Ronald Reagan, and the intellectual writings of William Buckley. That is the starting point for a new GOP and the answer was there all along.
The Republican Party is not dead, but unless changes are made, it will be inconsequential. This is a unique opportunity to get things right. The GOP has survived previous relegation to obscurity and electoral failure. It will survive 2016. Ironically, to survive it must cede the Presidency because a President Trump will cause irreparable damage and then it just may be dead.