The GOP Death Spiral

Deval Patrick saw this coming.

Back in August 2006, the former Clinton Administration official, then running to become the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, denounced the right wing’s delegitimization of public service, and the need for the Democratic Party to forcefully call out and push back against this sort of delegitimization:

I thought about Patrick’s remarks this morning when I heard veteran GOP political consultant Steve Schmidt denounce his party’s “intellectual rot,” and the role that “rot” played in the rise of Donald Trump. Sadly, that “intellectual rot” will not go away even if Trump loses in an Electoral College landslide on November 8.

The Republican Party will not be able to reform in the aftermath of a Trump loss because it cannot reform. It structurally cannot change, because the views of its base will not change. It is entirely possible that in 2020, the party’s revanchist base will support a candidate even more racist, even more misogynist, even more vile than Trump.

The illusion that the United States will have two non-dysfunctional political parties in the near future should have been destroyed by the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showing that the vast majority of GOP voters simply do not care about Trump’s, shall we say, gripping remarks from 2005. It’s tough for non-reactionary Americans to face the reality that many Republicans tacitly support Trump’s vicious views. Yet, the rational mind must conclude that the GOP is indeed the Party of Trump, and that this reality will not change even if he’s conquered by Clinton.

There is a noble ideal, a quaint vision, in the minds of many non-reactionary Americans, a desire to once again have polite and civil conversations across partisan lines. However, that ideal is clearly nothing more than a siren song–and listening to that song will lead one to crash upon the sharp rocks of political reality. The bitter truth, exposed by Trump since the first day of his campaign, is that the Republican Party is now largely comprised of those who believe Brown v. Board of Education was wrongly decided…who believe the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were unconstitutional…who believe landlords and hotels and restaurants have a God-given right to exclude people of color…who believe Ted Landsmark got what he deserved in front of Boston City Hall Plaza 40 years ago.

Did you watch CNN this morning? Did you see the Republicans chanting “USA” over Van Jones as he discussed Trump’s exploitation of the Central Park Five? Jones’s reply–that he was defending his country–was classic. The Party of Trump does not believe that black men, or women, or Muslims, or Latinos, or Asians can be patriots. They won’t stop believing that hooey even if Trump loses badly.

Conservative blogger James Joyner has suggested that it is somehow immoral to regard those who support the Party of Trump as a full basket of deplorables:

I’m amenable to arguments that Trump’s rise is at least partly rooted in the “Southern Strategy” and related attempts by previous Republican nominees to appeal to the baser instincts of disaffected rural whites. But the notion that Trump is simply Mitt Romney or George W. Bush without a filter is not only absurd, it’s decidedly unhelpful in persuading Republican leaners…The version coming from the right—and especially from Trump and his most ardent supporters—is far more sinister and noxious than that coming from the even the Bernie Sanders die-hards, much less the relatively Establishment Clinton quarter. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t real danger in writing off Trump’s supporters as simply racists, misogynists, and morons.

Joyner is deeply wrong: the real danger is in not stating, for the moral record, that anyone who supports a candidate who is a racist and a misogynist is aiding and abetting the rise to power of a profoundly destructive force in our politics. There are times when clear moral lines have to be drawn in the name of protecting and preserving democracy. This is one of those times.

Will the Republican Party ever reform and become an inclusive, rational, policy-based party? It might happen one day. The sun might rise in the West one day, too.

President Obama denounces Trump’s “insecurity,” October 9, 2016.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.