A Liberal Asks: Should the GOP Be Saved?


Back in March, I wrote a column about the stark choices facing the Republican Party as it searched for a nominee. I’m a liberal, but I shared some thoughts on what they could do to walk everything back before Donald Trump became the new face of their party. As we all know, they didn’t take my advice.

Now as we approach the fall, no matter how they try to spin it, the GOP is in a chaotic hell spiral of their own devising. They can downplay, obfuscate and defend their nominee through gritted teeth all they want, but I’d bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket that the great majority of Republican party operatives are privately tearing their hair out. Actually, not so privately anymore. And you know what? They should tear their hair out. And they have no one to blame but themselves.

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I assume that most GOP politicians are quietly ceding the 2016 presidential election in their minds and just praying with all of their might that the Sforza-esque-animated-corpse-come-to-life that is their nominee won’t effect down-ticket races too badly. They do still have options that could save the party, if not themselves, if they’re courageous enough to embrace them. But that window is rapidly closing.

If Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have even the remotest iota of hope to salvage the burning remnants of their party, it is time for them to come out in full force against their laughing-stock of a nominee. If they can’t bring themselves to do it for the political future of their party, they must find it in themselves to do it as human beings. Donald Trump will lose. If they don’t repudiate him and the racist, misogynist, isolationist vitriol Trump spews on a daily basis, then Ryan and McConnell are saying to millions of Americans — especially the ever-elusive, young independent voter without which no party can hope to effectively govern — that this is what their party stands for. Not that the Republican Party has been in any rush to reflect the sensibilities of those ever-elusive, young independent voters in the first place. Not when they’re so busy confirming that bigotry, sexism, narcissism and grade-school bullying tactics are good enough for the party of Lincoln.

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Despite my liberalism, I tend to write more about Republicans and their politics than about Democrats and their politics. It’s interesting: even with everything melting down so dramatically all around them, I still can’t put my finger on the current climate of my least favorite political party. While I disagree with almost all of Speaker Ryan’s politics, I also think he’s a relatively smart guy (despite his loss of dignity) and, no matter what else we may think of him, he is the presumptive face of his generation of the GOP. I cannot imagine that he agrees with most of what gluts forth from the vomit Pez-head that stands as his party’s nominee, and, over the long term, he may pay a steep price for it:

When Ryan began his Trumpian odyssey, he gave cover to Republicans who wanted to resist Trump. But today, as Ryan issues his demurrals about Judge Curiel or the Khan family or whatever other outrage Trump has uttered — yet refuses to withdraw his endorsement—he has become part of the structure that keeps wavering Republicans from leaving Trump.

I’m not as surprised about McConnell, who always places politics and power above anything remotely resembling morality. (I’ve promised CFR founder Leonard Jacobs a scathing takedown of that turtle-standing-on-two-bear-cubs for awhile now, and I promise to get to it soon.)

If the GOP’s leaders don’t stand against the fetid downwind of Trump’s bloviating insult geyser, the party is sunk. As the nation becomes more socially progressive and as young people have more access to information, the aw-shucks, country-first nationalism that the Republican Party has stood for since President Reagan was already a hard sell. If the GOP embraces (or tacitly allows) racism, sexism and ignorance to this extreme through this presidential election, they have ceded any right to a substantive contribution to the national conversation. They spoke a lot about self-examination after their whupping in 2012; if this is the result, then it’s not a question of whether they should pack it up and go home but when. The leaders of one of two most enduring political parties in American history must decide if their viability as a player in the nation’s political future, and in the ideals they once stood for, outweigh their narcissistic need to appear united. If those questions are not their primary focus, the Democrats will do more than win: they will become our only major political party of note.

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This should make my liberal heart sing, but it doesn’t. It isn’t good for America. Believe it or not, divisive politics are good, to an extent. They are good for the country when they are well-informed, respectful, articulate and understanding the truism that smart people can disagree about the roles of government and social services, which is what it’s supposed to be about. I long for a smart, respectful Republican Party that can fight me tooth and nail without devolving into name-calling, fear-baiting and downright propaganda.

Hopefully the GOP longs for that, too, and can crawl its way out of the abyss to rejoin us in the realm of reasonable people.