In the spring of 2013, months after President Barack Obama dispatched Republican Mitt Romney to win a second term, the GOP decided to do some soul searching. The RNC produced an exhaustive autopsy of what went wrong and concluded that, among other things, the party had to be better on immigration, to stop being the party of rich white dudes, and to work to meaningfully improve their relationship to minorities -- including those in the LGBT community.
“We have become expert at how to provide ideological information to like-minded people, but devastatingly, we have lost the ability to be persuasive with or welcoming to those who don’t agree with us on every issue,” said Sally Bradshaw, one of the co-authors of the study.
“Our standard should not be universal purity; it should be a more welcoming form of conservatism.”
But now, four years later, and with the Republican National Clusterfuck underway in Cleveland, the GOP has not only failed to address the issues the study showed had ruined them in the past two presidential elections -- it has doubled down on them. The GOP has put forth an agenda more exclusive and extreme than ever, become not less but more insular in its ideology, and thrown its weight -- however reluctantly at times -- behind one of the most dangerous demagogues in this nation’s history.
The GOP has lost its way. Once the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower, it is now the party of Trump and Cruz, virulent bigotry and unabashed selfishness and self-satisfied know-nothingness.
Once the party that stood in opposition to slavery, it is now the party of -- what exactly? The Republican agenda has -- in recent years -- been defined only by its reflexive opposition to Democrats, particularly President Obama. Things have gotten so dire, George W. Bush -- conspicuously absent from this year's convention -- reportedly told a group of former aides, "I'm worried that I will be the last Republican president."
This is devastating to the party. It not only appears likely that Hillary Clinton is going to give her opponent an unprecedented ass-whooping in November -- here’s hoping -- but it is also possible that the odium moderates and sane-republicans feel toward the cancerous GOP nominee will spread down the ballot as it becomes clear that their leaders’ allegiance to their party is greater than to their country (looking at you, Paul Ryan). The Republican Party is increasingly becoming a victim of basic math.
We need a strong, constructive republican party. Not just because there is value to many of the ideas, even if I don’t agree with them, but because the impotent, self-serving GOP of today mainstreams the nocuous fringe and renders millions of reasonable center-right Americans voiceless. Further, the increasing irrelevance of the GOP allows democrats to putter along unchallenged. What motivation does the party establishment -- pardon me, Establishment -- have to create a progressive agenda distinct from the republicans if they know that they can re-up their lease on the White House every four years more or less uncontested?
For now, the GOP is stuck with their morally- and intellectually-lacking platform and their shitty candidate’s barbarism. But they’ve got an important decision to make in November -- not at the polls, but once they close: Will they continue to beat a despicable path to nowhere, or will they take an honest look at themselves, as they claimed to do in 2012, and actually act on it by reforming their party?
Prognostications that the GOP could become extinct have become increasingly frequent among the chattering class -- and increasingly easy to imagine. And yet, even faced with their own demise, the party has so far refused to change. Maybe that’s to be expected from a group that routinely denies the science of climate change and whose spray-tanned face indulges every momentary whim at the expense of his long-term well-being, but it’s nevertheless disappointing.
It raises the question: If their own survival isn’t enough to spur a change in course, will anything?