WASHINGTON — This isn’t your father’s Republican Party. Well, at least it’s not the one my father belonged to.
His was far more inclusive and certainly progressive, and although he taught an adult Sunday Bible class, he never mixed his religion with politics nor tried to tell others how to live, as many current GOP adherents seem to do.
His one note of caution to those who asked was, “If you have to think about something very long, you probably shouldn’t do it.”
In the decades since Ronald Reagan, the Grand Old Party has become more fractured than at any other time in its modern history, and the discord has produced the possibility the party will choose yet again a candidate who will fail badly with voters. That’s what concerns the present party establishment as it strategizes how to stop a headlong rush by its angry voters toward what could be self-emulation — the nomination of Donald Trump or someone equally as unfit at a split convention next summer. How did this mess come about?
While the pundits intellectualize about the differences in approaches to conservatism during years of ideological warfare, the answer may be less complex. In fact, the emergence of the likes of Trump and other candidates on the party’s fringe speaks volumes about an electorate that is furious about all sorts of things, from immigration and taxes to a host of social issues that dominate attention. The fed-up element in the party is as potent as it has ever been and seems willing to do whatever it takes to turn things around … or backward, no matter how self-destructive.
These are voters who see the current president as the enemy of the state; who refuse to believe that climate change has anything to do with human behavior and oppose plans to lessen global warning ; who think America is only for those who got here first (Native Americans excepted of course); who would constitutionally disenfranchise babies born here of an undocumented parent but want absolutely no restriction on their Second Amendment rights to own or distribute battlefield firearms; who want to ban contraception and would deny women the right to terminate a pregnancy no matter how it came about, including incest and rape or a medical necessity.
These are people who don’t want to pay taxes much beyond what it costs to defend the nation and don’t care that many of those they elected to the Congress have signed a pledge to a lobbying group not to raise them under any circumstance, thereby nullifying their promise to represent all their fellow citizens.
These are “Christians” who want to set the standard for Christianity and to deny authenticity to those whose concepts aren’t theirs. Ban all Muslims, Trump urges, and his poll numbers grow. They would not offer shelter to those fleeing the devastation of war and insidious terror. Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, has said refugee Syrian families aren’t welcome in his state even though he has no constitutional authority to carry out the threat.
Well, it’s my state too, governor, for generations, and my father would have been appalled, being the good Republican he was.
The list of reasons the party of my father and my grandfather has gotten into a position that threatens it with irreparable harm is almost too long to cover in one column. The current Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and others who see Trump’s potential candidacy as suicidal reportedly have begun brainstorming how to head him off on the floor of the convention if necessary. It’s not too early to start making these plans, they believe, with good reason. As the first primaries approach, his threat grows closer to becoming a reality despite his outrageous comments and clear lack of qualifications.
There may be time to overcome the pending disaster, to bring some order out of the chaos and allow for the selection of a more mainstream candidate among the herd now running for the nomination, but it is a long shot that would require moderate Republicans to convince their radical brethren that resetting the clock to 1952 is not going to happen.
Republican voters in the primary states also would have to decide that, despite their unhappiness with the way things are being run, the path to the White House isn’t the one the radicals would have them travel.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: [email protected].
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