I think we can safely stop referring to the Republican party as the Grand Old Party, or GOP for short. The events of yesterday made it painfully clear that the operative new acronym for the Republican party should be the TPP, or Trump’s Personal Playtoy.
No, I am not saying that the Republican party as an organ is dead. That name will continue on into the future indefinitely, but as the timeless question asks, “What’s in a name?” No, Trump did not “kill” the GOP, although it has been stumbling around with more arrows in it than Boromir’s death scene in “The Lord of the Rings” for a long time now. Trump just came along with his trusty crossbow and fired the coup de grace.
Republican politicians also love to refer to the Republican party as the “party of Lincoln.” During an election cycle, poor Abraham Lincoln must think he’s a rotisserie chicken, turning over and over in his grave every time that phrase comes out of a GOP mouth. The Republican party stopped being the party of Lincoln when they sold their souls by switching over to the racist “southern strategy” in the late 1960’s, when they swooped in like vultures to scoop up the angry white southern voters that first Kennedy, and then Johnson had alienated. And while the Republican party basically condoned inequality, misogyny, and racism, they successfully kept it in the dark, under a bushel basket, and created a palatable public persona. Trump stepped in front of a microphone in a spotlight, and bellowed out “Fuck you! We’re bigots!”
But the “traditional” Republican party that we all grew up with, and came to know, is no more. Paul Ryan’s decision to not seek another term, like the retirements of mainstream stalwarts like Charlie Dent of PA, and Bob Corker of TN demonstrates that the traditional Republican party has ceased to exist, and incumbents who are faithful to it now realize that there is no place in the party for them. Personal loyalty to Trump now overrides loyalty to the principles of the party itself, as well as overriding the loyalty to the country, and to their own oaths of office.
There is nothing new about a President or Presidential candidate being the head of the party. In both the Democratic and Republican parties, the nominee becomes the de facto leader of the party upon his or her formal nomination. And if the candidate wins and becomes President, of course he or she is the head of the party, hell, they’re the head of the country, so why not?
But here’s where the orc Trump clomped up and fired the fatal arrow into Boromir. In either party, when a candidate loses, or the President leaves office, a new leader takes over the party. One of the current sources of great hand wringing in the Democratic party is who is going to step up and take the mantle of leader of the party that Barack Obama vacated.
There is a very simple reason for this usually orderly, but sometimes messy transition of power. It’s because all of the candidates and Presidents, regardless of party, are all creatures of the party. They came up in the party, signed on to the principles and tenets that the party itself holds dear, and they run on, and if elected, govern on those principles. The eventual transition from one leader to another is the political “circle of life.”
This is most definitely not true with one Donald John Trump. Donald Trump doesn’t have a Republican bone in his body, and he doesn’t ideologically believe in or stand for one truly Republican principle. Donald Trump does not “believe” in the Republican party. Remember, back in the 2016 campaign, Trump actually threatened to bolt the GOP, and take his rabid supporters with him if the national party did not surrender to his demands. To their eternal shame, the RNC capitulated, and in doing so lost their soul. Donald Trump believes in and stands for one thing, and one thing only, the enrichment and self aggrandizement of Donald Trump. This is why he never even thought twice about asking James Comey to pledge personal fealty to Donald Trump, and fired him when he declined to give it.
So Riddler, riddle me this. When Trump vacates the Oval Office, whether it’s in 2019, 2020, 2024, or any point in between, who replaces him as the “leader” of the Republican party? It won’t be a “moderate” Republican, for two reasons. One, there won’t be any nationally respected moderate Republicans in the party anymore, they’re all either already fleeing for the life rafts, or will likely go down in either the primaries or the 2018 general election. And two, even if a moderate Republican tried to step up, where is his constituency? Moderate Republican constituents are running like a herd of gazelles when a cheetah comes out of the brush, and Trump has so totally tarred the reputation of the party that even a “true” Republican like a Flake or a Sasse won’t be able to lure them back. Only card carrying Trombies like Tom Cotton or Marsha Blackburn will be qualified for leadership roles.
This is how Trumpenstein is literally turning the Republican party into a banana republic party. In the United States, the party exists as an independent entity, candidates run as faithful representatives of that party. In a banana republic, the party is created by, inherited, or taken over by a strong man. It serves one purpose only, to further the greed, prejudices, and wishes of it’s leader. Trump has been trying to do this from the start, and the fact that long established, supposedly “safe” incumbents are taking a powder is all the evidence we need that Trump has succeeded in his purge, the Republican party is now nothing but another satellite of the Trump organization.
Oh, to be sure, the name “Republican Party” will continue to appear on ballots nationwide into the foreseeable future. But it will no longer be the familiar, “traditional” Republican party as we have come to know it. And once Trump finally departs the scene, it will be fascinating to see what the party morphs into next. Whatever it is, it will be noticeably smaller. A large portion of Trump’s base was activated and motivated by Trump. Trump is a one trick pony, and after he’s gone, there is nobody in the party that can capture his magic, his basest supporters will crawl back under their rocks. The spell will have been broken.
The god news is that there are many more true “conservatives” than there are Trombies. They will not remain adrift and homeless forever. It will take a while, but another mainstream conservative party, maybe something like the American Conservative Party will rise from the ashes. One of the reasons that after 242 years we are still a constitutional democracy, and not a parliamentary system of government, is that we are inherently a two party system, liberal and conservative, the Green party and the Libertarians are living proof of that. We have lost the Federalists, the Whigs, the Mugwumps, and the Know Nothings. If the Republican party ceases to represent the majority of conservative Americans, another party will come along to replace it. Our national refusal to acknowledge one “Supreme Ruler” will not desert us.