"When the head of the Ku Klux Klan"comes out in favor of the candidate of my party, either they are not Republicans or I'm not" -- from "Confessions of a Republican ," a 1964 anti-Barry Goldwater political ad
It happened in the days leading up to this month's Republican Wisconsin primaries, a perhaps life, or death point in time for the GOP which in 1855, was born -- aptly it now seems -- in a little white schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin. In prepping for this article I Google-imaged the phrase: "GOP demise." The first photo that popped up was of Donald Trump wearing a white hood....I mean "cap" emblazoned with his tired misnomer, "Make America Great Again."
The guess here is that any individual American whose concern for this country's greatness comes equipped with a built-in bullshit detector, would likely view that search outcome as easily predictable, but still worthy of serious contemplation -- at least for a moment.
But for the masses of so-called "establishment" Republicans now stressing over their Party's current image and future viability, the thought of a rabble-rousing carnival-barker like Trump appearing as the top result of that random Google search requires a much lengthier period of scrutiny. In this instance, Trump's orange-hued visage comes out on top of the wrong kind of poll; one that hints of demise. And so, it's easy to assume that a truly introspective Republican would interpret the result of that image query as a kind of creepy "canary-in-the-coal-mine" moment; an illustration of ominously prescient symbolism that feeds an increasing anxiety directly related to Trump's presence in their Party.
Without question that anxiety is raised by the suggestion that because of Trump, the Republican Party is sinking in demise so potentially wide-ranging that it portends of something far worse than just a temporary slump. The whispers are becoming deafening, and they speak of total extinction; the Death of the Party.
Life of the Party?
Of late, it's become far easier for the GOP to deny climate change than to deny the changes that have heated its own political environment to extinction-level proportions. Both sides -- the anti-Trump establishment and pro-Trump outsiders -- are equally fanatical in the belief in their cause, and immovably absolute in the naked contempt they hold for that of the other's. On one end there's Trump, who --ginned up by an uptick in GOP voter participation and packed campaign rallies -- literally sees himself as the new "Life of the Party." While on the other are the establishment Republicans who view him as breathing new life into a failed political agenda from which the GOP had planned on distancing itself.
A report released last December by the non-partisan Center for American Progress provides a basic summary of the political realities which hurt the GOP in 2012 and from which the Party's establishment had hoped to start moving away as 2016 drew near. In part it reads:
"The main challenges for Republicans in 2016 are twofold: first, an overreliance on white votes at the expense of building a broader demographic coalition in battleground states and, second, an agenda and political tone that is too conservative and exclusionary for a national electorate."
The Center's assessment essentially mirrors the findings of a similar evaluation -- commissioned in 2013 by the Republican National Committee and characterized as an "autopsy" -- of the GOP's 2012 defeat. Together they strongly suggests that the GOP cannot survive as a viable national party as long as its focus remains on wooing the type of voter who is attracted to the kind of messages delivered by candidates like Trump. After the calamity of 2012, this reality started to become more widely accepted within GOP circles. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, began warning that the Party's core voter bloc is losing a demographic race to an invincible foe -- geriatrics.
"We are not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term," Graham conceded back in 2012. Incidentally, Graham's acknowledgement came on the heels of a confrontation during that year's GOP Convention that could be interpreted as a preview of the stuff that's been going on at today's Trump rallies. That 2012 incident involved a black CNN camerawoman who had been pelted with peanuts at the convention as she was told: "This is how we feed the animals."
That was then and -- as illustrated by the racially-charged nature of Trump's rallies, where punches not peanuts are being thrown -- things have obviously gotten much worse. Indeed, rather than considering the warnings about xenophobia and divisive rhetoric, Trump seems to have fashioned them into the blueprint for running his campaign.
In terms of his standing with, and impact on, the GOP, Donald Trump symbolizes the privileged Frat House member who refuses to follow the rules. He's the one who undermines Frat House leadership, disparages fellow members, backstabs others, pits frat boy against frat boy, and brings such a ruckus to Frat House meetings that they often explode in temper and bloody violence. Few organizations could survive in an environment of such insufferable conduct and Frat House's leaders would likely conclude that there is no basis to further acquiesce the troublemaker's membership.
Such is the case with Trump. Therefore, what the GOP needs to do -- without negotiation, pretense, subtle coercion, trade-off, or any form of political bribery -- is handle its Trump problem by the same manner in which Trump handles troublemakers at his rallies. As Trump would say; "Get him out!" At this point it's all but inarguable; for the sake of both its survival and the resurrection of its brand, the GOP must carry out an immediate, complete, wholly transparent, and fully prejudicial purge from their Party of Donald Trump.