The Republican party is melting down and I would caution Americans who identify as Republican to take the time and effort to understand why. This trainwreck didn’t just happen–it was the end result of actions put into place decades ago…
In its simplest form, modern Republican conservatism was traditionally about less federal involvement in the states and corporations, and minimizing government spending (small government vs big government). During the Reagan era, Republicans embraced the idea of trickle-down economics and solidified themselves into protectors of the extremely wealthy, simultaneously supporting decreases in government spending on government subsidized facilities such as mental health hospitals, orphanages, etc. to offset the tax cuts Reagan gave to stimulate the economy. Reagonomics was a rocky road–while many people improved financially, the rich got richer and many, many Americans became disenfranchised due to a loss of government facilities and support. Further, the federal deficit grew from the billions to the trillions. Republican politicians new they would need more than the wealthy vote to maintain power, so they bolstered efforts to cultivate a larger voting base. They did this in two ways: anti-intellectualism and embracing “conservative values”. This is where the slippery slope begins, folks. They linked intellectualism to liberalism. They charged the media with being inherently biased (as intellectual liberals). They used vitriol and vehemence to emotionally appeal to white, evangelical Christians, not caring that they had no plan or process to back up their positions. They preyed on the uneducated, knowing they wouldn’t ask the right questions. Out of this, they gave birth to the Religious Right–a mixed bag of wealth, fundamentalism, bigotry and, above all else, an abhorrence toward critical thinking. They have nurtured a culture of blame. Blame immigrants, foreign countries, gays, blacks, Muslims, liberals–anyone different from yourself. Blame the President, but don’t look behind the curtain at the Republican controlled Congress that grid-locked the entire system. Perhaps, worst of all, they have preyed on those who have suffered from the recessions and the shifting economic landscape. They stir them up promising them they will bring their jobs back without truly talking about the realities of globalization and technological advancement–that it is here to stay and that we, as a people, must adapt and retool to find our place in this new world. Instead they encourage outrage, entitlement, and the lamentation of change without looking to viable solutions. They have floated obviously unintelligent people to champion their message such as Dan Quayle, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin and, now, Donald Trump. Perhaps, they did not think he would win the primary. Perhaps they thought they would be able to control him. Most likely, they just underestimated the chaos they had nurtured in their Republican constituency. Through their efforts to lock in the adulation of the uneducated and moralistic right wingers, they had unwittingly set the stage for Trump and opened Pandora’s box, out of which is climbing the absolute worst representations of the American people, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who insist that Trump’s people are their people. They believe that Trump’s popularity is a signal that the American people are primed to embrace their hate-filled beliefs.
Trump is the poster boy for authoritative speech without knowledge. Trump engages in vitriolic stump speeches devoid of of truth, evidence or intelligence, and, his followers rabidly sing his praises. From his first day in the primary, he has fearmongered, stirring up the people into a frenzy of isolationism, bigotry, misogyny and divisiveness. As his speeches, interviews and tweets become increasingly absurd-even dangerous, Republican leaders scramble to distance themselves from him, terrified that they will be forever branded by his persona. Other Republicans are terrified not to support him because they fear losing their own down ticket races. The entire party is careening out of control because they essentially chummed the waters and then let loose a dangerously unqualified and irresponsible candidate. The strategy they used to secure a consistent voting base backfired “Big League” because anti-intellectualism is actually a tenant of facism. Further, fascist regimes rise to power through propaganda, emotional/moralistic appeal, and instilling in their followers that they must protect against progressive change at all costs. Facists wield and exploit paranoia as a tool against potential detractors such as the media and academia. The Republican leaders of the past few decades would have perhaps avoided this catastrophic situation if they had been better educated in political and social philosophy.
So, what can be done now? I am not a Republican, but I believe bi-partisanship is a necessary apparatus to our political system. I think they must fully denounce Donald Trump and make it clear to their constituents exactly why he is not their standard-bearer. They need to accept their losses, own their mistakes, and reform the party. They need to drastically pivot their path away from this trajectory that has set the stage for fascist ideologies to take hold. The Republican Party may have imploded, but it is their responsibility to make sure America is not destroyed along with it.