Despite Republicans winning a majority in the House of Representatives, there has been plenty of unhappiness in the GOP camp because the majority they obtained was much smaller than they expected and they even lost a seat in the Senate. This has resulted in calls for a change in party leadership, with challenges to Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become speaker and to Ronna McDaniels efforts to be re-elected as the head of the Republican National Committee. Add to that the release of the report of the January 6th committee and their four criminal referrals of Donald Trump. The party leadership is clearly concerned that another erratic Trump run for president would lead to more losses, and their inability to do anything about it for fear of alienating the base that is devoted to him have all led to an image of a party in disarray.
This has led some commentators to declare that the party is dying, such as this essay by a disaffected Republican.
The Republican Party is terminally ill, and most of its voters are oblivious to this fact.
Taking a pre-mortem liberty with the five stages of grief, from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ “On Death and Dying” — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — what one will notice about Republican voters and elected officials is that they currently, and confusedly, occupy numerous stages.
Yes, we will continue to see Republican candidates, who will cite heroic dead presidents (but no living ones), and will prattle on with their usual myths (which I’ll get to in a moment).
But the GOP is a soon-to-be spectral political party. What rendered the party sickly beyond cure? Its illness are its politically traumatizing mythologies, as old as our country itself.
The author goes on to argue that they are likely to lose the presidency because they are alienating the moderate vote.
The irrefutable fact is: the Republican Party appealed (habitually, I talk of the party in the past tense) to those who think moving backward is moving forward. Whether that means looking to an imaginary version of 1776, the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy, the 1950s as America’s apogee of greatness or relitigating the 2020 election, the entire GOP product is backward-facing. I know this oh so well, having been politically traumatized myself, by the GOP’s offering; and having spent considerable time, for years, among similarly traumatized fellow Republicans, convinced I was one of the “real Americans” prepared to water the trees of liberty with the blood of my mortal enemies. Everyone had better understand what “make America great again” really means.
Though I will not excuse ignorance, politically traumatized Republicans have themselves been failed by the liars, grifters, carnival barkers, faux-constitutionalists and insurrectionary apologists they’ve supported — all because they were convinced that any Republican is always preferable to any Democrat. What a pathetic political life to lead; again, I once led such a life, enraptured by make-believe bogeymen, and can attest to its dehumanizing misery.
In 2024, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s third attempt to resurrect the “good ol’ days” will be met with the same nonviolent show of voter force he received in his second attempt. The GOP cannot vote its way out of its Trump problem, because no cult leaders ever willingly steps aside for another. (Lookin’ at you, Ronnie DeSantis!)
In Trump’s case, it goes even beyond the cult: He would burn his own nation to the ground to rule over the ashes.
I do not believe anyone who voted for Trump should be judged for doing so; and in a free society I do not believe voters need to defend their votes. But any Trump supporter who has not yet exited via one of the myriad available off-ramps will never do so; my guess is that 90 percent of those who voted for him in 2020 would do so again tomorrow. Such voters are stuck at the bargaining stage, quite a soulful distance away from accepting that “make America great again” is a reverie in permanent abeyance of reality. Slowly and surely, more and more Republican voters will graduate through the five stages of grief.
While I can understand the distress of this former Republican at what his party has become, I would not be as quick as him to declare the party to be dying. There is often a tendency for people to take a short term-trend (whether in political commentary or in analyzing the stock market or pretty much anything) and extrapolate them too far into the future.
But things can change and change fairly quickly, especially in politics. So while I cannot specify what might or should take place to resuscitate the Republican party, I am not going to jump too eagerly on the bandwagon that the party is irrevocably on the road to ruin.