Of all the discouraging, disappointing and shameful news coming out of our current presidential political campaign, two facts are crystal clear. One - when the campaign is over, it won’t be over. Two - this country - and we who call it ours - will never be the same.
Traditionally, political battles are supposed to end right after the votes are counted. Final bills are paid, campaign paraphernalia stored or - in the case of the losers - usually destroyed. Staffers seek new opportunities and life returns to normal. Whatever that was - it’s just over. History.
In recent national elections, that Norman Rockwell description of political campaigns has been fraying at the edges. Actually, it’s been torn down the middle. Disputes - actual or imagined - have been carried into political office by both winners and losers. Winners have been heavy handed in how they conducted themselves and their elected responsibilities. “Gotcha” legislation, rule changing and other attempts at muzzling losers have become standard operating procedure.
Losers - those whom voters have rejected - immediately set about trying to scuttle whatever the winners attempt to do. Cooperation and compromise have become signs of “weakness” - especially if you’re a Republican. Any attempt to work together is met with immediate scorn by supporters and, too often, recall attempts.
But this time - this year - it’s already worse. And there’s nothing in the political tea leaves to indicate a return to the Rockwell era. Ever.
In the Republican Party, cracks in party discipline have been turned into canyons separating members. The smallest philosophical differences are now verbal weapons with which to beat all others over the head. Language - usually reserved for bar fights - is so common it’s often run on the evening news with no censoring. Racism and lies have been accepted by followers of certain candidates as either correct in the mind of the ignorant believer or discarded as just their guy lying “like they all do.”
There’ll be no healing - no acceptance of different thought - no coming together for the “good of the country” after this one. There’ll be no alliances to work for the common good. We’ll see more attempts to divide - to disenfranchise - to exclude. Like the current GOP refusal to even talk to a Supreme Court nominee, much less hold the Constitutionally required hearing. The seeds for all of this have been sown. And, as the National Republican Party is learning, you reap bitter fruit from such planting.
A national GOP, as we’ve known it, has been bought out by billionaires and poisoned by narrow-minded ideologies. It’s been purged of rational thought and traditional standards. It has ceased to have a central core of responsibility as big money has circumvented even the most futile attempts to broaden a steadily shrinking base of support. As a national political representative, Priebus and the rest of his cohorts have no real political power of their own and find themselves running to keep up with the Kochs, Adlesons and others who pay the bills.
Some of this cancer has begun to mutate in national Democrat operations as well. There’s a bitter inside battle involving the national chairwoman and the former vice chair that’s become more apparent. Efforts to compete - even to rebuild - in races long-ago dominated by the GOP have not been effective. While Republicans gerrymander state political maps, Democrats have been largely silent or ineffective in trying to flatten the playing fields. The “loyal opposition” has too often become the “loyal doormat” or no opposition at all.
Both parties are losing membership and both need to rethink and rebuild. Democrats will likely have the easier job after the 2016 election. But it appears the GOP is in for some very serious problems if it’s to again represent any moderate and more progressive folk. Should Priebus and his neutered minions wish to thank someone for making that job more difficult, they need look no further than Donald J. Trump.
I doubt Priebus will survive long after November 8, 2016. Nor should he. But Trump has nearly single-handedly created a much larger problem. The evidence is overwhelming. His base of followers is largely older white men with a distinct mix of racists, separatists and folks ignorant of government who’re destined to stay that way. For any rebuilding effort to be successful to achieve a modern, open and inclusive Republican Party, those folks will have to be dealt with. And they don’t have any use for “modern,” “open” or “inclusive” in their politics. Their way or the highway.
Which means - at least to me - two “Republican” parties. Maybe three. Or - and here is what the GOP must face squarely - a smaller Republican party after losing the aforementioned older white men, racists, separatists and the ignorant to a third party. Yes, it’s been tried before. And, yes, it’s never been successful. But Trump is not going to shut up. He’s got the money. And he’s delighted with the adulation surrounding him. He has a national - if not world - platform and, after the election, I don’t see him folding his tent and going back to just buying and selling real estate.
If the GOP doesn’t clean up its act, get back in charge, get the billionaires under control and disassociate itself with anything Trump, it faces no chance of being a viable political party for decades. None. It will become a neutered, narrow-minded, white and totally ineffective smaller “club.”
We need a healthy, robust, responsible National Republican Party. Our entire political structure is based on an active, effective two-party system. The new entity must be open, receptive to change, inclusive to minorities - who’ll soon make up the majority of this nation - and be more moderate in thought, word and deed. It can take a more conservative approach to things. That’s fine. But that conservatism must be more responsible and truer to the values that have defined it historically.
Hell of a job ahead. And I wish ‘em well!