By Bob Gaydos
I almost don’t know where to start with this. The disintegration of the Republican Party, from a proud political party dedicated to the advancement of its view of the American way of life into a hostile, bigoted, fearful, reactionary group beholden to wealthy forces that care only for enhancing their own way of life, has left me confused, angry, fearful and sad.
It’s not just the sorry collection of presidential candidates the party has put forth. Nor is it just the inability of a Republican-led Congress to do anything but oppose every initiative by a Democratic president and, out of pique, shut down the entire government. And it’s not just the utter disrespect the party that constantly spouts patriotism demonstrates for the Office of President at every opportunity.
What confuses and saddens me the most is the apparent willingness of rank-and-file Republicans and Republican officials at every level of government to sit quietly by as if to say that everything Trump, Carson, Cruz, Huckabee, Christie, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, Paul, et al say is OK. No problem. So it’s a lie. So it’s hateful. So it’s racist. So it’s stupid. So it’s unconstitutional. So it’s inflammatory. So it’s really not the American way. So what? We’re okay with it.
Why do I feel this way? Because I don’t hear any Republican saying otherwise. Have you heard a Republican mayor, council member, county legislator, county executive, state legislator, governor, district attorney, etc. say publicly that Donald Trump’s utterings are racist, fascist and play to people’s fears? That they could lead to violent behavior on the part of individuals who feel justified because, after all, they are only responding to the words of the leading Republican presidential candidate?
I haven’t. Not one. Republican presidential candidates only began dumping on Trump recently when he said that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. Some party leaders joined them in criticizing Trump. This was apparently one Trump too much for them. It’s not what America stands for, they said. Not what the Republican party stands for, they said.
True. But Trump has been saying ugly stuff like this for weeks with no one complaining. Especially no rank-and-file Republicans. Did they expect him to stop on his own?
I know they’re out there, those rank-and-files. I live in the middle of them. And I know that some of them certainly don’t agree with much of what Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Fiorina, Paul, Bush, Carson, Christie and the rest have had to say about immigrants, guns, global warming, and Planned Parenthood, not to mention threatening Social Security.
While I have never belonged to any political party, I understand and respect their function in our society. I don’t understand how longtime Republicans have let a super-conservative, ultra-religious, anti-science, anti-education, anti-government, anti-fact fringe element take control of their party without managing so much as a murmur of disagreement.
Sarah Palin was the warning flare. She was photogenic, but embarrassingly dumb. But she was the Republican candidate for vice president. Trump, Cruz and Carson are merely the culmination of years of Obama-bashing and dancing to the orders of Fox News and the brothers Koch. As the messages grew angrier and uglier, always rooted in fear and fiction, Republicans marched merrily, unquestioningly, along.
To Donald Trump. An adolescent bigot and misogynist with a huge ego, a couple of billion dollars in the bank and no allegiance whatsoever to the Republican Party. How dumb is that?
If Republicans now blow their party up in a desperate attempt to convince Americans that the American Way is the way of old, angry, closed-minded, resentful, greedy, white men who are constantly being told the government is their enemy, Rupert Murdoch will lose no sleep. His Fox News puppets will find another flock to boost their ratings and sell their books. The Koch brothers will find others to carry their water, selling their principles for generous campaign contributions. And Trump will go on being Trump, a reality TV star divorced from reality.
A two-party political system depends on at least a minimal effort by both parties to work together for the common good. If one party is, instead, intent on opposing everything the other proposes and does so in an increasingly hostile, intractable manner, there is no governing. It’s merely making lots of noise, fueling fear and anger among voters in the hopes of gaining power. It is a cynical, dangerous philosophy that can infect the entire body politic if allowed to go unchecked. That’s why I am frightened of this unwillingness by Republicans to call out the fear-mongers in their midst.
The Republican Party has been festering for years under the threat of Tea Party retaliation for those who dare to disagree. Just look at the sorry example of former House Speaker John Boehner. That festering sore has erupted in the form of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and all the rest.
Even George Pataki, former New York governor and comparatively sensible Republican presidential candidate, is not immune. Pataki has declared, correctly, that Trump is “unfit to be president.” But with his showing in the presidential polls at less than one percent, Pataki felt it necessary to declare war on ‘’radical Islam.” Send in the troops, kill them all, he Tweeted. His poll numbers didn’t budge.
He has obviously been in the wrong political party from the beginning of this campaign, but not to worry. Pretty soon there won’t be a Republican Party, at least not one to which he and all those other silent Republicans once belonged. That Big Tent they once spoke of has been folded and stuck in the garage. Sorry, women, Mexicans, gays, blacks, Muslims, college students, union members, atheists, scientists … Maybe some other time.
There’s nothing grand about this old party today.