There is now a great likelihood that historians will look upon May 3, 2016 as the date that the Republican Party seriously began to die. There have been disturbing signs of deterioration as the party has engaged in internecine battles as well as encounters with Democrats and other Americans as vaguely interested bystanders. But now, with the designation of Donald Trump as the “presumptive presidential nominee” of the Republican Party, it would seem that it is only a matter of time before this very ill patient expires.
Donald Trump may be a lot of things but an ideologue is not one of them. He believes what is convenient for him to believe in order to achieve his objective. And right now it is convenient for him to believe in the current brand of angry conservatism that, if fully implemented, would result in a miserable, misinformed and raging nation that would be a danger to itself and the entire world.
One might look at the Nixon “Southern Strategy” as the beginning of the end for the Republican Party, because even then the bet that whites angry over the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could form a sustainable base was wrong because demographics and arithmetic were working against the likelihood of an eternal white majority in this country. But the “Southern Strategy” had a good run with the election and reelection of Richard Nixon, the election and reelection of Ronald Reagan and the election of George H.W. Bush.
But anger is, by definition, a difficult force to manage. By the 1990’s revolts led, first by Pat Buchanan, and then by Newt Gingrich started to fray and tear the party, first at the edges, and then at its very core by 2010. By labeling government as the “enemy” and fomenting constant rage against “the others” – nonwhites, nonAmericans, whatever – a new and more virulent strain of adversarial political thought began to spread across this nation.
This view of America is seen through a lens that highlights class distinctions, racial divides and the complicity of the government and a nameless ruling class in the entire process. The Tea Party and its more recent descendants executed a takeover of many local and state governments along with the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. This focus on the governmental jugular vein of this country has given this movement outsized power and influence. And because its goals are relatively vague this movement has been difficult to control.
Because Trump has admitted that he will say just about anything, many devotees of this right wing movement have supported him. Because Trump has been at varying times racist, sexist, mean, misogynistic, ignorant, xenophobic and a bully, he has attracted enough support to become the Republican presidential nominee. His new status has awakened the Republican leadership to the fact that a Trump presidency might well mean the end of Republican Party as we have known it for the past 162 years.
It might very well be too late for the #NoTrump fans to stop The Donald from being the Republican presidential nominee. The train wreck of a campaign that he will wage will by turns embarrass, enrage and disgust millions of American voters and many people who currently call themselves Republican. But there will be millions of Americans, who will embrace the Trump vision of the world, and these Americans literally have no interest in what Paul Ryan or Reince Priebus think.
There should be no question about whether Donald Trump can become President of the United States. He can.
The question is whether the Republican leadership that built the philosophical laboratory that yielded the monstrosity that is the Trump candidacy can now stop the monster that they helped to create.