RIP GOP?

The Republican Party is a mess. Can it survive this election?

The Republican Party is a mess. It has lost its way as a political force, largely abandoned American traditions and founding principles, all too often become “Democrat lite,” and failed to listen to its members.

With the GOP seemingly rending, there is little to halt or slow the devolution of the United States into just one more failed socialist state — something Barack Obama has worked tirelessly to achieve, and which either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would continue.

Donald Trump leads conventional Republican candidates in the primaries and caucuses, which surprises and confounds the party elite, who thought he would be a flash in the pan. (To be fair, many grassroots conservatives thought the same thing and are likewise greatly distressed, but for different reasons). The elites abandoned their party’s role in protecting the American way of life, and ignoring the concerns of their voters. Trump’s rise effectively demonstrates how badly the elites misjudged the level of anger and disgust with the current state of their party felt by rank-and-file Republicans, as well as the high degree of dissatisfaction they and a host of non-Republicans have with the federal government.

Trump’s behavior is at once energizing and destructive. It has won him a large following, and at the same time has exaggerated the party’s fracturing, pitting candidates against him and against each other in an elementary schoolyard brawl. But his tactic of saying things others are afraid to say, and ignoring the stupid but daunting rules of political correctness, has energized millions of dissatisfied Republicans and attracted non-Republicans, including blacks and Hispanics, to his campaign.

The behavior of “establishment” Republicans — defined as moderate elites whose weak-kneed perspective has transformed the party to Democrat lite — is precisely why things are as they are, and hardly anything could be worse than ignoring the plain message sent by the voters in the primaries and caucuses that substantial change in the GOP is needed. It is difficult to imagine that the Republican Party will be able to survive if it continues to ignore the loud voices of those who make up the party.

A perfect example of the tone-deafness of the party elite is the blistering condemnation of Donald Trump by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who turned backflips to make Trump seem like the devil incarnate. If that doesn’t seem strange, consider that during the campaign four years ago, following Trump’s endorsement, Romney effusively praised him, and then proceeded to lose the election by failing to be as strong in his opposition to Obama as he was in his praise of Trump.

Peggy Noonan, who was Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and a longtime political columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote last week, “I think we are seeing a great political party shatter before our eyes. I’m not sure I see a way around or through.” She noted that the current GOP crisis is “something bigger than 1976, that traumatic year when a Republican insurgent almost toppled the incumbent Republican president. Bigger too than 1964, when Goldwater conservatism swept the primaries and convention and lost the country.”

Noonan asserts that what is happening now is more serious and less reparable because it is not about political philosophy. But it seems that the party’s abandonment of conservative principles is precisely what this is about.

By ignoring the increasing frustration of the rank-and-file over Republicans in Congress failing to stand up against liberalizing of government policies and recent executive branch excesses, the party elite set the stage for Trump’s stunning dominance among those seeking the party’s nomination.

We’ve called this The Obama Effect.

Where Trump is concerned the party elite is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they allow the process to play out and he wins the nomination, someone believed by millions to be neither a Republican, a conservative or suitable to be president will carry the Party banner into the election.

If they continue the effort to prevent Trump from getting the nomination, they will alienate millions of otherwise dependable Republican voters and close the door on independents who might otherwise have come under the tent.

It seems likely at this stage that the Republican Party will endure, but it may not be as a meaningful political force equal to the Democrat Party. The Republican establishment will be left holding the tatters of a once-Grand Old Party while conservatives and others move on to greener pastures.

The question is whether without a viable opponent to Clinton or Sanders, or a split among those opponents, will it be possible four or eight years later to repair the damage likely to result from another liberal/socialist in the White House?

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