No less an authority on the prejudices that fester within the bosom of the Republican Party than Richard Nixon said, “There really needs to be two Republican parties.” Or that was the gist of the idea in the early 70’s, when Dick was daydreaming aloud to the amazingly resourceful Haldeman and Ehrlichman.
The Party should have taken Nixon’s advice. Except they knew better. They knew that the GOP is always in a numbers struggle because they are, and always have been, a minority party.
Therefore, the cultured Buckley's and George Wills' tried tirelessly to pretend that they weren’t sharing the trolley bus with some pretty unsavory characters. Yes, there are zealous lefties in the Democratic Party, rabid anti-fracking pro-pot stereotypes, and there have even been a few out-and-out Communists, but nothing compared to the grotesquerie of the intemperate, uneducated Pitchfork Republicans who finally took over the party in the form of, believe it or not, a Wharton graduate named Donald Trump, Manhattan maybe-billionaire and class A racist and demagogue -- interested not in the presidency but role of Czar. They ran an actual fascist.
Bill Kristol can pretend it was a fluke but it wasn’t. It was inevitable. In order to win, Republicans who knew better formed an unholy alliance with the Pitchforks, and therefore such presumably decent men as George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan got elected thanks to the good wishes and elbow grease of the Moral Majority and outright racists. But because they didn’t want to work hard and actually create a thinking coalition of interests -- or folks who could actually understand their Ayn Randian Utopia -- they closed their eyes and courted the “Jesus people” (Karl Rove’s cynical view) and maybe even sold themselves on the “greater good” argument when it came to the race-baiting that Reagan indulged in. Remember the Welfare Queen?
Well, that kind of whoredom and self-delusion has its cost. As Malcom X would say, the chickens have come home to roost. Trump has ruined them. Ironically, it isn’t going to go the way the Chardonnay Republicans think it’s going to go, with the sophisticates stepping away from the Pitchforks in high dudgeon, moral superiority in tact. No, the Pitchforks are going to leave them, which is sort of like Ringo breaking up the Beatles. Yet regardless of who leaves who, the GOP has become so reliant on their most unsavory wing that this divorce means assured destruction.
The Pitchforks are going to defect to Party Trump, or whatever those deplorable supporters conjure up, and that means…?
Well, it means a Pitchfork Party and a Chardonnay Party. Neatly fractured as above, both wings will become as consequential as the Liberal-Democrats in the UK or the Bloc Quebecois in Canada, existing friendless yet assuring us a worrisome eternity of Democratic win after Democratic win after Democratic win after Democratic win.
Much as I have mouthed the standard line about the importance of the two-party system, I can’t say, when I’m truly honest, that I’m sorry to see the Republicans go. In the end, we have to let history tell the tale.
Forget high flown rhetoric about the party of freedom and personal responsibility; since 1912, when the parties took on their current right-left corners, the Republican party has always been on the wrong side of history. Never has the theory and rhetoric translated into effective action for actual real, living people.
They oversaw the corporate idolatry and laissez faire complacency that gave birth to the Great Depression, fought FDR on every aspect of relief and recovery, supported a Jim Crow south, railed against civil rights, Social Security, the minimum wage, affirmative action, incentives to education, women’s rights, Roe v. Wade, gave us Joseph McCarthy, Watergate, a military build up that permanently hobbled our economy, supported the NRA to the point of the slaughter of kindergarteners, and lied to the entire world in order to facilitate a senseless war in Iraq and a hopelessly ill-planned incursion into Afghanistan.
I’ll give the Democrats Vietnam, but Nixon extended that one to a point of madness (Cambodia, the Christmas bombing), and Bill Clinton getting a blowjob in the Oval Office doesn’t compare to the pernicious lie of trickle-down economics that turned the middle class of this country into perpetual debtors and Wal-Mart shoppers. Hell, Republicans weren’t even particularly gung-ho on fighting the Nazis. So on balance, it’s good riddance to them, and while the Democrats are barely better, at least they make a pretense of not wanting people to starve.
Reagan is dead. The Republican Party is now such stellar lights as Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell and the exceptionally craven Paul Ryan. So it’s dead. It will be interesting to see what takes its place.