tags: , , , , , , , Press Releases

The Decline of a Once-Great Party, Encapsulated in One Night at the RNC

Share This:

GOP Declines From Party of Lincoln to Party of Trump – Roots and Effects to Outlast Trump’s Candidacy

Yesterday, on the same day that Donald Trump officially won the Republican Party’s nomination for President, GOP leaders from both congressional chambers offered their support to the nominee with primetime speeches at the RNC. The now-official status of Trump’s nomination and the dual blessings of Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan offered a one-night testimonial to the decline of a once-great political party: from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Trump. 

While some of the pundit chatter after the McConnell and Ryan remarks noted that both Republican leaders’ speeches only included cursory references to Trump, that analysis misses the more broad and fundamental point – the Republican Party and its leaders are working to elect a nominee running the most explicitly nativist and racist campaign in modern American history. That they can so easily rationalize supporting Donald Trump, despite even their own assessments of his racism and lack of fitness for the office, means that the Republican Party as a whole owns Trump and his divisive and dangerous vision for America. No matter what happens this November, the Republican Party and its leadership will not and should not be able to escape the lasting damage to the GOP’s brand.

Below, we highlight excerpts from some leading observers who are making a similar point about the roots and effects of the Republicans’ capitulation to Donald Trump:

In Slate, William Saletan blasts Paul Ryan in a column titled, “Trump’s Coward”:

“In his address to the Republican convention on Tuesday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan accused Democrats of inciting ethnic resentment. ‘Let the other party go on and on with its constant dividing up of people, always playing one group against the other, as if group identity were everything,’ Ryan charged. ‘In America, aren’t we all supposed to see beyond class, see beyond ethnicity? Are all these lines drawn to set us apart and lock us into groups?’

It was a remarkable sermon, delivered on behalf of the most egregious racist nominated to the presidency by a major party in at least half a century. Ryan spoke every word with his usual earnestness, unencumbered by shame. Looking back at history, we tend to focus on villains, men like Donald Trump who use hatred to gain power. We forget the importance of cowards. Every Trump needs his Ryan.

… he ended his speech Tuesday night with a plea for love.

‘Everyone is equal,’ he said. ‘Everyone has a place. No one is written off, because there is worth and goodness in every life. … That is the Republican ideal. And if we won’t defend it, who will?’

Indeed, who will? Not Paul Ryan. Not the party of Lincoln. Not anymore.”

For NBC.com, political science professor Stephen Nuño writes, “The Party of Lincoln is Dead, But Don’t Just Blame Donald Trump”:

“Make no mistake, the party of Lincoln is dead, but don’t blame Donald Trump. The real Republican Party signed its death warrant the day it embraced the land of Dixie and the kinds of politics whom the Party of Lincoln spilled vast sums of American blood and treasure to cripple.

A party who sends Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who once came under scrutiny for his checkered racial past, to speak at their convention about his concern over Hispanic and black unemployment can only be seen as a gross attempt at ridicule.

Party platforms are important statements about the principles that bind political parties together and the recent release of the 2016 GOP solidifies the Republican Party as the most anti-immigrant force in American politics today. The policy proposals are standard Republican fare, but the hostile tone of the platform towards immigrants is reflective of the GOP’s descent.

…The Republican platform takes the worst of America’s ideals and, once again, attempts to turn the clock back in a time of high anxiety over the future of what it means to be white in America.

Trump has not emerged out of nowhere. He has emerged from the soul of this country, which Lincoln gave his life to changing. Going into the convention, the platform reinforces this stance. The Republican Party will endure, but make no mistake, it is no longer the Party of Lincoln, and it has not been for a very long time.”

And as the New York Times editorialized yesterday, the Republican Party has moved from a “big tent” party to a “big wall” party:

“For all the disruption and damage that Donald Trump has meant for Republicans, the party’s statement of its views in its newly written convention platform rivals him for shock value. Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else. But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.

It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position. Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.

…It is hard to believe the Republicans’ platform came just three years after party leaders, stunned by the drubbing they took in President Obama’s re-election, commissioned what came to be called a G.O.P. autopsy. It candidly admitted that polls showed the party was harmed by a public perception that ‘the G.O.P. does not care about people.’ Young voters ‘are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents,’ the report warned, while ‘many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.’

Enter Mr. Trump, and three years later his dangerous nativism has turned that post-2012 warning into a terrible prophecy. Party officials who once spoke of the need for immigration reform have been silenced. The planks of 2016 have been fashioned as underpinnings for Trump jingoism.

The G.O.P. used to insist it was the ‘big tent’ open to one and all. Now it’s the ‘big wall’ party braced by a destructive platform out of touch with American lives and devoid of the common sense the nation needs for any form of political progress.”