With Ted Cruz dropping out of the Republican race for the President, Donald Trump is left as the only truly viable candidate for the nomination. While this may be the will of the American voter, it is a failure of the Republican Party as an institution.
The Republican Party guides conservative thought into a useful and effective organization which seeks to advance those political interests, or it did at one time. The arc of this presidential election so far has mirrored the destruction of the Republican Party as an effective institution. As the party’s split, largely along racial lines in the 1960’s, as discussed in an earlier post, the GOP became the sole political party advocating conservativism. Since that time they have had an increasingly catastrophic failure in branding and while at the same time becoming sclerotic. While Republicans won national elections 7 times since 1968, they have failed to expand their party, they have stood still while the country has not.
They have failed to counter the argument that they are a party for wealthy white men. The evolution of American demographics have doomed the party due to its lack of foresight. Republicans were going to have a difficult time winning the Presidential election regardless of who there candidate was, simply because homosexuals, young people, women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans do not vote Republican in large enough numbers.
There other major failure is more recent. In an effort to overcome their demographic challenges the Republican Party co-opted and then ignored grassroots conservatives. The Tea Party was a robust movement with both major funding and an active and motivated core of supporters. Republicans gleefully allowed Tea Party candidates to run on Republican tickets in order to win seats in local and statewide elections and then failed (and over-promised) to enact their reforms. This has led to disillusionment with the Republican “establishment”.
The final major failure of the Republican Party has been cowardice. Key figures in the Party have allowed someone who represents both of their major flaws to become the front runner without disavowing him. Donald Trump has doubled down on their branding failure by representing the GOP’s old base of constituents with xenophobia and racism AND by railing against the Establishnent’s failure to take seriously the reforms demanded by conservative activists.
Some responsibility lies with the Obama administration for failing to take the Republican view into consideration and passing the Stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act without many and any Republican votes, thus alienating the group further. But the majority of the blame falls squarely on the Republican Party for allowing a duplicitous demagogue to hijack their institution.
The GOP is a failed institution, one which now, with the face of their Party as Donald Trump, no longer even supports reasonable conservative values. The real problem here is that it is bad for the nation to not have an organization that can properly harness major political thought but also to not have any counter for the Democratic Party. It is not good to have large swaths of the government controlled by a single party that does not have to refine its message, or moderate its most extreme impulses. Democrats will not win on the strength of their ideals, but on the basis of having no organized opposition. Ted Cruz was a poor candidate in this sense as well, but Donald Trump has signaled the death-knell of the Republican Party, and we will not have to wait until Election Day to discover that.