Has the Republican Party finally reached its end? More and more it appears that the GOP is reaching its not-so-grand demise. This is unfortunate because the country really does need input in decision-making from people of differing knowledge bases and perspectives. No one side has a monopoly on expertise or in the clear knowledge of what constitutes the best "common good"--nor also what are the "best practices" for achieving it. It is not hard to find examples from either party in which legislators pursue personal gain---or the favors of some group of supporters--over the overall common good. Power clearly does corrupt, and money appears to corrupt absolutely.
The Republican Party accepted--even embraced--the "Tea Party" forces because their involvement helped Republicans to succeed in non-Presidential elections. But it was questioned whether a Party of "traditional conservatives" could combine with this faction of rigid "true-believers" and then work together over the long haul. Republicans as a group have a reluctance to compromise. To Tea Party adherents, compromise is anathema, a sure sign of weakness. And they have not hesitated to attack fellow Republicans whom they see as not being ideologically "pure" enough. (ref: "Freedom Caucus", an anti-common-good group in deed, if not in word.)
In the past, we had Republicans who were willing to compromise to get things done, would generally work towards the "common good", and would never play games with things like government shut-downs. These days, there probably are some who might like to act in that manner, but they keep quiet, so as not to get defeated in a Republican primary by a Tea Party candidate. Other Republicans have moved ever-more to the right on issues, in response to the shifting political climate. The changes in philosophy of current Republicans, coupled with the influx of a legion of hyper-partisan newcomers, has created a Republican Party which is so different as to be barely recognizable to Republican stalwarts of years ago. Past Republican leaders such as Bob Dole, Gerry Ford, George H.W. Bush, and even Ronald Reagan would have zero chance of being nominated by the present version of the Republican Party.
And now this patched-together construct is almost certain to be completely blown up. Donald Trump has already lit the fuse. Just ask him if you don't believe it.
Here, a brief review of the origins and purposes of the "Tea Party" is important. We all see those Tea Party license plates as we drive about, especially in this area. But do those who ride around with their yellow "snake plates" and go to events which celebrate "freedom" actually know who and what they are endorsing? The Tea Party was purposely intended to look like a "populist" movement, arising to protect the freedoms of "regular" folks, so as to shield its real beneficiaries. The origins of the Tea Party go back to that sordid time, decades ago, when the big tobacco companies funded third parties as part of their efforts to avoid excise taxes and to try to disparage the emerging scientific consensus that cigarettes really did kill people.
A prominent lobbying group for "Big Tobacco" at that time was the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). CEI was founded in 1984 by David Koch and Richard Fink. One of the Institute's internal proposals from that era is most revealing. It said, in part:
"Grounded in the theme of "The New American Tax Revolution" or the "New Boston
Tea Party", the campaign activity should take the form of citizens representing the widest constituency base, mobilized with signage and other attention-drawing accoutrements such as lapel buttons, handouts, petitions, and even costumes."
More than 10 years ago, the Koch brothers began funding and promoting the Tea Party as a useful tool to agitate for lower taxes and "small government". (Lower taxes and less government regulation are of great interest to multi-billionaires.) AND, for petroleum titans like Charles and David Koch, it is "good business" to have legions of foot-soldiers who will vigorously deny global warming--most especially the scientific conclusion that the burning of fossil fuels has strongly contributed to the accelerated climate change which now affects us all.
In my February essay to the Star, I lamented the serious decline in our country of civility, reason, and any bipartisan focus on "the common good". Those lamentations now feel quite mild.
The self-appointed "ring-master" now provides regular spectacles where evils like bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia have now been "trumped" by racism, unbridled anger, and violence against those who enter the arena and dare to criticize the speaker. Trump recently threatened Freedom of Speech by saying that he wants to be able to sue those who criticize him. And he predicts riots by his supporters if he does not get the Republican nomination for President.
And we are still in March! What more could develop from all of this unleashed anger and hate?
Step back and consider this state of affairs. Are you not repelled?
When Republicans consider our state of affairs, most don't seem to know what to do. When Trump first blew onto the stage with his bombastic rudeness, his lies and distortions, and his orchestrations of anger, most Republican leaders said little or nothing. thinking and hoping that he would soon go away. Personally integrated and moral people immediately distinguish "right" from "wrong", and they exercise the strength to unequivocally reject that which is clearly wrong.
There are many competing "voices" in the world which we could listen to. Some are loud and powerful, and we might feel the temptation to join them, as the crowds did 2000 years ago, when they shouted, "Crucify him!" But I believe that we all have the seeds of good voices within us, and each of us is capable of choosing what is right and rejecting that which is wrong.
And if we have to help our "leaders" with knowing how to choose, we should do that. Very few Republicans have so far taken the stance that they will not support a person such as Donald Trump to be President. Some have actually said that they will support Trump if he gets the nomination. (The head of the RNC has indicated that "winning" is the most important thing.) Any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who would support Donald Trump for President has shown him/herself to be unworthy of our vote.