2016: The GOP’s Extinction Level Event?

By, Susan Kuebler

By most accounts, the race for the Presidency is over. Even bookies in Ireland have paid out over one million dollars to bettors who picked Hillary Clinton. The leadership of the GOP, with the notable exception of Donald Trump, are scrambling to salvage House and Senate races. Trump, in his inimitable fashion, continues to campaign against Republications almost as much as he does against his Democratic opponent. A relatively unknown independent candidate is creating significant inroads in traditionally red states such as Utah and Idaho.

Republican leaders such as Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell have debased themselves and their party by continuing to offer support, however perfunctory, for a man who encourages and rallies all the worst segments of American society: racists, sexists, homophobes, neo-Nazis, and that vast segment of alt-right reactionaries who proudly call themselves “Deplorables.” An apt description, even if it did come from a Democrat. There have been a few, far too few, who have withdrawn their support for their party’s nominee.

Even before his nomination, a significant number of Republicans said they were #NeverTrump. At the time, these people were dismissed as “sore losers” and “insignificant.” What Trump and the RNC failed to grasp was that millions more people voted against Trump than for him. Instead of reaching out, they utterly dismissed them, saying “we don’t need you to win.” Disenfranchised by their own party, these voters were left with few options. They could vote for Trump, or they could look for another candidate to support. The RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, could threaten Republican candidates who failed to endorse Trump’s candidacy, but his threats were meaningless to the voters. Many will be voting their conscience for a third-party candidate. Pragmatists will vote for Hillary Clinton as the only certain way to deny the Presidency to Trump.

Now, no longer content with whining about the lack of enthusiasm for him by Republican luminaries and voters, Trump calls into the question the very basis of our democracy – the fundamental integrity of the election process. He has made it perfectly clear that he will not “go gently into that good night” if he loses the election. As his polling numbers continue to decline, his cries of a “rigged” election and “biased” media increase. What fresh hell does he have in store for the American people on November 9th?

That remains to be seen. What is becoming clearer every day is that the GOP is a party in shambles. Unable to rally around its nominee, it cannot rally the people to its cause. After the election, can it regroup and re-form as a significant political entity? Or will it, like other parties before it, disappear into the pages of history?   Both the Democrat and Republican parties were able to return after shattering defeats in the 20th century: 1964 for the Republicans and 1972 for the Democrats. But they did not field candidates whose egos would not allow them to accept defeat. Neither Goldwater nor Mondale placed themselves before party or country. They did not campaign against members of their own party. They accepted defeat with grace and dignity. The same cannot be said for Donald Trump. If, or rather when, he goes down in defeat, he will place the blame squarely at the feet of anybody but himself. Trump will blame the leadership, the other candidates, and the voters themselves for their lack of “loyalty” to him. Can any party survive such divisive tactics? 2016 could well prove to be an extinction level event for the GOP.

The saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Republican Party is definitely broken. If it can be fixed remains to be seen. But as a resident of Atlanta, whose symbol is the phoenix, I can see a new and better party rising out of the ashes and debris of 2016. One that is committed to principle above party, to the country before ambition, and above all else, one that is committed to all the people of America.

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