Steve, it sounds like you’re basically a decent, thoughtful guy with kind of conservative political values. No problem with that!
Unfortunately, your idea of the Republican party seems divorced from reality. I don’t just mean the current reality of Donald Trump, but the historic reality that reaches back to at least Nixon. As others have commented, it was the Republicans’ deliberate “Southern strategy” to welcome disaffected Democratic racists that started the slide. I wonder if this ended up causing a kind of feedback loop where the party adopted positions that were more extreme, and became dependent on extremist voters, who then demanded more extreme positions. Eventually some people got fed up with the bait and switch of extremism and moderation — thus the Tea Party, and now the Donald.
Anyway, the point is that this isn’t something that just happened, it’s been a long time in the making. Therefore, I think the idea of rebuilding the Republican party is overly optimistic. I take the probably controversial view that it’s better to have the ignorance, xenophobia and racism out in the open, rather than in the covert “dog whistle” form that has typified the Republican party. It’s better that bigots have their own party, so we may publicly mock them and destroy them electorally.
Even though we probably disagree on many things, I think you and other decent Republicans deserve some way of advancing your political views. It’s safe to say, though, that the Republican party is no longer a vehicle for people like yourself.
The other thing that struck me was that I have really different associations with Republicans than you do. When I think of Republicans I think of Central American death squads. I think of Nixon and Kissinger overthrowing the government of Chile. I think of Indonesia and East Timor, I think of Bush père et fils and Iraq, of torture from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, of trillions of wasted dollars and millions of deaths. I think of Reagan, Nicaragua, the Contras, the weapons, the cocaine. I think of a party that won’t accept the ramifications of anthropogenic climate change for their fossil-fuel industry donors, so they reject science itself. It’s a party that often would rather have an argument than make one, from a blue dress to Benghazi and threats of government shutdowns. And now this refusal to do their job in considering a Supreme Court nominee. I think of abstinence-only sex education that leads to more teenage pregnancies and STDs. Anyway… I could go on, and Democrats have been complicit in some of those things.
What I’m getting at is that it seems like you are suddenly alarmed to discover your party’s candidate is blatantly fascist, but are ignorant of all the history that led you there. The problem with the Republican party runs much deeper than you seem to understand.
I’m highly critical of the Democratic party, too. But the real issue this year is not on the left-right spectrum of Democrat-Republican. It’s establishment vs people. It’s oligarchy vs democracy. It’s whether we will transform the system itself, or not.