Republicans are divided entering the Republican National Convention. Past Republican Presidents, nominees and primary candidates aren’t giving speeches. Past Republican Presidents, nominees and primary candidates have withheld their support for a second Trump term, are often explicitly supporting Joe Biden, and in one case spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Lifelong Republicans are running anti-Trump campaigns through the Lincoln Project, Republican Voters Against Trump and 43 Alumni for Joe Biden, among others. But they are pining for a Party which no longer exists. They are stuck in the distant past of the Republican Party, before a decade-by-decade set of short-term decisions resulted in the party of racism, conspiracy ideation and science denial it has become.
1960s — Turning away from being the party that freed to slaves to being the party of the Southern Strategy to attract white racists who couldn’t cope with the Democratic support for the Civil Rights Movement.
1970s — Turning away from being the party that voted 76% in favor of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote to being the party that fought the Equal Rights amendment to attract misogynists who couldn’t cope with the Democratic support for equality.
1980s — Turning away from being the Jeffersonian party of separation of church and state to embracing the Moral Majority, in order to attract people opposed to reproductive rights for women, equal rights for homosexuals and evolutionary science.
1980s — Also in that decade, turning away from being the party of fiscal common sense and balanced budgets to being the party of massive tax cuts for the rich leading to massive deficits and debt.
1990s — Turning away from being a party which respected the Fourth Estate to embracing the Fox News propaganda machine in order to gain and lock in the easily propagandized.
2000s — Turning away from being the party that formed the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer, to being the party of climate science denial in order to get the climate change denier votes and the majority of fossil fuel money.
2010s — Turning away from being the party that was fully behind the fight against polio to being the party of anti-vaxxers, with all layers of the party seeing significant inroads of anti-vaxx rhetoric and action.
2010s — Turning further away from being a party which respected the Fourth Estate to the frequent proclamation of fake news and shouts about the bias of respected, centrist media outlets, proclaiming them the MSM.
All of the Pyrrhic victories of past decades culminated in the Republicans being so fragile that a reality-tv conman could hijack them by talking directly and overtly to climate change denial, anti-vaxx, racism and misogyny. They used to be a party of equality and progress, a party of hope and probity, a party of empirical reality and rationality. Now they aren’t.
It’s not just outside observers saying this. Lifelong Republican strategists such as Steve Schmidt are pointing to the “amalgam of conspiracy theorists, fringe players, extremists and white nationalists” that are so prevalent in today’s GOP.
It’s unclear how the Republicans unwind 60 years of strategic blunders of this magnitude. Actual conservatives in America will hopefully have a massive Blue wave come November, as that will allow them to take their party back, reverse their reversals and tack to being a 21st Century center-right party again. Perhaps by 2024 or 2028, they will once again be a credible ruling party again. Just as the world needs the USA, the USA needs good governance and conservative voices at the table.