It’s too late to figure this out for this year’s election, but at some point, the Republican Party has to figure out that the “base” they have depended upon for so long is dying – both literally and figuratively – and it will certainly kill them, and relatively soon. The election of Donald Trump pretty much certified they’re on life support.
As I have pointed out numerous times over the years, the current incarnation of the Republican Party was born out of the epic thrashing of Barry Goldwater in 1964. The party, which has always been a minority party, got its ass kicked that year, and GOP leaders decided they’s had enough. They had essentially been banished from the national politics since their policies caused the Great Depression, and they were looking for a way out, and they got it with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Ironically, Democrats couldn’t possibly have passed either of those without Republican votes. I know this is hard to imagine for your millennials out there, but there used to be such a thing as a “liberal Republican.” I know, because my first mentor in politics was one of those. He was a Republican who thought taxes were too high on the middle class, but not high enough on the very rich, and he fully supported most of the social safety net and he believed we had to help the poor. He thought Richard Nixon was a joke and before he died, he happily got to vote for Barack Obama for president, not because he was black, but because he was a good and decent man. He never changed his party registration, but late in his life, he rarely voted for them. Anyway, liberal Republicans helped to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and helped passed a lot of other civil rights legislation. Many were on board to pass Medicare in 1965, as well. However, unbeknownst to them, liberal Republicans were about to become an endangered species, because the GOP leadership decided the best way to stop losing elections was to increase the size of their base in a way that would differentiate their party from the Democrats.
That is when Republicans decided on the “Southern Strategy,” which would essentially use racism and overall political sloth to lure the dregs of society into their ranks. That’s when Dixiecrats – the racist wing of the Democratic Party – started voting Republican, and party registrations started to shift dramatically in what we now call “red states,” primarily in the South. Because of that push for membership from anyone who thought civil rights was a bad idea, the Republican “base” is now made up of white trash, reprobates and what Hillary Clinton accurately referred to as “a basket of deplorables.” She was being kind when she said it constituted half of Trump supporters; I think it’s closer to three-quarters. The problem is, the arc of history always bends toward justice, which means racism, misogyny and the desire to create a “white country,” which is a hallmark of white trash politics, have a short shelf life. Our country is becoming more diverse as time goes on, and xenophobia is becoming less acceptable. Sure, there has been a spike in racist incidents since Trump’s election, but there has also been a spike in outrage over it.
I am seeing things I never thought I would ever see in my lifetime, like the fear that is being expressed by the NRA right now. While the white nationalist and Nazi movement seems bold right now, most of it is the rantings of a group of people who know they’re in the throes of political annihilation. They seem to think the racist Donald Trump being elected is a sign that their time has come, but what is really happening is different, and they actually know this. This is the last gasp of a dying breed. It is inevitable that we white people will no longer be a majority within the next couple decades, and the white nationalist idiots are scared to death that People of Color will act as hateful and irrational toward white people as white people have acted toward them for the last 400-500 years. This group of white assholes is shrinking. They know it, and the GOP has to know it. That is why it is wholly irrational that the Republican Party is so scared to death of pissing off this relatively small group of white morons.
Having these people as your “base” is untenable. The old racists are dying off in droves, and the younger ones know their ideas are also dying off. This is why they get so loud and obnoxious when they hear about a trans person using the “wrong” bathroom. They know their simple-minded way of life is dying because it’s doing so right before their eyes, and they are scared to death. They didn’t vote for Trump because they thought they would take over the world; they voted for Trump because he said everything they wanted to hear and they felt he would throw them a lifeline.
The bottom line is, the Republican “base” is made up of the worst elements of our society, and their ideas and politics are dying. We on the progressive side still have to finish them off, but if the Republicans don’t expand their scope to groups well beyond “disaffected” (read racist) white people, they will die a long, slow death themselves. And I, for one, say good riddance.
Also published on Medium.