Infused with the crusading anger of the Tea Party movement, the moral outrage of evangelical Christianity and the economic anxiety of the old blue-collar middle class, conservatism as marshaled by the Republican Party has marched to the far edge of partisan politics. Standing athwart a rising tide of inevitable social change it is threatened with drowning.
Just as those adrift on rising seas will cling to anything that floats, the Republican base desperately holds onto static political doctrine, loopy conspiracy theories and religious ratifications as preached and reinforced by right-wing media gasbags and politically polluted religious leaders.
To the great and growing dismay of the majority of Americans, the Republican Party, which has soiled itself in a desperate effort to hold power and remain relevant, has foisted President Donald Trump on the nation and the world. With a few noble exceptions, Republicans are not challenging Trump, but rather are shamelessly allowing him to run amok in order to take advantage of their window of dominant political power to shape policies that have detrimental consequences for the vast majority of Americans.
While decent, conscientious citizens are ashamed and gravely concerned that such an unethical, unstable and unintelligent person sits in the White House, the Trump presidency may well be the culminating paroxysm of Republican conservatism gone bad. By the smell of things, it has certainly gone past its expiration date.
Republicans know that the demographic tide is against them, and so they claw onto power by any means possible. While both political parties gerrymander, Republicans tenaciously fight to keep their rigged districts. They generally oppose campaign financing reforms and persistently push for voter restrictions that target demographic groups unlikely to support them.
Republicans appeal to base fears, social prejudices and voodoo economics to hold the support of their frightened, lesser educated and anxious base. But, like kamikazes, Republicans are futilely sacrificing their future against a force they cannot turn back.
Today’s Republican brand of venal, deceitful conservatism has had its way — and its day. If the nation can survive the Trump presidency — a big if — political power will likely be held in different hands — and not necessarily the Democrat’s. The Republicans are losing their footing in the demographic tectonic shifts that are shaking up the political landscape.
The rise of women, the increase in college graduates and minority populations, the decline in religiosity and the actuarial realities of the older generation do not favor Republicans. Indeed, 60 percent of the millennials, the nation’s largest generation, eschew the Republicans.
The appalling Trump presidency and the disgraceful, pusillanimous and toadying behavior of Republicans toward him accelerate the almost certain demise of the Republican Party as we know it. But, even if it changes to adapt to social realities, as some say it must, it will be a different party. Will conservatism then be redefined?
Career politicians and those seeking to enrich themselves through politics will shape-shift into any form to attract votes. If there are still wheels left on the Republican Party jalopy, it might be repainted and rebranded as something more up to date, relevant and compelling.
However, the usual problems and shortcoming of entrenched duopoly politics will likely remain. The powerful forces of greed, grievance and entitlement unduly influence duopoly politics. The two entrenched political parties represent limited interests rather than the greater interests of the nation. The general welfare is neglected for the interests of competing social components.
The fundamental structures of American representative democracy strain under the load of a huge and increasingly diverse, politically polarized population contending for political and, ultimately, economic power. It is almost always about money — especially in our economic jungle in which economic disparity threatens to transmogrify America into a caste system.
The Trump presidency is a symptom of the strain. It is an angry reaction to political ineffectiveness and to unresponsive government that serves the few and frustrates the many — but it is certainly no remedy.
While it is critical that the Democratic Party take at least one house of Congress in the November election in order to put a straight-jacket on Trump, the Democratic Party is not the long-term remedy for America.
American democracy needs to be revitalized with fresh political movements comprised of honest, ethical, intelligent people dedicated to the broader interests of the nation — the general welfare. The demographic data indicate that more than ever there are highly educated, young people, unencumbered with old prejudices or religious and political doctrines who could make this happen.
Already, there are incipient movements actively seeking to recruit people — via full-page newspaper ads and social media — to support concerted efforts to reform American politics. One calls itself the Serve America Movement. While it may not be my dreamed of party of Reason, it could be a worthy start.
You can be part of change or just let it happen to you, but you can’t avoid it.
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at email@example.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.