Ask any self-identified conservative their feelings on the Republican Party’s 2016 primary season, and you’re likely to hear groans of disgust, despair, and dejection. Many of us wish we could forget those long summer months of sinking hopes that eventually led to the nomination of Donald Trump. Ryan Duffy, in his recent column “A GOP in Jeopardy,” seems to have succeeded in doing just that.
He revels in the supreme irony of a party that, after realizing in 2012 a desperate need for an “overhaul,” finds itself in 2016 supporting a candidate who embodies all the things that needed overhauling, a man possessed by all of the party’s demons. Perplexingly, Mr. Duffy seems to assign blame for the GOP’s woes at random, first faulting party leadership for not fixing their party’s deep, structural problems, and then, in a bizarre turn, also blaming Mr. Trump for not acting in the best interests of the “future of his party,” as if the candidate ever acted in any interest but his own.
Mr. Duffy seems to imagine the GOP as operating much like a corporation, with the Republican National Committee as a sort of board of directors, and with the nominee as a kind of CEO.
This way of thinking, however, is faulty. The Republican establishment and Mr. Trump are not, as Mr. Duffy implies, on the same team, nor do they share the same basic ideology. Those of us who remember the primaries can recall a GOP bitterly divided, mostly over Mr. Trump. His unique brand of populism sent deep fractures through the Party, pitting white working-class voters against the Party’s traditional elites. In the end, a vocal minority of around 30 percent of Republican voters carried Mr. Trump to the nomination on plurality after plurality, while the rest of the GOP poll-goers failed to coalesce around an alternative candidate.
It doesn’t matter that the Republican Party has consistently stood for free trade, small government, the separation of powers, firm commitments to our allies, and a hearty respect for the Constitution. Mr. Trump cares nothing for the principles that have been the underpinnings of the Republican Party for decades, and his ideas are stunningly antithetical to them. In truth, Mr. Trump’s rise to power represents a sort of hostile takeover of the GOP, an intellectual occupation in which the party’s leaders are either being held hostage or collaborating with their newly crowned candidate. Asking Republicans to “rein in” Mr. Trump would have been like asking the Vichy French government to “rein in” Adolf Hitler’s more unpleasant rhetoric.
Mr. Duffy is uncharitable for victim-blaming the Republican establishment, implying that if only they figured out the cruel irony of a GOP that in 2012 resolved to disavow all that their current candidate represents, they might realize that they should, like a board of directors, simply manage their CEO better. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, they’re simply along for the ride.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor