The GOP Is Dead, Conservatives Navigate Stages of Grief
The GOP began its death spiral on June 16, 2015 when Donald Trump rode the golden escalator down to announce his candidacy for President. Because he had no chance of winning, The GOP tacitly approved of him vocalizing their party’s previously silent racist dog-whistles (e.g. Mexicans are rapists and murderers). This silence began building the scaffolding for the GOP permission structure that Trump would exploit all the way to the White House and beyond. It also began revealing the raw racism that was just beneath the surface of the GOP’s previously coded language that “otherized” growing portions of the electorate and began to expose the party as bereft of any of its previously stated “principles” other than money and power.
Donald Trump capitalized on the hollowness of the GOP, and, like the hollow Trojan horse, infiltrated its structure and conducted a hostile takeover. He quickly turned the party of Family Values into one where “Christian Conservatives” began to worship him despite him being the antithesis of the “family values” they previously used to castigate (e.g. the LGBTQ community and women who value reproductive autonomy). He turned the party of “free trade” into the party of protectionism. He turned the party of muscular, hawkish foreign policy into the party of isolationists. He turned the party of fiscal responsibility into the party of spending excesses and tax cuts that ballooned our deficits. Trump was so successful in destroying the party’s principles that its only platform in 2020 was fealty to Trump.
The GOP, unconsciously may have realized that their party was doomed. They went into the first stage of grief, which is Denial. We witnessed the 4 years when the Republican “leadership” denied seeing his tweets, denied the opportunity to object to Trump’s behavior, and missed two opportunities to stop him through impeachment, culminating in Mitch McConnell’s demurral that the criminal justice system would handle Trump.
Now that the criminal justice system is handling Trump, they have moved into another stage of grief: Anger. They vent their anger at the liberals, as if the left held a gun to Trump’s head and made him keep classified documents, refuse to return them, lie about it and conspire to cover it up. They vent their anger at the justice system as if law enforcement organizations made Trump plan and foment a coup. They vent their anger at liberal prosecutors as if liberal prosecutors forced Trump to pay hush money to his alleged mistress to keep this information from voters prior to an election and lie about it on legal documents. Their anger is misplaced, so we see them move to another stage of grief, which is Bargaining.
The current slate of placeholder candidates is evidence of their bargaining. Their bargain is “I’ll run for president as a place-holder, and if my wishful thinking is fulfilled, something will happen to Trump and I’ll step in.” This is the same magical thinking that republicans relied upon for years hoping that some external event would keep them from rejecting the one they felt would ultimately destroy the “party”. Hope is not a strategy, and this has proved to be a losing bargain. Republicans know this, and many have moved to the next stage of grief, Depression.
The “Never Trumpers” have been in a funk for 5 years, and now other Conservatives, such as George Will join them. Recent eulogies for Mitt Romney’s political career were also eulogies for the Republican party as many knew it.
The good news is that Acceptance and growth (from their experiences) is just around the corner. Perhaps after the next election if Trump and the Republicans lose so badly that they dust off the 2012 post mortem that suggested that they appeal to (rather than alienate) the growing portions of the electorate. Perhaps they can then rebuild an alternate party on principles they believe instead of “principles” posing as a smoke screen for their racism, Xenophobia, sexism (anti-abortion), and elitism (masquerading as populists, stoking the anger of white working class voters whose jobs migrated overseas while giving billions of dollars of corporate welfare in the form of tax breaks to the wealthy corporations who shipped those jobs to Bangladesh). America needs two parties. Now it has one political party and one cult of personality that doesn’t even have a platform (except for the worship of Trump).