What will become of the Republican party after Trump goes down?

Becky O'Malley
Friday October 21, 2016 - 01:03:00 PM

A French friend just posted on Facebook what she calls “’Question existentielle du soir :” That has a nice ring to it: existential question of the evening—how very French of her!

(The existential question she mockingly posed asked: What’s the point of buying a coupon book for 8 euros which saves you 4 euros?—proving that irrationality is global, but we knew that.)

The existential question of the evening around here seems to be what will succeed the Grand Old Party, as it used to be called, now that it’s been demolished by the loose cannon called Donald Trump. All the chatter in the chattering classes about how the Trump ascendancy might play down ticket on November 8 misses the point.

What exactly is the Republican Party any more? It’s not just that it’s been taken over by—I was about to say aliens, but that word has been corrupted in the discourse by immigration issues. Let’s just say that the scenario is strongly reminiscent of the “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers” book and movies.  


The story obviously has a strong grip on the popular imagination, since there have been at least two remakes of the original 1978 film. Per Wikipedia: 

“The plot involves a San Francisco health inspector and his colleague who discover that humans are being replaced by alien duplicates; each is a perfect copy of the person replaced, only devoid of human emotion.” 

Can’t avoid calling Trump an alien after all I suppose. The point about “devoid of human emotion” rings true, doesn’t it? 

I have a psychiatrist friend who is tired of being asked at the contemporary equivalent of cocktail parties if Trump’s crazy or what. Now he just pulls up his Iphone and flashes a number from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Personality Disorders, the section which describes Narcissistic Personality Disorders. A short version, again per Wikipedia: “Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others' feelings.[4][5] “ 

Even though in my long life I never once considered being a Republican, I’ve known several of them, including my father, and none of them were crazy. We’ve disagreed on many things, consistently on how much poor people are to be blamed for their situation and what the government should do to help them, but Donald Trump is way outside the traditional Republican lines. 

Trump is not really a Republican, he’s an alien who has taken over the Republican presidential slot, and what’s left of the party is crumbling as we watch. He mouths the traditional Republican talking points, but issues are not what he’s about. He’s what he’s about, period. 

Those who have represented themselves as the contemporary Republican Party have lost their grip on whatever it was their party was supposed to stand for. Bush the elder has acknowledged this by making it known that he’s voting Democratic this time, and if I were a betting women I’d bet that even Bush Junior and his brother Jeb are toying with the same idea. I guarantee that Barbara Bush will be voting for Hillary, as well as her daughters-in-law, both Mrs. W and Mrs. Jeb. 

Who is to blame for letting the party be taken over like this? Blame has to go to the functionaries both lowly and topside who were more interested in protecting their positions than in ensuring outcomes. Their candidate for vice president is still engaged in the minuet, trying without success to dance around the outrageous statement by his main man that he won’t follow the grand old tradition of abiding by election results unless he feels like it on November 9. 

By the way, Trump’s parallel claim that he’s been endorsed by, what, 200 generals is a little scary. If he rejects the voters’ decision, will the generals be available to help him “set the record straight”? This is not Egypt—or is it? 

The traditional Republican positions have been comprehensible, even if you don’t agree with them. Believing that you’d rather hang on to your money than pay taxes, fear of foreigners, distaste for sexually or gender-different people, anxiety about crime…all that stuff is based on emotions which most humans experience from time to time, even though some of us reach different conclusions about the role of government in dealing with them than the average Republican.  

But the reason the Republican Party is rapidly going down the drain is its structural inability to reject this wacko who has invaded their ranks in any meaningful way. Here I can’t help thinking of the way the Sandernistas inveighed against the superdelegates in the Democratic Party. Republicans don’t have superdelegates, but they would probably be better off if they did. 

Just imagine what would have happened if Trump, that amoral loose cannon, had decided to take over the Democrats instead of the Republicans. Since he seems to have no genuine principles, it could have happened—and if it did the Supers could have stopped him, one would hope. 

This seems farfetched, but I have a friend who covered Trump for a couple of years for the New York Times. He says that The Donald is characterized by his amazing ability to reflect whatever whoever he’s talking to wants to hear. Having no principles makes that pretty easy to do. He might well have claimed to be a Democrat, and gotten away with it in the primaries. 

I don’t think having a one-party system is a good idea. A touch of isolationism, for example, is often a valuable contribution to the excessive interventionism that Democrats have historically been prey to. Some of the government projects that some Democrats enthusiastically promote are bad ideas, e.g. Jerry Brown’s water tunnels, maybe even his high-speed train in its current incarnation. Naysayers are sometimes needed, and if the Republicans are gone, where will we get them? 

The Republican party has a long and generally respectable history. Going back a bit, Earl Warren, the architect of the modern Supreme Court, called himself a Republican. Back even further, my husband’s grandfather, born in 1869, voted Republican all his life into his nineties because he came from a Quaker abolitionist background and belonged to the party which had opposed slavery. 

Unfortunately, it’s too late for the remaining sane Republicans, if there are any left, to mount a Dump Trump movement before this election. Some sort of lower-case reconstruction is going to be necessary after the election, but it’s not clear what form it might take. David Brooks, Debra Sanders, Susan Collins, even Mitt Romney or John Cain: do you have any new ideas for your party at this critical juncture in America history?  

Brooks in today’s New York Times seems to be working on it. Let’s hope someone’s paying attention.