The Republican Party is now fully bankrupt.
For months, we have endured endless wailing and gnashing of teeth over Donald Trump as the increasingly likely, now presumptive, nominee for the Republicans as President of the United States. Various Republican leaders and ancillary “conservatives” have intoned profoundly how a man who disparaged Mexican immigrants and Muslims in his speech announcing his candidacy simply did not represent their values.
Thinking people everywhere chortled over this proposition, pointing out in response that the rise of the Donald as a presidential candidate was the logical outcome of the bad Republican habit since Nixon of lying to the white supremacist rump who abandoned the Democratic Party over its leadership in passing major civil rights legislation, whispering to them that white supremacy would ever be a viable principle for government in the United States, using dog whistle racism to divide working and lower middle class people against each other, preventing the white component from realizing that they had more in common politically with their fellow black working and lower middle class peers than they did with rich white people, allowing the rich white people who run the Republican Party to pursue policies that harmed working and lower middle class whites, but gratified their white supremacist impulses by telling them that they were at least keeping those lazy black people from getting any of their hard earned money via federal taxes.
The Republican leadership responded to the election of the Republic’s first black President in 2008 by vowing to prevent him from winning a second term. Despite ginning up huge anger at that President’s signature policy achievement by lying about it viciously at every turn, and winning control of the House of Representatives in the process, they failed to stop the black President from winning a second term, and they failed repeatedly to repeal the statute that embodied that signature policy achievement, which any fool could have predicted because it took them several years to regain control of the Senate, and even then, their majorities in neither House were large enough to override the inevitable presidential veto.
The drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act was only the most obvious example of how the Republican leadership persistently lied to their most “conservative” elements, repeatedly insisting that, any day now, they would find the magic formula that would allow them to enact every tea party fantasy without let or hindrance, certainly without any compromise, no matter the fact that such a goal is inherently impossible in a republic of three hundred million people. The Republicans’ willingness to battle the black President over every issue — even risking default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling — gave the general public the impression that the political class in general was incompetent and fed the zeal in 2016 for “outsider” candidates. Trump fit the bill perfectly. A business man who has never held public office and betrays a stunning lack of knowledge or understanding of the Constitution or the government it creates will now represent the Republicans, in all likelihood, against a person who is arguably the most well qualified presidential candidate since Thomas Jefferson.
Since Trump won the Indiana primary, causing his only remaining opponents in the Republican primaries to drop out, various Republicans who had recently expressed their distaste for him as a candidate have rethought their compunctions — one had said, “convictions” except that these people seem to have none — and stated that they will vote for the Donald. Because, for Republicans, nothing matters more than loyalty to Party.
Among the Republicans who have decided that maybe the Donald isn’t so bad after all, two stand out. Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan are the two individuals who should find most embarrassing their volte faces.
Graham was himself one of the panoply of declared candidates at the beginning of the Republican primaries. When the most likely choices for Republican presidential candidate were Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, after Graham had dropped out, he said it was like choosing to be poisoned or shot. He wasn’t specific about whether Trump was the poison or the shooting option, but the point apparently was that neither was at all desirable.
At the risk of metaphor overload, he has since apparently decided to fall on his sword in the name of Party unity. Because journalists will do that, one story about Graham urging Republican donors to contribute to the Donald’s campaign quoted some of the choice words Graham had for Trump before deciding to eat some crow. They also reminded us that Trump released Graham’s phone number to the public in an impressive display of pettiness. Graham in some respects is the quintessential Republican — a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, the first state to secede after Lincoln won election in 1860, a patrician gentleman whose tie is always flawlessly tied.
And a sell out.
The other Trump sell out, Paul Ryan, now epitomizes a different model of Republican. By some accounts, Ryan is the shining policy wonk/intellectual of the Republican Party, which alone speaks volumes about the Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, as opposed to its moral bankruptcy. Ryan already exhibited both by proposing to reduce federal funding for food stamps, mostly by making able bodied adults without children ineligible for them, which makes the cuts less cruel than they could otherwise be. But this is an odd position for a self described Catholic. Indeed, Ryan has come in for criticism from nuns for his budget proposals, which they have denounced as immoral.
Whether they will say the same about his decision to endorse Donald Trump for President remains to be seen. But we can come to our own conclusions. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ryan was the highest ranking Republican official not to have endorsed Trump. Until he did so. Reports of Ryan’s decision made no mention of any change on Trump’s part as having brought it about, so one can infer that Ryan just decided, as a good Republican, that Party loyalty is more important than his sharp criticisms of Trump in the past.
In sum, it is now harder than ever to see any Republican as having any principles worthy of the name at all.