Is the GOP about to die? Current polls suggest that the party’s support in key demographic areas is sinking and that in January 2021, Biden will be President and Democrats will control both the House and Senate. Those Republicans who have not already quit the party will engage in an orgy of finger-pointing and reassessment. The finger-pointing will be, well, pointless. The reassessment will be painful. If it’s an honest reassessment, the conclusion should be that it’s time for the party to hang it up.
Go out of business? Yes. The GOP is an irreparably damaged brand. Several key demographics now associate it with injustice, inequity, and oppression. For many, mention of the word “Republican” will conjure up words like racist, greed, lying, white, misogynist, and old. True? For what appears to be a slight majority, yes. Those answering no are, sadly, more likely to be white, xenophobic, and distrustful of government.
A brand so damaged cannot be saved. In large part, GM put Oldsmobile out of its misery in 2004 because it no longer stood for anything worth buying. They determined that reforming the brand, which would have meant radically improving its car, would not be enough to convince buyers to choose it over alternatives. Better to kill a skunk than to hope its stench can somehow be removed.
The demise of the Republican party is already underway. California’s election rules already result in many November elections pairing two Democrats to compete with each other based on votes received in the primary. In most cities, the only hope for a Republican to win mayoral contests is for an incumbent Democrat to implode. Republican governors, like our own Larry Hogan, thrive by differentiating themselves from the party mainstream. Friends describe Hogan as the exception to the rule that all Republicans are bad. Many tell me, “You know, in most ways, he’s not really a Republican. After all, he’s sane.”
If it’s true that the GOP can’t be saved, the question is whether it’s a good thing. One party government likely will lead to excesses. Opposing parties provide essential checks-and-balances. They also serve the function of slowing down law-making by asking questions, channeling the voice of citizens out of the mainstream, and offering alternative visions of the future. When opposing parties work together, national consensus is more likely. And history suggests that when a national consensus is reached, it typically embodies better policies than do laws enacted in times of political division, like today.
An opposing party, provided it hasn’t gone off the deep end like the current GOP, is thus a benefit to the party it opposes. Consider this: If the GOP did not spend so much time proposing walls, race-baiting, and promoting income inequality, the Democratic party would not spend so much time fighting for the basic civil rights involved. Instead, the parties could argue on how best to respond to the coronavirus, rebuild the economy, modernize infrastructure, and improve education. Any of these topics are debates worth engaging in more than the cr*p that passes for politics today.
Assuming that the GOP is dying, what should be done? They shoot horses, don’t they? Those who value what used to be core Republican principles—free trade, reasonable regulation supporting a vibrant capitalist economy, civil rights, privacy, limited government, civility, and freedom from corruption—need to hasten the final demise of the current GOP so the task of creating a new party can get underway. This won’t be easy. Just look what happened to Mitt Romney when he dared to question the President during the impeachment process. It will take clear proof that the current GOP and all the bad things it stands for is dead for most current Republicans and a sizable group of independents to start formulating what a new party should look like.
What about the “core constituencies” of the current GOP? Some would be welcome parts of a new party. And as for others, such as those who lug AK-47s into the Michigan capitol building, effectively embrace white nationalism, and support policies inconsistent with the civil rights of others, good riddance. Let these folks form their own party or, better yet, think about why the party that seemed to embody everything they stood for withered away.
Democrats should welcome the emergence of a new opposing party. Without it, the fissures inside that party may very result in a split that would not bode well for its future. We have already seen Bernie supporters sit on their hands in 2016 and their support for Biden this year has been, to put it mildly, not overwhelming. The creation of a far-left party would almost be as bad as the creation of a far-right one, although one might argue we already have that.
The next decade will be interesting. If our Democracy is to continue, we should all hope that the wreckage of the Republican party will get cleared soon so that a new centrist, economic and justice- focused party can emerge.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy