This week may well be viewed as the week in which the Republican Party died. After Party primary voters chose Donald Trump as their presidential nominee in May, Trump this week chose Steve Bannon, the chairman of right wing website Breitbart News, as his campaign manager, effectively shunting aside Paul Manafort, an experienced GOP strategist and lobbyist. Today, Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign. While Manafort was facing a Russian influence scandal, had become a lightning rod for negative publicity and thus had to go, he was at least a mainstream Republican who deals in reality. Trump’s choice of Bannon as a replacement for Manafort pushes Trump’s presidential campaign, and thus the Republican Party, further into fake conspiracy theory territory.
Perhaps Trump’s latest move should not be a surprise. After all, Trump officially entered the political arena in 2011 by pushing the biggest phony conspiracy theory of them all: Obama birtherism. Since then, Trump has hawked one conspiracy after another, whether it’s that late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered, that Vincent Foster was murdered with the involvement of Bill and Hillary Clinton, or that the father of Trump’s Republican primary rival Ted Cruz was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Often, Trump qualifies such conspiracy theories with cliches such as “many people are saying,” which has been mocked in a popular Twitter hashtag.
However, Trump’s fake presidential candidacy can also be seen as a natural extension of the Republican Party’s extremism. This is a party that does not believe in science, whether it’s climate change or even evolution. The GOP has also used its majority in Congress to pursue phony conspiracy theories (sometimes accompanied by doctored video from Breitbart) for political purposes, including Shirley Sherrod, Fast and Furious, ACORN, Benghazi, Planned Parenthood and more.
Moreover, the GOP doesn’t believe in math. Such math includes demographics, which tell us that American electorate is becoming more Hispanic, Asian and black, for example. Indeed, after losing the 2012 elections decisively, the Republican National Committee had a fleeting moment of reality when it released its so-called “Autopsy Report” which specifically called for outreach to Hispanics, women, blacks, Asians and gay Americans, all of which are increasingly important voting blocs.
Instead of adapting to these changes, however, the Republicans have stubbornly tried to deny or delay them. They have employed gerrymandering, voter suppression and demonization to try to reduce the influence of “Scary Brown People” including blacks, Hispanics and Muslims. They refuse to vote for comprehensive immigration reform in the House of Representatives after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passes it. They continue to kowtow to a narrow base including Evangelical Christians, by fighting tooth and nail against abortion rights and marriage equality, even though the formerly Republican majority U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of such rights. They slavishly promote narrow corporate interests such as the gun industry, by fighting against sensible gun safety laws, including universal background checks, that even a giant majority of Republican voters favor. They don’t believe in promoting clean renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, even though such sources make us safer from conflicts around the world, more prosperous and healthier.
This Republican ignoring of reality, culminating in Donald Trump’s latest campaign appointments, no longer works. The floodgates of change are open in America, and they’re not going to be closed anytime soon. The question for Republicans is, after elections this November that are looking increasingly worse for them, will they decide to join the reality community and offer real solutions to real problems faced by Americans? If so, the GOP will likely be welcomed back to the arena of ideas in which political success is ultimately achieved.
Photo by Mike Licht, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/yu56k9