OPINION: The GOP’s destructive devolution into Donald Trump

Photo credit: Illustration by Kent Willmeth | The Collegian

The Republican Party has let itself degenerate further and further into its own weaknesses, until we’ve arrived where we are now: this completely out-of-touch 2016 field and its charged embodiment Donald Trump. It seems that through having to cater more and more to the extremities of its base, the heated energy of the Republicans’ hardline conservative movement is burning through vast fields of potential voters.

While on the surface it might seem unfair to pin all Trump’s (and his ilk’s) shortcomings on his party as a whole, the party is what has devolved into an environment where he is currently thriving despite issues of sheer rationality and political responsibility.

Very quickly, before anyone buys into the comparison and flimsy parallels between the populist nature of Trump for the Republicans and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats, they very clearly indicate and mean vastly different things for the two main political parties.

In Five Thirty Eight’s Sept. 9 article “Stop Comparing Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders,” Nate Silver lists many differences between the two candidates. These include that “Sanders is campaigning on substantive policy positions, and Trump is largely campaigning on the force of his personality,” “Sanders’s candidacy has clear historical precedents; they’re less obvious for Trump,” and “Trump is a much greater threat to his party establishment.”

Presidential elections can often be much like poker. Candidates that win their party’s primary but lose in the general are similar to the dreaded “second-best hand” that gives you the confidence to add money to the pot but is not quite good enough to win you the hand.


However, candidates can be all bluff – bold, but altogether unsubstantial – much like several of the current candidates dominating the Republican polls and causing serious and genuine concern for the American election process.

The New York Times recently described another losing poker strategy of the current field of the Grand Old Party in the 2016 election. In their article “The G.O.P. Plays Loser’s Poker,” they said that in having to adapt to Trump’s impact, other candidates have lowered themselves to his level.

“In trying to embrace ignorance, make things up and then act offended when someone calls them on it, they just look smaller and less presidential,” author Timothy Egan said. “It’s a game of loser’s poker, to use Trump’s favorite put-down. And for a party that desperately needs to expand its appeal in a general election, exactly the wrong tack.”

Not only are they playing to the lowest common denominator, the GOP field is also desperately trying to drum up fear of where the country is and is going, in a hope to change the party in the White House. Michael Grunwald, writer for Politico, in his article “The ‘Everything is Bad’ party,” wrote after the last debate that “for now, the Republican Party is Trump’s party.”

Grunwald elaborated on this later in the article.

“But with occasional exceptions, usually involving the softer-edged John Kasich, the Trump approach dominated,” Grunwald said. “For five hours, the candidates stood in front of Reagan’s plane and described America as a declining nation in a dystopic world, as they pledged, to borrow a phrase, to Make America Great Again.”

Lest you think that their Reagan-evoking has come across successfully, listen to what Mark Weinberg, former speechwriter and advisor to Reagan himself, wrote in his Sept. 16 Politico Magazine article about the current candidates: “Indeed, most, if not all, of the Republican candidates have, in many respects, been the anti-Reagan in terms of their conduct on the campaign trail.”

Weinberg went further.

“Far from being the unyielding hardliner that many of the candidates suggest,” Weinberg continued, “Reagan lived in the real world, understood that governing required give-and-take, and believed that 80 percent was better than zero percent. He was a principled man, but not uncompromising.”

Surely there is a way back from this brink of lunacy the Republican Party now finds itself beholden to, but it most certainly will not come by indulging in this hardline conservative surge. There are ways for Republicans to recapture science, reasonableness, hopefulness and large blocks of voters who are finding care with liberals instead; but it appears the GOP must first go through some dark and heavy Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Kevin McCarthy therapy to eventually find its way back to its glory days.

Hi, I’m Jonathan. I graduate this December, majoring in Anthropology, with minors in Creative Writing and Political Science. After that … we’ll see. Maybe graduate school in environmental anthropology. Maybe I’ll finally pursue my old childhood dream of becoming an infomercial host. It’s up in the air. Some of my interests and hobbies include devout sports fanaticism, religious study, and composing country songs that serve to explain the unearthly amount of disdain I have for country music. My band’s called Catfish Hurricane, you should check us out. Well, actually, you shouldn’t. I love writing, which is how I accidentally stumbled into this job. This stumbling into good things is my plan for life in general.