The old Whig Party had become much degenerated from its original purity and tone; and, at the first clang of the bugle of the pretentious disorganizer, the masses of its adherents broke the ranks for new banners. ~ ROBERT McKINLEY ORMSBY
In some respects, the destruction of the Republican Party has been going on for years. I would trace its beginning to the seminal election year of 2008 when not one of the party elites spoke out against the vice presidential nomination of a narcissistic, power abusing kook and liar by the name of Sarah Palin in the service of short-term party gains, long-term implications be damned.
But like a star exploding at the edge of the universe, it took a few years before we heard it, but boy are we hearing it now as the party comes apart a little more each day, a fragment breaking off here and another there, over another narcissistic, power abusing kook and liar. This slo-mo explosion is so historic and so enormous that you have to go all the way back to 1860 for the last one, and it seems like so much spilled mead by comparison.
As historian Robert McKinley Ormsby notes in his 1860 book, A History of The Whig Party, the Republican Party was born of panic and the Whig Party died of panic. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president and Zachary Taylor the last Whig president. That is where the similarities pretty much run out, thank you Zach, and some 156 years later, the pretentious disorganizer is, of course, Donald Trump.
The clang of Trump's bugle is deafening, and the implications of how the political landscape is about to change as he heads into the delegate rich, winner-take-all primaries in delegate-rich states like Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio and may lock up the nomination, are enormous and almost too big to grasp:
* The Oval Office safely kept in Democratic hands with the help of disaffected Republicans who won't vote for Trump.* Down-ticket mayhem as the Senate returns to Democratic control because of Hillary Clinton's long coattails.
* A Supreme Court with a moderate-liberal majority that restores its proper place in the balance of powers.
* And even the birth of a third party that is the new GOP or a conservative alternative to the remnants of the old GOP.
The latest fragment to break off of the Republican star is a consequence of the pushback against the pushback following Mitt Romney's jeremiad against Trump on Thursday in which he called the front runner "a phony" and "a fraud" and urged Republicans to rally around one of Trump's rivals in a speech that had the stink of last-ditch desperation, not to mention hypocrisy, considering that in 2012 Romney eagerly sought Trump's endorsement at a time when the man with the peculiar hair was revving up accusations that Barack Obama was a Muslim-educated Kenyan who was not born in the U.S.
(Frank Bruni, musing in The New York Times, notes that if Trump and Marco Rubio continue their puerile trajectory with another debate coming on Thursday, "one of them will almost certainly give the other a wedgie.")
The belated attack by Romney bombed badly as Trump's supporters -- and many rank-and-file Republicans, as well -- were infuriated over being given orders from a ranking member of the party elites to dump Trump.
The pushback against the pushback came at the conclusion of an extraordinary week in which Trump pretty much ran the tables on Super Tuesday, not only survived but grew bolder still from Romney attack, and won two of the four primaries on Saturday, including the most important one in Louisiana.
(Do not be misled by the primary victories notched by Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders on Saturday. They only mean these also-rans are not going quietly -- or quickly. The loathsome Cruz's wins actually are good news for Trump by the perverse calculus of this election season because he will have a harder time than Marco Rubio would have in consolidating the anti-Tump party establishment vote. As for Rubio, who finished third in three of the Saturday primaries and fourth in the other, fuggedabouthim.)
"There's nothing short of Trump shooting my daughter in the street and my grandchildren -- there is nothing and nobody that's going to dissuade me from voting for Trump," declared 71-year-old Lola Butler of Mandeville, Louisiana, who voted for Romney in 2012. "You're telling me who to vote for and who not to vote for? Please."
Trump has played fair and square, if loudly and vulgarly, by the primary and delegation selection process rules altered by the party elites after the Romney-Ryan debacle in 2012 to better guarantee that the candidate it wanted could shake off unwelcome interlopers, wrap things up more quickly through winner-take-all primaries and turn his sights on the general election. The Lola Butlers of the world don't give a rat's rectum about the image or expectations of the party. They know that the party is devoid of fresh ideas and are hostile to people like Romney, who has worshipped at the party's contrived altar of political purity while appealing to the hopes and fears of working class voters, and then did not merely ignore them, but repeatedly insulted them with pledges to reward the rich with tax cuts and remove the few restraints on Wall Street and the corporations who were outsourcing their very own jobs.
And while we're debunking notions, let's put to rest the idea that the Lola Butlers are on some kind of celebrity joy ride.
They know Trump is autocratic and xenophobic, hates immigrants, believes whites are racially superior, and thinks the Pope is a poof, and they don't care even if they don't always agree with Trump because he is speaking to them. Isn't it ironic that the party elites couldn't conceive of how people could elect Barack Obama twice in what they thought was emotion winning out over common sense, and now the pitchfork populists whom they repeatedly diddled and have now rebelled against them are doing the same thing?
While I vote for Sarah Palin's ascendancy as the turning point in the destruction of the GOP, others would suggest its germination was when Teddy Roosevelt bolted from the party in 1912 or when the party split in two in reaction to FDR's New Deal in 1933. Still others argue it was the Goldwater landslide defeat in 1964, and others the onset of Nixon's Southern Strategy in the early 1970s.
We'll let the historians sort that out, but there is a common theme to all of those turning points: So-called movement conservatives, who are today's party elites, held onto power. What is different in 2016 is that their hold is finally slip-sliding away.
Perhaps propitiously, this is my 100th Politic Update column.§
The first, on May 6, 2015, was headlined "GOP Field Insures That Hillary Will Keep The Inside Track." While that was somewhat prescient, the subject seems banal by comparison to the explosion of that star known as the Republican Party.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
IMAGE FROM CRABDIVING.COM. A TIP OF THE OLD HATLO TO CHARLES PIERCE OF ESQUIRE FOR THE WHIGGERY.