2016 was supposed to be the year. The GOP would get its act together, learn from the hard losses and lessons of 2008 and 2012, become more inclusive and a tad bit more compassionate, and run on the very winnable message of, “Eight years was bad enough, don’t give them four more.”
All of the signs pointed in that direction:
- The majority of Americans believed the country is headed in the wrong direction, so it seemed like common sense that they’d want to try something different;
- Hillary’s inevitable candidacy was riddled with controversy, missing emails, possible criminal actions, and her own unlikeability;
- The SCOTUS decision on gay marriage would allow GOP candidates to stop talking about that particular social issue, or better yet, support the decision, and win over millennial, libertarian, and independent voters;
- The SCOTUS decision on the Alternative Care Act would give the GOP the ability to continue fussing about it until they fussed a Republican into office;
- and the likelihood of having more compassionate, intelligent, realistic, and culturally competent GOP candidates had young, conservative, liberty-minded Republicans like myself all excited.
Then Donald Trump happened.
When he first burst onto the scene, it was kind of funny. We thought, “Oh, he’ll peak soon and then the American people will come to their senses.” But the longer he continued to “peak”, the more uncomfortable we became.
He attacked Megyn Kelly, the poster girl for conservatives everywhere, on national television and I thought – there is no way he recovers from this. But his poll numbers continued to climb and my older activists randomly decided that Kelly had become a liberal.
He said Hispanic people were rapists. He attacked women’s looks. He screamed about building a wall. He compared Ben Carson (who you can’t help but love – even if he should have never ran to begin with) to a child molester. He made fun of a conservative news correspondent who is paralyzed from the waist down. Then he turned around and made fun of a New York Times writer who suffers from a congenital joint condition.
He completely dismissed anyone who questioned him about his former political views, his past support for partial-birth abortions, his campaign donations to Hillary Clinton’s senate run, and his family’s close ties to the Clinton family. Any attempts to question Mr. Trump about his past comments and views that range anywhere from “women look better on their knees” to “black people are the only ones who kill people” were met with snide remarks about losers and reassurances that, “They love me!” He told evangelicals that he’s never asked for God’s forgiveness and rural Christians praised God for sending them someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth.
He peaked. Peaked. And continued to peak. And the GOP whimpered and watched an election that they could have run away with slip from their grasp.
So what happens now?
- The electorate wises up before the primaries kick off, Trump announces that we’ve all been “punked”, we breathe a deep sigh or relief, and start trying to rebuild the bridges that he’s gleefully blown up – praying the entire time that we get them built before the general election. A reasonable Republican like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio wins the nomination. Then…
- Republicans vote for the nominee – and turn out to vote this time. A Republican president is elected and we try to fix the damage done over the last eight years. Or…
- Four million conservative evangelical voters sit at home, butt hurt because the aforementioned candidates are “losers”, it’s rumored they might be Mormon, and they haven’t stated that they’ll bomb all the Muslims. Hillary wins.
- Trump support is funneled to Ted Cruz, who, for the first time in his life, manages to look extremely reasonable when compared to Donald Trump. He wins the nomination. He may win the general. Regardless, Millennials, Latinos, African Americans, and more “moderate” Republicans realize it will be a while before the GOP acknowledges that people who don’t happen to be straight, white, male, evangelicals are Americans too and begin (if they haven’t already) looking for a political home elsewhere.
- Trump wins the Republican nomination and loses the general election in grand fashion as everyone he’s insulted sits at home, votes for the Democratic nominee, or writes in Mitt Romney.
- Donald Trump becomes President. He raises taxes to build his wall, bombs half the Middle East, incites World War III, and loses his reelection effort to a Democrat who appears more sane. The Republican Party spends the next 50+ years trying to recover from the damage he caused.
At some point, the Republican Party will wake up. They’ll stand on the cornerstones of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and a strong America and they will win. They’ll win the hearts and minds of the American people and they’ll win the Presidency. I thought it was 2012. I hoped it would be 2016. It may be 2020.