Amid the swirling cesspool that has become Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the GOP, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor, is in the midst of a nuclear meltdown.
And it has no one to blame but itself.
On June 15, 2015, a day that should live in infamy, Donald J. Trump descended an escalator in the lobby of Trump Tower and proclaimed to the world that he would seek the U.S. presidency as a member of the Republican Party.
On that day, Trump declared, among many other disturbing things, “When Mexico sends its people … they’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems…They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
In that statement alone, Trump made unflinchingly clear the path he intended to follow in his pursuit of the nomination. And on that day, the GOP’s leadership could have responded, “Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Trump. We learned our lesson in 2012 and have concluded, after painstaking research and introspection, that the Republican Party has to chart a new course, one that invites a more diverse constituency into our fold, or else we are doomed.”
That, of course, did not happen. Instead, Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, and his party’s elite opted to close their eyes and hold their noses as Trump scorched his way to the nomination. True, Priebus and company, like most reasonably-minded Americans (yours truly included), figured Trump’s longshot candidacy would self-destruct in no time.
That, of course, did not happen.
Rather than intervene and risk having Trump turn on them, however, the GOP did nothing — at least nothing meaningful. Sure, leading Republicans (including most of Trump’s primary opponents) would declare from time to time how distasteful they found Trump’s pathological compulsion for lying and his proclivity for insulting and attacking his real and imagined opponents. Some belatedly called him out for his bigoted agenda.
Yet all but a very few, such as U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, refused to confront Trump head on and flatly declare that the candidate’s dangerous and racist views made him unfit to seek the presidency.
The GOP’s self-serving calculation was that Trump, if challenged, would jump ship and run as an independent, convincing his loyalists to quit the party altogether, thus assuring a Democratic victory in November.
Driven by this crass impulse, Republican leaders basically said: Who cares if Trump labels 1.5 billion Muslims as terrorists? Who cares if he maligns blacks, Latinos and Native Americans and women? Who cares if he openly praises an authoritarian thug like Vladimir Putin?
Now comes the videotape released by the Washington Post of Trump bragging how his wealth and celebrity, at least in his mind, gives him carte blanche permission to commit sexual assault.
Since the tape was released, dozens of Trump’s Republican backers (including Sen. John McCain) have announced they can no longer support his candidacy. A few, including Flake, have called for Trump to quit the race.
Why jump ship now? Bluntly stated, while the Republican Party throughout the bulk of this campaign apparently could care less if most blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims and women (at least women Democrats and left-leaning independents) were deeply offended by the GOP standard bearer’s discriminatory views, Trump had finally crossed the line.
In the wake of the tape’s release, what’s at stake now are the votes of white Republican women and undecided independents. Without their support, goes the calculation, all is lost.
To Priebus and the Republican Party’s stalwarts, I’ll let you in on this election’s worst kept secret: All is lost and you have no one to blame but yourselves.
James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. Email him at email@example.com.