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Donald Trump: The Beginning of the End for the GOP

Rockefeller Rejecting Extremism

It has been a little over half a century since Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater as their candidate for president of the United States. In a bitter and close primary season that culminated in California on June 2 1964, Goldwater successfully became the presumptive nominee. It was a startling nomination for the party that had been previously represented by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Goldwater was seen as man dedicated to extreme conservatism, and not someone in touch with the general populus. He threatened national security by promoting escalation of the arms race and increasing tensions between the US and the USSR. Center-right Republicans thought he could never be elected president. Their suspicions were confirmed when he lost against Lyndon Johnson in the general election, winning just 52 electoral votes. They believed wholeheartedly that this was the beginning of disturbing trend within the party.


On the other side of the GOP sat the greatest Republican who never was: Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The man whose name was, and (to an extent) still is, synonymous with the liberal wing of the conservative party. He proudly ran against Goldwater as a down to earth moderate who understood that Americans wanted bipartisanship, not extremism. Leading New York for four consecutive terms, Rockefeller established the SUNY system of colleges, expanded state parks, spent heavily on transportation infrastructure, and maintained a generally positive relationship with the state's labor unions. He was greatly admired by New Yorkers, and won at least fifty percent of the vote in the state for all but one election. His legacy was rapidly muffled however, by the rise of the right-wing Republicans, who have grown in size since, and have gradually pushed moderates out of the party.

Enter Donald Trump, the man who has single handedly brought down whatever remained of moderatism in the Republican party (to be fair Bernie Sanders attempted to do the same thing to the Democrats, but the machine defeated him). Trump began his campaign attacking Mexicans, and ended it degrading women, and he will most certainly succumb to Hillary Clinton in a few short weeks. Trump never really stood a chance, and if Goldwater was the start, Trump may very well be the end.

The Republican party had visible cracks before 2016. In spite of the Southern stronghold states, and their preference for fiscally responsible and socially conservative candidates, the party has nominated moderates in the past two cycles, mostly thanks to moderate Republicans of the Northeast and West. Despite this, previous GOP candidates have been able to maintain unity through the election season. This time around however seems to be different, and the party may very well be unable to recover from the devastation. Just as in 1964, the nomination of an extremist, and the subsequent refusal to disable or reject him as a viable option, has alienated a large portion of the party.

This election has revealed a grossly hidden demographic, both in the GOP, and the nation as a whole. A group of people who, unsurprisingly, are angry with the status quo. They can’t stand the establishment that has been built by both sides at the cost of the American people. They view Trump as an outsider looking in who has the capability to right the ship, and “Make America Great Again.” But who has also been attracted to the Trump Train are white supremacists, sexists, and just downright violent individuals. To be fair, these people (and worse) have also drawn to Hillary Clinton. The difference is however, that Clinton openly shuns these people, whereas Trump embraces them as outsiders like himself.


If Republican heads we’re willing or able to learn from the past, they would rapidly shift their motives, and views. They would work to remove the malignancy that has allowed the Donald to prosper within the party and adopt a tone that is far more involving of the populous at large. Instead, they will continue to polarize the general population, reject social tolerance, and allow the bigoted voices of the alt-right to consume the party. It is more than likely that, over time, the party leadership will gradually be replaced with persons more conservative than the incumbency, thus enabling rhetoric and ideology more potent than Trumps. If the Grand Ol Party ever wishes to capture the White House again, they must embrace liberal conservatism like Rockefeller projected. Push out the far-right, alt-right, and old-right. Let back in the disenfranchised Rocky Republicans, who nowadays are called independents, and move closer to the middle of the aisle.

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lions44 5 weeks ago from Auburn, WA

Good analysis. If they hold onto both the House and Senate (and I think they will), there is hope. But Ryan has to win the power struggle. He will face a challenge no doubt from the Trump faction (much of the Texas delegation and some like Dana Rohrbacher). Not sure how wide his support, as much I like the guy.

His brand of conservatism, more libertarian and pragmatic, is the future for the GOP. Getting away from the shackles of the social conservatives and these Trump folks is vital. Squeezing out the racist elements will be tough. A huge Trump loss will help.

If Ryan loses the power struggle, then the party is really over.

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