Let’s be honest – we all want this election season to be over.
Presidential elections are always a high-stakes affair, but the intense drama that has transpired on America’s political stage the last several months has left even the biggest political junkies tired and wanting off the crazy train.
Most Americans are eager to cast their votes on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and just close the book on this truly baffling chapter of recent American history.
No one is experiencing a greater sense of “Let’s just get this over with” than those in the Republican Party elite.
While I can certainly understand that sentiment, it is of profound importance that the leaders of the Republican Party perform some soul-searching and prevent what occurred to their party over the last year from ever happening again.
Because with Donald J. Trump’s path to victory constricting, the tenor of the Republican Party is now no longer guaranteed to be bleak, paranoid and hateful. There is now a chance for Republican leaders to make a crucial course correction in the direction the party is heading. But for party leaders to construct a brighter future, they must first reflect on their recent dark past.
For the last year, the Republican leadership stood by idly while Trump, who has successfully tapped into the fear and bigotry of the Right’s radical fringe, grew in power. Republican leaders hoped they could tame Trump and, ultimately, win the White House.
They were wrong on the first account, and no credible political observer believes they’ll be correct in the other.
However, there were many in the GOP who were able to put aside their desire for a Republican living in the White House and admit to themselves and the nation that Trump is not fit to be the President of the United States.
There was Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee, who made his unfavorable opinion of Trump clear during the primary. “I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world,” Romney told The Wall Street Journal on May 27, 2016.
Jeb Bush, who ran against Trump in the 2016 primary and is a former governor of Florida, said in a Facebook post on May 6 that while he would not vote for Clinton, he also could not vote for Trump. “He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent Conservative.”
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush’s mother, was just as harsh toward Trump. On Feb. 4, she told CBS News that Trump’s treatment of women was “unbelievable” – in particular Trump’s comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly. “I don’t know how women can vote for someone who said what he said,” she added.
On Oct. 20, at a 40th anniversary gala for the magazine Mother Jones, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said he would not vote for Trump and that the Republican nominee had “captured that racist underbelly, that frustration, that angry underbelly of American life and gave voice to that.”
Steele also directed his frustration at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and current RNC chair Reince Priebus for not intervening over a year ago when Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists.
GOP leaders must begin to confront and assuage the righteous anger many in the party have over Trump’s ascension.
Building a solid foundation for the future of the Republican Party starts with contrition. GOP leaders must begin the process of regaining the trust of the party’s more principled members. They must offer a mea culpa to those Republicans – from politicians to everyday voters – who put their party’s principles first, even if it wasn’t the most politically expedient choice to make at the time.
And what to do about the party’s radical fringe?
With Trump’s repeated, unsubstantiated accusations that the election has been rigged to favor his rival, it would be naïve to believe his extremist supporters will humbly concede defeat.
It would serve the Republican Party leadership well, then, not only to take a Trump loss graciously, but to cease at once their pandering to those within their party who are xenophobic and racist – if not out of a sense of altruism, then at least for the sake of the party’s survival.
Because while Trump and many of his supporters have become obsessed with white-identity politics this campaign season, the fact remains America is becoming increasingly diverse. By 2020, more than half of America’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group, according to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report. By 2060, the report projects, the minority population is expected to grow to 56 percent of the total U.S. population.
Quite simply, minorities will soon no longer be in the minority.
So if the Republican Party wishes to enjoy a successful future, it must no longer be a party of exclusion. The Republican Party will not survive if it does not begin to appeal to non-white-male demographics – as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, Muslims and women.
There simply won’t be enough votes if they continue to go Trump’s route.
Republican leaders: think long and hard about the future of your party. Because as one of the only two major political parties in the United States, your future, and what you shape it to be, will have a tremendous influence on what our nation’s future will be.