September 25, 2021, 1:58

ANALYSIS: To change, Republicans must accept the GOP is not Reagan’s party anymore

ANALYSIS: To change, Republicans must accept the GOP is not Reagan’s party anymore

Quiz: Please tell me if the following candidate could win a Republican primary in today’s GOP. This candidate is for expansive free trade, amnesty for undocumented folks here in America illegally, raised taxes multiple times in a series of compromises with Democrats, signed a law liberalizing access to abortion, sold weapons to Iran and made his living in Hollywood.

Can this person win among GOP primary voters today? Anyone understanding today’s Republican Party would answer with a resounding “no.” And the candidate described was Ronald Reagan.

During the GOP Presidential primary of 2016 I made the argument that Reagan would have a very difficult time winning in today’s GOP. Last Sunday on “This Week,” I said Reagan couldn’t win among GOP voters, who have overwhelmingly adopted Trumpism, that the Republican Party as we have known it is gone and the only way to find it was to be in touch with HG Wells and get in a time machine.

This was all before GOP Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake made full assaults this week on the President and the Trump/Bannon takeover of the GOP party, as both said they had decided not to run for re-election because they didn’t feel the party fit them anymore. The development is astounding and telling, confirming my speculation on the direction of our politics.

The fascinating turn here is that Corker’s and Flake’s fight isn’t an ideological one; they aren’t being driven out of the Trump GOP circle because they aren’t conservative enough. To the contrary, they are actually more conservative than the President on nearly every single issue. They are being driven away because they believe that, in our country, there ought to be certain norms of behavior that are honored and expected, that ideals of civility and respect for each other, thoughtfulness and public service should be honored in and demanded of our leaders.

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The Trump/Bannon takeover of the GOP and the Republican voters’ encouragement of this has little to do with conservatism or American ideals. It has more to do with isolationism, division, fear-based appeals, anger at fictitious enemies, settling scores and nationalism.

This seems to be the opposite of what President Reagan’s ideals. And it has caused many conservative leaders around the country, including Senators Corker, Flake and John McCain, to reject this type of politics and governance.

Yes, one could make an argument that John F. Kennedy would have a very difficult time winning in today’s Democratic primaries and I made just that point a few years ago in examining the changing ideological landscape of Democratic voters.

However, today is for confronting what has become of the GOP party, which probably wouldn’t nominate either of the Bushes, Bob Dole or, for sure, John McCain. That is a huge concern for America.

I have told my Republican friends that, if they truly want to resist what is happening in America today, the best route to reform isn’t likely in winning GOP primaries or waiting for Trump to exit the scene. It is to embrace either independent candidates for office or support Democrats in the short term in order to begin a return to American ideals and norms we should all embrace. I have told those friends the Republican Party they want or used to belong to no longer exists and they need to come to terms with that.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross has laid out a five-step process when you are grieving loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It seems many Republicans are in the denial, anger and bargaining phases.

To be a force in politics, Republicans who are resistant to the party now captured by President Trump and Steve Bannon need to get quickly out of depression and move to acceptance. Once they accept the party as they knew it, or want it to be, is gone, then those Republicans can be a force in governance by becoming independents or reaching temporary alliances with the Democrats.

And to my GOP friends: Once you get to acceptance of the current reality of your party, you will be much more at peace and can begin to taking constructive steps as opposed to denying reality or mourning the loss of your Grand Old Party who encompassed Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan. The shining city on a hill is still achievable, but you won’t get there in a time machine.


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