by Elwood Watson
Waterloo. The apocalypse. The Titanic. These are just some of the terms observers are employing to describe the current state of the Republican party.
For many, there is a deep-seated sentiment the party of Abraham Lincoln is coming apart at the seams and imploding at Armageddon-like speed.
Talk of political parties facing impending doom is nothing new. Similar rhetoric was levied toward the Democratic Party in the mid-1980s after it had endured consecutive losses at the presidential level, including a massive 49-state rout in 1984. Such a misguided prediction failed to reach fruition, as the Democrats recaptured the White House in 1992 under the leadership of Bill Clinton and managed to occupy a sizable number of congressional seats for much of the decade.
That being said, it does appear the Republican party does seem to be engaging in a level of infighting and dysfunction that has even the most cynical observers stepping back and taking notice.
What is even more striking — or amusing, depending on your point of view — is rather than looking inward to find the root of such problems, many members of the party establishment seem to be looking for scapegoats. President Biden, radical leftists, Darth Vader, Frankenstein, the Grinch that stole Christmas, you name it. In their eyes, the rapid unraveling of the party is the fault of everyone but the GOP itself.
Of all the supposed suspects, Trump is the nauseating symptom that arouses the ire of many loyal GOP establishment voters. To this Reaganite segment of voters, the former president has managed to regressively transform the party and caused unprecedented havoc within its ranks.
Trump has served as a sort of ruthless, callous villain causing the traditional establishment segment of the Republican party to either cry out in blood curling pain or curl up in the fetal position out of fear and despair. But the cold, hard reality is the current dilemma that Republicans are facing is that the problem lies within the party itself. Period.
Republican lawmakers have significantly contributed to the less than stellar public image of the party. Recent elections occurred at a moment when House Republicans have behaved in a manner that has caused considerable apprehension among the public, thanks to the party’s inability to effectively govern. Such Hemingway levels of drama have affected perceptions of Republicans in the House and put their already slim majority at risk.
Several years after his ascendancy to the presidency, it comes as no surprise many Republicans still find the vehemently racist, sexist, and xenophobic rhetoric routinely hurling from the habitually wayward mouth of Donald Trump very appealing.
Neoliberalism, unchecked globalization, outsourcing, stagnant wages and limited economic mobility have had a dramatic effect on the livelihood of these men and women. However, the fact is that such undeniable factors have affected many of the same groups of people they point the finger at and blame for their current predicament. Rather than being cognizant of this fact, it appears to be easier to revert to a “it’s their fault, not mine” mentality.
That’s because Trump is speaking their language. He generously throws out the fresh red meat and employs the not-so-subtle dog whistles (some would argue bullhorns) to a disaffected base of voters who harbor anger, resentment and frustration due to the fact they largely feel threatened and marginalized.
The misguided commonality these voters share with the larger GOP base is they are under the illusion (or rather delusion) that their problems have been caused by minorities, feminists, immigrants, gays and lesbians — basically anyone who doesn’t fall within a white, Christian conservative category they believe to be real Americans.
In their minds, such groups are the supposed “others” who are the cause of America’s decline. They are seen as problematic and must be taken care of in one manner or another. This is the demographic of men and women who continue to embrace Trump as their savior as he consistently promises to “get them to the promised land.”
As the old saying goes, “old habits can be hard to break.”
Copyright 2023 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.