A house divided: Trump, Cruz and the undoing of the Grand Old Party

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Graphic by Michelle Wang

Ladies and gentlemen, avert your eyes. We are witnessing the demise of a major political party.

The Republican party is at a crossroads. For decades, it has branded itself as the party of personal responsibility, limited government, and strong national defense. It has stood strong through Teapot Dome, Watergate, and Iran-Contra. This party, through all of its various iterations and value systems, has endured for 162 years and has produced lasting figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. The juncture at which it finds itself now is unprecedented. Americans are increasingly rejecting the appeals to conservatism made by Washington lifers and are instead being drawn in by showmanship and demagoguery. How could the party that so masterfully orchestrated the Southern strategy to lock up more voters be so blind to the will of the people? As always, follow the money and you’ll find your answer.

As misguided as many of you may feel some current voters are, they’re certainly perceptive. The immense flow of money into politics has not gone unnoticed; revulsion over Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission cuts across the aisle, and much of the electorate spends its time railing against magnates like George Soros and Karl Rove. However, for a long time, every politician who was serious about running for office played this game whether they liked it or not. The American people had no choice but to vote for a candidate that took money tainted by special interests. That all changed with the emergence of a swashbuckling, braggadocious loudmouth with the “best words”, Donald J. Trump, and the pull of a hated figure in Washington, Ted Cruz, definitely didn’t hurt. Call them icons, or call them opportunists; the effect is still the same. It is now in vogue to rage against the machine that the esteemed Republican party helped to create. Sure, your policy ideas may be ahead of their time, and your temperament may make you the second coming of John F. Kennedy, but how much money have you taken from lobbyists? A lot? Don’t bother running.

Graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Michelle/" title="View all of this person's work">"Michelle</a></span>

Graphic by Michelle Wang

Now, what does this mean for the Grand Old Party? Obviously, party leaders would rather not see a big chunk of their base desert them for a blathering ideologue. However, these Republican standard bearers have integrity; they’re not just going to turn into servile, whimpering puppets for the sake of saving the party. The obstinacy of the party establishment means that a lot of the voters leery of modern Republicanism will continue to have their wishes go unfulfilled, and that road only goes in one direction. If the Republican party fails to broaden its horizons and expand its demographic make-up, whether Donald Trump is “conservative enough” to be the party’s nominee will soon be the least of their problems.

Now, this is not to forecast the death of conservatism as a philosophy. There will always be a place for conservative advocacy in the national dialogue, but it will have to take a different form and embrace a changing population. The numbers, however, show that a wolf in Republicans’ clothing is running straight to a general election, and the party is simultaneously supporting him and denouncing him. With that in mind, there’s really nothing left to do but pour one out for our fallen brothers and sisters in the Republican Party.

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