Writer and political scientist Norm Ornstein began referring to the modern Republican Party as a “radical insurgency” even before Donald Trump’s success as a candidate laid bare the GOP for what it is: a gathering of political will at once stuck between large financial interests, cosmetic engagement with “Judeo-Christian values” (read: Evangelism), and an aggressive distrust of the media and the federal government.
#NotAllRepublicans ascribe to these values, to be clear: there are Republicans for sensible financial regulation and Republican atheists (lots of them). There are Republicans who read widely and Republicans who understand that the federal government and the media, in a perfect world, work against each other in the interest of the public.
But these are not the Republicans currently in control of the Republican Party. That party, by the numbers, has embraced a reality TV star and a sitting senator so radically unpopular in the beltway that his own colleagues have openly considered supporting the reality TV star.
This new Republican Party is under the control of millions of people collectively disgusted by the condescension of photo-op politics; a people seasonally disappointed that the obstructionism they elect to Washington D.C. has done little to address their actual concerns; a people who value revolt, for whatever reason, as an everyday political strategy.
The collective effect is to create a party whose legislative success has only fortified its narrative of dysfunction.
And now, with the addition of Donald Trump’s reckless white nationalism, its narrative of hatred.
Sure, the Republicans of yesteryear had their political weaknesses — and, often, the party was simply window dressing for the same dirty laundry that is now flapping in the breeze — but they seemed to understand the bounds of political discourse and action and, for the most part, stayed within them in an effort to achieve some kind of actual agenda — remember that word?
Now, these “establishment” Republicans, kicked to the curb by the populist current governing what is and isn’t “politically correct,” are publicly mourning the death of the party they once knew.
This list isn’t complete — not by a long shot. And purposefully so: if you have a quote not listed here, mention it in the comments. I’ll add it and cite you. Together, we can create a manifesto of Republicans who want their country — oops, party — back:
The RNC itself, in the “autopsy” of its 2012 losses, “Growth and Opportunity Project,” 3/18/2013:
“Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”
Lindsey Graham, remarking on the (now failed) “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal, 6/16/2013:
“If we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016. We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run.”
Rand Paul, speaking in Sherwood Forrest, Detroit, Michigan, 10/30/2014:
“We’re also fighting 40 years of us doing a crappy job, of Republicans not trying at all for 40 years, so it’s a lot of overcoming […] You got to show up, you got to have something to say and really we just have to emphasize that we’re trying to do something different.”
Pete Wehner, quoted in “In a fast-changing culture, can the GOP get in step with modern America?” The Washington Post, 6/27/2015:
“Republicans are going to have to make inner peace about living in a same-sex marriage world […] Our nominee can’t have serrated edges. Like it or not, any effort to create moral or social order will be seen as rigid and judgmental… Grace and winsomeness are the ingredients for success in a world where cultural issues are at the fore.”
Ari Fleischer, quoted in “In a fast-changing culture, can the GOP get in step with modern America?” The Washington Post, 6/27/2015:
“When a young voter sees a Republican coming, many of them roll their eyes and wonder why they can’t get with modern life.”
Eric Ericson, “Republican Party, R.I.P. (1854 – 2016),” Red State, 8/28/2015:
“More and more polling shows the biggest group of voters who hate the Republican Party are the Republicans’ own conservative voters. In growing numbers they have driven down the popularity ratings of Congress. Instead of trying to recover popularity with their base, the Republicans have convinced the Chamber of Commerce to spend millions of dollars defeating conservative Republican ‘troublemakers’ in the 2016 primary cycle. Why join the base when the GOP thinks it can beat its base?
“This then is why the Republican Party as we know it is coming to an end with only one way to avoid the splits that doomed the Whigs. When, not if, Donald Trump fades away, the party leaders will conclude they beat him and the crazy base. They will, like the Bourbons of France, learn nothing and forget nothing. Instead of realizing their broken promises and failures of leadership led to the rise of men like Donald Trump, they will conclude his decline means they need keep no promises.”
Ross Douthat, “Donald Trump, Traitor to His Class,” The New York Times, 8/29/2015:
“In an unhealthy system, the kind I suspect we inhabit, the Republicans will find a way to crush Trump without adapting to his message. In which case the pressure the Donald has tapped will continue to build — and when it bursts, the G.O.P. as we know it may go with it.”
Matt Latimer, “The Party’s Over,” Politico, 10/8/2015:
“The signs of revolt have been growing all year.
“Despite the best hopes of the New York Times and pundits all over town, Donald Trump, the polar opposite of nearly anyone’s idea of a Washington politician, has been leading the GOP field for months. His Twitter feed alone, packed with hilariously wicked broadsides, has shown more energy and verve than every elected Republican in America put together. In the last 48 hours, he smacked around Glenn Beck, Marco Rubio, Kevin McCarthy, all candidates who are not him, Stuart Stevens, the media, pollsters and—ahem—this very august publication itself.
“He’s gotten millions in free publicity since he announced his campaign, and now he’s apparently going to open up his sizable wallet to hammer the ‘zeros’ and ‘losers’ of the GOP on the airwaves. Trump has shown the confidence, imagination and creativity that Republicans, to the great dismay of the people who elected them, not only lack, but actively avoid.
“And he’s not the establishment’s only problem.”
Pat Buchanan, in a CNN interview, 12/25/2015:
“I will say this, the Republican Party is under a death sentence […] There is no doubt about it. And I urged them back in 1990. Look, let’s halt immigration, a moratorium on all immigration, assimilate, Americanize the folks who have come here who are poor as they come up and go through the working class, in middle class, lo and behold just like the Irish and the Italians, and the Jewish folks and the Poli folks. Suddenly under Nixon back in the mid ’60s, we moved them all right into the Republican Party and Nixon won 49 states that hugely popular fall, Michael, 49 states. Now, unless you have a time out on immigration and even for a long period, I think the Republican Party is under a sentence of death.”
Bill Kristol, 12/20/2015
Crowd-sourcing: Name of the new party we’ll have to start if Trump wins the GOP nomination? Suggestions welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 20, 2015
Peggy Noonan, “Will the New Year’s Tumult Trump the Old?” Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2015:
“We could see a great party split in two. That, I think, is what I’m seeing among the Republicans, a slow-motion break. The question is whether it will play out over the next few cycles or turn abrupt and fiery in this one. Some in Washington speak giddily of the prospect, wondering aloud if the new party’s logo should be a lion or a gazelle. But America’s two-party system has reigned almost since its beginning, and it has kept us from much woe. It has provided stability, reliability and, yes, progress. The breaking or splintering of one of those parties would be an epochal event.”
[In the same piece, she quoted an earlier column from August:]
“The traditional mediating or guiding institutions within the Republican universe—its establishment, respected voices in conservative media, sober-minded state party officials—have little to no impact on Mr. Trump’s rise. Some say voices of authority should stand up to oppose him, which will lower his standing. But Republican powers don’t have that kind of juice anymore.”
Frank Luntz, tweeting a GOP presidential debate, 2/13/2016:
Seriously, this is insane.
The GOP is destroying itself tonight, and they have no one to blame but themselves. #GOPDebate
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) February 14, 2016
Photo: Jeb Bush reacts to an attack from rival candidate businessman Donald Trump (not pictured) at the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by CBS News and the Republican National Committee in Greenville, South Carolina February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst