Once so glorious, modern, and former renovators of the world, the Republicans have fallen into the sphere of frivolity. The success of barkers such as Donald Trump is nearly unstoppable.
Talking about the U.S. Republican Party means bowing humbly toward history. The “Grand Old Party” was the party of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in 1863.
It’s the party of equality, which introduced the vote for women as part of the 19th constitutional amendment in 1872; the party of environmentalism, when in 1872 Yellowstone was proclaimed the first national park by the Republican controlled Congress; the party of visionaries, when President Theodore Roosevelt took the initiative for the idea of connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific via ship and push through the Panama Canal project in 1904. Under President Nixon, the Republicans were the party that opened China up to the world in 1972.
They were also the party — again under Nixon — of the Salt I Treaty and were thus responsible for more relaxed relations with the Soviet Union. Under Ronald Reagan and his “tear down this wall” appeal to Gorbachev, they were the party supporting the fall of the wall. They were the party of the German reunification, an issue over which George H.W. Bush prevailed over Paris and London.
Ridiculous Slogans, Chaotic Turf Wars
When we talk about the present, there is no humility anymore: For months now, one of the GOP party members, a clever real estate entrepreneur with a loud voice and ridiculous slogans, has been the leading presidential candidate for 2016.
It is now the party that has chased away the speaker of the House of Representatives — which was under their control — with chaotic turf wars between conservatives and moderates. It is difficult to find a convincing successor for the third highest office in the U.S., as all candidates know that they could end up just like John Boehner.
The once great GOP, whose presidents were able to reach an agreement with the Democratic majority and vice versa, is no longer principled, but rather drunk on conviction. For a long time now, they have considered compromise to be a swear word.
That is why they have made “No” their ideology: No to “Obamacare,” even though the GOP implemented an identical health care reform in Massachusetts; no to immigration reform, even though the old system does not work anymore; no to the Iran deal; no to background checks when purchasing weapons; no to Wall Street reform.
What Is Conservative, What Is Moderate?
The popular story of the Republican downfall is that the party’s conservatives have taken over and pushed aside the moderates. But that is too simple. There have always been conservative flows in the party, but they have never swept away the other wings. The party’s first conservative phase was in the early 1960s, when Barry Goldwater was chosen as the presidential candidate. Opponents of the civil rights movement set the new tone, which was an irritating counterpoint to the party’s original ideals.
The support of “Goldwater-Girl” Hillary Rodham could not prevent the conservative senator from losing by a landslide to the incumbent, Lyndon B. Johnson. This gave the moderates a new boost. Richard Nixon, who later fell so deep, was one of their innovators. He was then succeeded by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who invoked Goldwater’s legacy. However, Reagan was pragmatic and worked with the Democratic Congress.
Have the conservatives now taken over the party again? In 2010, the tea party prevailed over the country’s political climate, when the Republicans took over the House of Representatives at the midterm elections and recorded a massive win in the Senate. The protest election catapulted dozens of tea party candidates into Congress, who had previously gotten rid of long-serving members of Congress through coups during the factional primaries.
And while the grassroots movement hardly makes headlines nowadays, those tea party representatives have become prisoners of their own agitations. If they tried looking for sensible compromises, they would have to fear fellow party members in their constituencies, who would stand for election against them during the next primaries, promising to be absolutely loyal to the party line.
As Long As It Is Not from Washington
However, the conservatives are not the main problem. Once so glorious, modern, and former renovators of the world, the Republicans have now fallen into the sphere of frivolity.
Barker Donald Trump has won the people’s hearts. He and — by a large margin — Ben Carson as well as Carly Fiorina are the Republican favorites, and all three of them claim that their main proof of competence is not belonging to Washington’s political establishment and never having held any office.
The renunciation of presidential candidates with political experience is anarchistic, defiant behavior. Of course, there are enough reasons to be unhappy with current politicians, even in the U.S. However, does one call the electrician when the toilet is blocked just because the last plumber failed?
The Democrats are also anything but convincing. The president is tangled up in a meandering foreign policy without aim and consequence.
Can the Party Still Recollect Itself?
Hillary Clinton, potential successor of Barack Obama, would be giving in to opportunism if she rejects the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she promoted as secretary of state. If elected to the White House, how would she deal with the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?
And it is not only the “Social Democrat,” Bernie Sanders, who promises new benefits from “big government” regardless of the record levels of U.S. debt, as became clear during the Democratic candidates’ TV debate on Tuesday. However, in general, the Democrats’ debate is more serious than that of the Republicans.
If the GOP does not get its act together quickly and does not become a serious party again with serious candidates for the primaries in early 2016, it would be choosing not to regain its once-characteristic political expertise. In times of growing national and international challenges, this would be an alarming development for the U.S. two-party system, which would no longer count as such, as well as for the country and the world in general.