In 1854, the Whig and Free Soil parties decided it was time to unite into a new party. They decided that the Grand Old Party would be the best name for it, and thus the Republican Party was born. It’s commonly referred to these days as the GOP, but, unfortunately, other than being old, it isn’t exactly grand, and in fact it could be on the way to extinction.
It’s hard to imagine that the party of Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes could be shaken to its core by one man, Donald Trump. Trump is anything but a Republican, but he has kidnapped the party, and after November’s election, there may not be a national Republican Party for years to come.
During all of my years in politics, the Republican Party was dominated by a group of rich white men, somewhere in the Midwest, who would decide the winners and losers. They picked presidential candidates like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. This time around, they settled on Jeb Bush, thinking that the rest of the party members would follow their lead.
But this campaign season, things changed dramatically. Thanks to the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former House Speaker John Boehner, the country was in no mood to jump on board and back an “establishment” candidate. For the seven years that President Obama has been in office, the Republican message to the nation has been that the country is in decline, the military is inadequate, the president is a weakling and the federal government is in the toilet. To make the picture even gloomier, a handful of zealots, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, succeeded in shutting down the government for 10 days, inconveniencing millions of irate taxpayers.
The Republican message that the country was in decline was an effective one. It soured the thinking of many Republicans who believed it. The government shutdown and the failure of the Republican Congress to pass any meaningful laws solidified voters’ thinking that the party was in disarray and needed a shakeup.