The Republican Party, conservatives, and certainly Donald Trump may not fully understand it yet, but they are meeting in Cleveland not to chart the future of the GOP but to host its funeral.
The Republican Party and the larger conservative movement for which it has stood since the days of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan is dead but not yet buried. A party whose rhetoric (if never its actual policies) is all about shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government cannot even pretend anymore to stand for any of those things. As important, it hasn’t been serious about governing for a very long time. Remember just how terrible and world-ending they said Obamacare was back in 2009 and 2010? They weren’t wrong and yet it took the Republicans, despite holding congressional power for most of the 21st century, until June of this year to roll out an actual alternative that certainly wasn’t worth the wait.
Before whatever Trumpian display of narcissism, delusion, and disdain for actual knowledge of policy and process clicks into high gear in Cleveland over the next few days, it’s worth taking stock of what the Republican Party has become. Trump is not the cause of its collapse but an effect of utter failure of Republicans to deliver even partly on their promises over the past several decades. Republicans and conservatives have officially elevated atavistic tribal allegiances to the most important place possible in their causes. While Trump famously and disturbingly called out Mexicans at the start of his speech announcing his candidacy last year, his dyed-in-the-wool conservative critics actually attacked him for not being tough enough on immigration. National Review, in its house editorial laying out the case against Trump, didn’t conjure the ghosts of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush in 1980 arguing over who would do more to legalize and help illegals gain a legitimate place in our country, they said the Trump’s plan to remove 11 or 12 million people from the country was a “poorly designed amnesty” plan.