Will Republican Party Lose Its Soul?

GOP should stick to its principles and reject Trump. Ryan could lead the way.

By - May 23rd, 2016 12:21 pm
Donald Trump. Image from campaign website.

Donald Trump. Image from campaign website.

The rise of Donald Trump in the GOP and the grind-it-out near-victory of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party demonstrate a failure and a partial success of the two parties.

Like her or not, Clinton has paid her dues in her party and the super-delegate mechanisms in the states have elevated her to certain selection as the Democratic presidential nominee. The party avoided the fringe ideology of Bernie Sanders. Their governance systems worked to promote unification and discourage divisiveness.

The Democrats proved sclerotic in not coming up with a fresh-faced candidate, but they have accomplished coherence behind Clinton.

That’s what parties are supposed to do: pull people together into a majority able to govern. The Democratic Party will nominate a known commodity. Clinton is smart, astute on policy, tough, experienced, at times vindictive, cozy with the big institution cronies (unions, Wall Street), indecisive (Benghazi) and opaque (secret e-mail system). She is a mixed bag, but there will be few surprises on how she will govern.

In contrast, the Republican Party, led by Wisconsinite Reince Priebus, blew its opportunity to coalesce around a similar mainstream candidate who could create a unifying majority. Scott Walker saw the danger. After being bullied by Trump, Walker pulled out of the 17-person race early and called for unity behind a candidate, preferably a governor with governing experience. Priebus didn’t listen.

Trump did passingly well in the early primaries (Wisconsin excepted), because the chorus of real Republican candidates splintered the voters, allowing Trump to succeed with pluralities. Only late in the game did Trump achieve majorities in the GOP primaries.

Priebus should have seen the pattern before it was too late.

Ted Cruz was another fringe candidate who did well because of vote splitting by the moderates.

Because the party did not serve as a center of gravity, it faces a defining moment in its long history. Will it follow its conservative principles or will it succumb to the temptation to follow a man without principles, but could prove to be a winner in this strange moment in history?

Because Trump has no clue about principles or thoughtful policy, the race forward becomes about the man. That’s how he likes it. He does not wake up in the morning thinking about what he can do for others. He looks in the mirror and thinks, “What can I do for “me.” His narcissist version of winning has the other party losing.

So, then, what about this man? He is an unapologetic welcher of debts, a draft dodger, a trust fund baby, a serial philanderer, the opposite of a unifier, a language-deprived showman, a fleshy blowhard, a master of the put-down insult, a loose cannon on public statements, the ultimate flip-flopper, and on and on. (See my web site johntorinus.com for 71 reasons to reject him as presidential material.)

Yet principled Republicans who want to win in November are starting to line up behind him. Wisconsin GOP Reps. Glenn Grothman and Jim Sensenbrenner are already there. Rep. Reid Ribble of Green Bay, who is not running for another term, has stuck to his principles and has said “no way.” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is waffling.

If a majority of the GOP lines up behind Trump, Republicans will have lost their soul and right to say they constitute a principled party. They will have traded possible short-run political gains for long run irrelevance.

They will have a better chance to win elections in 2018 and 2020 if they stick to their true selves, if they take a possible loss for the presidency in 2016, if they save as many seats as they can by steering clear of the Trump train wreck. They need to work to stay alive to moderate a hate-based Trump agenda if he is elected. That could save their party for the long run.

Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will be the litmus test for the party. He is in a tough spot, but he took the job. At a minimum he should be in no rush to endorse the frontrunner. Trump is capable of self-destructing between now and November. And events could arise that change political equations for voters.

A former Boy Scout, he must be asking himself if he wants his children to look up to a President Trump as the moral leader of the nation? At best, Trump is amoral.

Yes, a Clinton win would cost the GOP the U.S. Supreme Court majority. Many disagree, but that’s not enough, in my mind, to vote for Trump. If Clinton were wise, she could take away some of that excuse for voting for Trump by promising to appoint centrists to the open seats to heal the partisan divide in the country.

In possible absence of a viable, credible GOP, such moves to the center could mean the United States becomes a virtual one-party country for a spell.

All is not yet lost in terms of GOP integrity. Washington and Waukesha counties were among the most anti-Trump electorates. The GOP should look there for its moral compass.

John Torinus is the chairman of Serigraph Inc. and a former Milwaukee Sentinel business editor who blogs regularly at johntorinus.com.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

16 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Will Republican Party Lose Its Soul?”

  1. Jason says:

    So the Democrats got it right. The nation needs another Clinton presidency. According to Hillary, she will put Bill in charge of our economy. I do not know about your spouse but my spouse would not be ducking their secret service detail five times to escape with a known Hedge fund pedophile Jeffrey Eppstein. Good old Bill, signed documents to travel on the Lolita Express(Eppstein’s private Jet) so he could spend time with a guy who hired female employees to find young innocent girls to prey on.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    Oh fun times. What is Trump’s plane called? The Bigot, Misogynist, Mob Connected, Fascist Express? I guess that doesn’t really fit on the side of a jet though does it.

  3. judith ann moriarty says:

    a whole lot of “moralizing” going on here. hasn’t it dawned on anyone that someone should define what is moral and what is amoral, and what do those categories mean? live in lock-step Washington County and recently a neighbor told me that Milwaukee’s long ago police chief, Brier, was a great person. come on now, tell us, was he “moral?”

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    Conservatives are perfectly aware that the GOP nominee is a deplorable human being (which is a vast understatement really), so they are doing everything they can to make Bill Clinton and his past a campaign issue.

  5. Barbara says:

    The question should be, “When did the GOP Lose its Soul?”

  6. judith ann moriarty says:

    come on readers! what’s this “soul” thing? is it perchance connected to “moral.” ???

  7. Michael Schwister says:

    “Principles?” The GOP? Really? Let’s face some facts. Establishment politics is corrupt and does not represent us. Most European Countries have negotiated a better deal with their plutocrats. Mainly because the memory of pitchforks and guillotines is still present. So tell us John, about the “principles” of fascism and how similar that form of government is to ours. And tell us all about the Bradley Foundation and it’s support for extreme right wing agendas. And it’s use of media, let’s see, WISN, WTMJ talk hate radio, WPRI, Mac Iver JBS, etc. They beat you over the head with their BS until everyone that surrounds Milwaukee talks with the same soundbites. No John, you guys can’t have it all. My tines are sharp! Principles. My ass.

  8. Jack says:

    “After being bullied by Trump, Walker pulled out”

    Billionaire bully bullies billionaire-backed bully.

  9. Pauly says:

    Whoa! Wait a minute. Mr Torinus, that’s one great reframing job of Walker’s short-lived candidacy. Here are the facts. Walker showed no great prescience about his campaign fate. God told him to run, God told him to drop out. Putting God aside for a moment, Walker appeared on stage as the uncharismatic, mediocre, career politician who was easily ignored by the media and most voters. He couldn’t pull in the base with his overly rehearsed stump speech. His record in Wisconsin was nothing to brag about. He wasn’t able to manage his campaign finances to boot. The Koch brothers’ stoolie ran up campaign debt under the disillusionment that he was Ronnie Reagan’s heir apparent.

    So, Mr Torinus, I admire you for your reframing efforts, but c’mon, the GOP has imploded. The GOP has few discernible principles, and Trump, Priebus, McConnell, Boehner, Walker, Ryan are the evidence of that fact.

  10. Barb - West Bend says:

    “Scott Walker saw the danger. After being bullied by Trump, Walker pulled out of the 17-person race early and called for unity behind a candidate, preferably a governor with governing experience”

    Mr. Unintiminated dropped out because Mr. Trump bullied him?

  11. Mike Carey says:

    I’m sorry but his commentary loses any creduibilty whane he says principaled republicans And Glenn Grothman and Ron Johnson in the same sentence. Unless he means the republican principal of remaining in power at all cost, put party ahead of country, which the GOP has devolved to. Reading recent articles about these people and others in the party and you don’t here them say let’s do what’s best for the country. It’s always do whats best for the party and them individually. When the GOP became the party of No and representing only the wealthy, they gave up any right to govern. When they claim that money is speech, and corporations are people, they gave up any right to govern. And when they push laws that allow discrimination in violation of the constitution, They gave up any right to govern.

  12. Bryan Kennedy says:

    I think that Mr. Torinus is taking some undue heat. His assessment does not miss the mark. There was a time, as recently as 30 years ago, when the Republican Party believed that government could do good things, but they wanted programs to meet their objective, maximize efficiencies and minimize costs. The Republican Party of Eisenhower (and even Nixon) had a soul.

    Beginning with Reagan’s comment about the nine scariest words in the English language (“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”) and escalating with the rise of right wing radio and right wing media, government has been painted as a failure in everything that it does.

    The modern Republican Party wants to “starve the beast” and “make government so small you can drowned it in a bathtub.” It lost its soul when it wanted to continue to be part of government and at the same time destroy the government. Trump’s candidacy is just a manifestation of where the party is.

    The political spectrum has shifted so far to the right that we’ve lost perspective on what the full range of the political spectrum actually is. Bernie Sanders is no more revolutionary then FDR or LBJ. Obama and Hillary Clinton are about on par with Eisenhower. Bill Clinton politically was actually to the right of Eisenhower. Goldwater looks almost centrist, when compared to people like Trump, Cruz, Carson and even Rubio.

  13. Vincent Hanna says:

    Sort of echoing what Mr. Kennedy says, I find it disconcerting that so many politicians seem to have no actual interest in public service. It’s not about committing oneself to serving the public and the public good and believing strongly in trying to make things better for all people. People are running (and often winning) because they despise government and want to destroy it. They seem to have no interest whatsoever in public service. That isn’t a calling or something they wanted for as long as they can remember. It’s about “starving the beast” and shrinking government until it can be drowned in a bathtub. Or it’s about going out of your way to help your rich friends and constituents and donors. I was born right before Reagan was elected so I’ll take Mr. Kennedy’s word for it when he says things have changed since then. I’ve read a few books on Eisenhower and Goldwater though and it does seem like those men are basically liberals compared to the likes of Ted Cruz.

  14. Boris Ostensky says:

    Bring back Governor Tommy G. Thompson: https://youtu.be/QjteU3N5AZw

  15. Kurt Rogahn says:

    John Torinus is spot on, again. Paul Ryan should read this piece. Perhaps doing so will help him stick to his present course of not endorsing Trump. The “Never Trump” arguments truly trump “Never Hillary.”

  16. richard lesiak says:

    What a load of crap this article is. Walker dropped out because the nation saw he is an idiot. Wall built between us and canada? Selling books and tee-shirts like some store front in the Dells? All his so-called budget cuts are lost defending stupid laws they are clearly illegal. I don’t like Ryan, but I understand his position. He is chairing the convention. If it becomes “messy” he doesn’t want to be seen as favoring one person over another.And Johnson? A waste of skin. Do nothing. Prevent others from doing something. No clue. ROJONO.

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