I’m glad the long-time Republicans in my family aren’t around to witness the 2016 campaign.
Don’t get me wrong: I wish they were still among the living. But, with every new slide into cheap slurs and sophomoric behavior, I can’t help but shake my head at how those lifelong Rs would react to what we are seeing.
Take Grandpa Neal. He first voted for President in 1920, for Warren G. Harding, and I’m confident he voted Republican in every presidential election for the next 76 years, making his last vote for Bob Dole in 1996. After the 1968 election, he proudly displayed a plaque he received for his contribution to the Nixon campaign on his bookshelf. He was a banker who voted Republican because he thought it was the party of fiscal responsibility, growth, and individual initiative, the party of prudent foreign and domestic policy that didn’t go in for the flash and dash of the Ds. The Republican Party and its sober image fit him to a T. He was a modest paragon of propriety, always carefully dressed and primly mannered, with no flashes of crude humor. He and Grandma Neal slept in separate twin beds.
Grandma Webner also tended to pull the lever for the Republicans. She despised the Kennedys for the ostentatious displays of wealth and power that she thought let them get away with murder, and she was appalled by the scandalous behavior of some Democratic politicians. She thought the Republicans were the more respectable party.
So how in the world would Grandpa Neal and Grandma Webner react to a Republican contest that has seen the leading candidate make a not-so-oblique reference to his sexual capabilities during a televised debate? Could they rationalize a campaign in which the appearances of candidates’ wives become an issue and where trading crass insults seems to have replaced knowledgeable discussion of policy? How would they respond to a candidate who routinely brags about how much money he’s made, who was a reality TV star, and has encouraged thuggish behavior by his followers?
I suspect that they would say that this is not their Republican Party anymore.
The Trump supporters say that he is giving the staid and stodgy Republican Party a much-needed shake-up and bringing new voters into the GOP fold. Maybe that’s true — but maybe the Republican Party is just losing its way. If Donald Trump is the nominee, what does the Republican Party stand for, really?