Super Tuesday has come and gone; and despite the wishful thinking by many in the GOP establishment Trump reigned supreme. He humiliated the party establishment that has for decades branded itself as the party of hardcore bible-thumping social conservatism, small business economics, and less government regulation. For decades this message helped them win local and national elections; and for a while it worked. Wrapped up in their lies that what’s good for the rich is good for you, the GOP managed to sell a brand that pretended to care for the working class but really benefited a small, rich minority at the very top.
Part of this strategy involved stoking fear: fear of the black man, fear of the liberal women, fear of the out and proud gay man, fear of the socialist welfare advocate, fear of the non-Christian, fear of the other. They did such a good job leveraging junk science and fake statistics that fear became their main platform policy. They screamed “religious liberty” and “preserve the American tradition” for decades, lambasted responsible gun policy, and called for unlimited war powers and a bloated defense industry; all based on the promise of returning American to the good old glory days. And as long as their base remained happy with their lives and what they had then there wasn’t any cause for concern. Policy decisions and GOP branding were made in the moment (just look at the response to Justice Scalia’s death). For the longest time the GOP refused to consider the consequences of their actions as long as they were winning elections.
Now that brand has been hijacked and the GOP’s long term viability is in question as it looks more and more likely that Trump will be the nominee. Less than a year ago people laughed at a Trump run. How could a man who has supported Democratic policy for so long, who palled around with the Clintons, who used to be a social moderate ever appeal to their Christian, white base? He didn’t represent the social conservative GOP brand! And so they laughed – we all did. But the truth is that once the GOP made fear and hate their party platform they dismantled their conservative brand and made themselves vulnerable to this exact type of candidate.
Trump has tapped into the very anger that the GOP created. And believe me, the GOP base is angry. They have watched as the America they once knew has blossomed into a multi-cultural and multi-racial nation that has consistently embraced liberal policies. Religious affiliation is on the downtrend and the world no longer relies on just one or two superpowers for stabilization. National economies are booming throughout the world and much of that wealth has failed to trickle down to the middle and lower classes as once promised.
Instead of promising the same, tired phrases and positions that the GOP has been peddling he has promised the exact opposite. Being the opportunist that he is, Trump has embraced ideas inherently racist and sexist that galvanized some of the foremost racist men and women in America to his side. He encourages violence against protesters at his rallies and shames politicians that disagree with him. To the base, these are the actions of a man that will go to Washington and bust heads to get things done. To everyone else, they are the actions of a demagogue. And they are dangerous.
Now the GOP establishment is being forced to either publicly back Trump or throw their full support behind another candidate. Will it be Rubio? Kasich? Or even Crux – a candidate the GOP has hated but must now kowtow if they are to save the party? When it comes down to it, none of them are much better. And regardless of who it will be in the end, it seems too little too late for the establishment to pick their nominee as Trump steamrolls his way to the finish line.