Though a life-long Democrat who has spent 50 years competing with the Republican Party and its candidates, I’m calling for the solid, traditional Republicans I’ve worked against for years to take back the Grand Old Party (GOP) from the extreme elements who now control it.
Our American political processes require a majority, 50% plus one, forcing voters to choose. For 160 years, that choice has been between the Democratic and Republican Parties. Occasionally America has flirted with third parties but those have had no staying power.
The success of our great experiment in democracy requires two strong parties that can build a political and governmental path somewhere along the axis of the political middle, either left or right of center. Parties that are too extreme, too ideological, have not historically worked well in the American system.
To have a healthy democracy, we need two strong parties that represent their core values, engaging in a battle of ideas based upon shared facts and truths. This has become impossible as Trump has force fed the GOP so much victimization and fear, so many lies, conspiracies and fantasies that there is little basic truth upon which they can enter that battle of ideas. Instead of an idea-based 2020 Republican Party Platform, all the party passed was a resolution saying it “will continue to support the president’s [Trump’s] America-first agenda.”
Trump’s 30,000 documented lies have led to most party members swallowing whole Trump’s current Big Lie — that he was reelected in a landslide. That Big Lie led to many Republicans dangerously supporting efforts to overturn the election. Even after losing in more than sixty court cases, Trump’s Big-Lie followers stormed our Congress and Capitol Building in a deadly insurrectionist assault – a blatant attempt to stop our Constitutional electoral process.
The roots of this radicalized GOP attack on democracy started early with Trump. When torch-carrying, white supremacist neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” Trump’s Republican Party fell in line with his “very fine people on both sides” rationalization. In the final month of his presidency, Trump told the killing insurrectionist mobs of January 6 that “we love you.”
Trump demonized and mocked every minority in our diverse country – Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, even the disabled – as his Republican Party supporters acquiesced in the language, actions and policies that followed. When Trump’s own recorded words revealed his privileged misogyny (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the p**sy. You can do anything.”), his party continued to rally to his cause. Character was no longer important.
When Trump chose to believe Vladimir Putin over the intelligence services of the US government, Republicans turned a blind eye and deaf ear. The Republican Party has normalized Trump’s calls to violence, from “punch ‘em in the face” to “maybe he should have been roughed up,” to “knock the crap out of them.” It is no surprise to see capitol police beaten and killed in the Trump-inspired insurgent attack on Congress.
Today we face a national crisis – the FBI cites white supremacists, who are comfortable in today’s GOP, as the nation’s greatest domestic terrorist threat. The Department of Homeland Security just announced a “heightened threat environment” in which “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” are likely to act upon “perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.” As that is happening, the Republican Party is attacking and censoring Republican Governors Ducey, Baker and Kemp; Senators Flake and Romney, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger, as well as Cindy McCain, John McCain’s widow.
Crazy, huh? Trump has gone far astray from the values of the Republican Party of the past. This is not the Grand Old Party you knew and grew up with. It is missing the leaders who civilly fought the battle of ideas rather than joining a civil war of insurrection. In Montana I hope responsible GOP leaders like Marc Racicot and Bob Brown (both opponents of mine, but also friends) will not just oppose Trump, but fight for the soul of their party.
Yes, right-thinking, responsible Republicans need to take control and bring back the GOP of Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan and Bush. America will be the winner.
Evan Barrett lives in historic Uptown Butte after retiring following 47 years at the top level of Montana economic development, government, politics and education. He is an award-winning producer of Montana history videos who continues to write columns and commentaries and occasionally teaches