I’ll admit, I was hesitant to put my real name on this column. I worry I’m starting to come off as that rarest of Georgetown students, the Trump apologist. Let me say outright, I loathe the man. I wish Trump had stuck to starring on The Apprentice and running companies into the ground instead of running for president, much in the way I wish Hitler had just reapplied to art school instead of invading Poland.
That said, I’ve come to realize that Trump’s political raincloud has a very, very thin silver lining. The Republican Party needs Trump – offensive, aggressive, loud-mouthed, racist Trump – not as president, but as a nominee.
It’s not secret that the Republican Party has issues to work through. By now, the average American can cite a depressingly large number of headlines as proof. Among my favorites: Trump intending on building a wall with Mexico (which he expects Mexico to pay for), Ben Carson running on a platform of “I once tried to stab a guy”, Trump refusing to turn down the KKK’s endorsement, and Ted Cruz’s bizarrely phrased statement that “Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”
And the Republicans know they have a problem. One-time nominee Governor Bobby Jindal has gone on the record saying that “The Republican party does not need to change our principles – but we might need to change just about everything else.” Even RNC chair Reince Priebus admitted that managing his party frustrates him, though he denies that he’s “pouring Bailey’s on my breakfast cereal” to get through the day.
Perhaps Senator Lindsey Graham most succinctly summed it up saying simply, “My party has gone batsh*t crazy.”
What happened? This year we’ve seen Trump triumph over veterans, governors, senators, judges, moderates, people with actual political experience, and about twenty Republican candidates, all vastly more likeable and qualified than him. Perhaps running The Apprentice actually does translate into political experience; Donald knows from reality TV that the loudmouthed contestant audiences love to hate stays in the limelight the longest. You can’t even say Trump doesn’t represent the Republican party, not while he’s running first in the polls.
And this is exactly what the Republicans need right now.
Obviously, they don’t see it this way. The only ones loving the idea of a Trump nomination are Democrats and late-night comedy writers. There is no way Trump can win; he’s alienated women voters, black voters, muslim voters, latino voters, and pretty much every moderate in the country. Aside from the vocal minority who voted for him in the primaries, no one wants him in power. So why should the Republicans be celebrating?
Because Trump is just a symptom, not a cause. Trump didn’t rise on his own; a cavalcade of collapses have conspired to compromise the RNC from the inside out. The rise of the Tea Party almost sent the party into civil war between the “true conservatives” and the “politicians.” The do-nothing obstructionist policies of the senate Republicans – the government shutdown, the refusal to pass laws or confirm a new Supreme Court justice, the Iran letter – have damaged the brand. The RNC struggles to appeal to outsiders with its current reputation as zealous, uncompromising, and petulant.
And the party is dying. Literally: the median age of the Republican party is only increasing. Their stances against abortion and mandated contraception have shot their chances with moderate women. They have close to no pull with nonwhite Americans. Cuban-Americans, their only reliable latino voters, are drying up as well as a new generation takes over. The demographics are against them, and the party cannot expect to maintain its current hold on power far into the future.
And out of this chaos comes Trump.
Put simply, the Republicans need a loser. They need a candidate who will get up on the stage, make a bunch of arrogant, hateful remarks, waste a lot of money, and go down like Icarus in the polls. And after election night, they need to sit down and rethink what the Republican party means and what they stand for. They need to reexamine their values and determine whether or not they remain politically viable. They need a candidate who will lose so badly that it will prompt earnest self-reflection and reform, who will essentially shame them into change.
America deserves two good parties. Trump represents everything that is wrong with the Republican party now. But he needs to be brought to national prominence so that the Republicans can make the changes they desperately need.