There is more than one way for a political party to die.

If you ask people of my vintage–the party volunteers, candidates, office holders and party functionaries who populated the Indiana Statehouse and the Hudnut Administration’s sixteen years in City Hall–the GOP we worked for and supported is long gone. We don’t recognize the party that bears the name.

The death of a political party via this sort of transformation into something much darker and different is less visible than the sort of death experienced by the Whigs, but it is no less real.

For the last two decades, at least, I’ve been predicting a split between the GOP’s “business wing”–those we used to call Country Club Republicans–and its far-Right fringe. (Helpful hint: don’t ever bet money on predictions I make; I’m notoriously wrong about nearly all of them.) It seemed inevitable that members of the sober business community, fixated on fiscal prudence and economic issues, would be increasingly unwilling to partner with and vote for the religious fanatics, flat-earthers and white nationalists who had become the party’s base.

If the divorce I saw as likely back in 2000 (the year I “came out” as a Democrat) is ever going to occur, it will be precipitated by Donald Trump–an unstable and self-engrossed con man no rational businessperson would hire for any responsible position.

I may still be proven wrong, but I’m no longer prophesying in the wilderness. Others have begun predicting the fracturing of what’s left of the GOP.

On August 8th–before Trump’s horrifying reaction to Charlottesville–the Guardian devoted an article to the defection of GOP conservatives from the party that had embraced (or at least tolerated) Trump. The article began with the highly visible unhappiness of Senator Jeff Flake.

Jeff Flake of Arizona, among 17 conservative politicians, activists, officials and pundits interviewed over two months, revealed that while the president has given rightwing fringe groups a seat at the table, his alliance with his own party remains highly precarious.

The article proceeds to quote a number of prominent Republicans who shared their disdain for Trump and his enablers. Eliot Cohen, a former state department counsellor to Condoleezza Rice, said:

“This fundamentally boils down to character, and his character is rotten. He’s a narcissist who happens to have taken control of the Republican party. Trump has taken conservatives back to a different era, before William F Buckley drove out the Birchers, the bigots and the antisemites. We’re now back in a different world.

British conservative historian Niall Ferguson agreed:

The Republicans have surprised me in one respect and that was the poor discipline of the party. If you think of this in British terms, essentially we are now in a quasi-monarchy, kind of what Alexander Hamilton vaguely had in mind. But it’s a monarchy in the sense that the White House is a court and Trump is like one of those people who becomes king who’s not terribly well-suited to the role. And so there’s rampant factionalism and infighting and erratic decisions by the king, and Paul Ryan’s the prime minister who’s trying to manage affairs in the estates general. But the problem is that from a British vantage point, the party discipline’s very weak.

The article goes on to quote a significant number of prominent conservatives, some still supportive and others noting that Trump’s erratic and uninformed behavior is inflicting substantial damage on the party, and widening, not healing, the rifts that have been growing for some time. Two of the most critical were Charlie Sykes, a talk-radio conservative, and Michael Steele, former Chair of the national GOP.

Sykes pointed to the obvious danger of “going along”: you end up accepting  “someone who mocks the disabled and insults women because he gets you a social policy win.”

For his part, Steele says out loud what so many long-time Republicans say quietly:

This is my 40th year as a Republican and it is the first time I can honestly say I don’t recognise this party and some of the people who are leading it.

And this was before Charlottesville.

The GOP I once belonged to is already dead. The question for conservatives now is: what will become of its distasteful, immoral, unAmerican remains?


  1. I think it would be a big mistake if the Democratic Party moved toward the center/right to attract the votes of these disaffected Republicans. The future is Millennials and Gen-Z and moving right will disaffect them and their votes. Which means the party needs to leave the old farts (Pelosi, Clinton, et all, except for Bernie) and stay to the left. Moving right will only cause the Party to further crash and burn. For those Republicans who now find themselves in a party they don’t recognize they’ll need to make a choice. Vote for their country or against. Some will find the choice unbearable and just stay home. Hopefully that will be a larger number than anytime in the past. And maybe the country club Republicans can re-invent themselves as Neo-Whigs.

  2. Terry makes sense, but the time scale involved in the transition he envisages is not predictable. How much damage to the country will occur by the time enough millennials dominate?

  3. Terry–you do know that Bernie is NOT a Democrat-right? So he should not be considered regarding the future of the Democratic Party. Just FYI.

  4. In response to William’s comment at the end of the day yesterday; I am sure I am the one he referred to who paid homage to Mayor Bill Hudnut. William stated that Mayor Hudnut had decimated the IPS budget to build our reputations as a sports center. I researched and found nothing to support that accusation; his passage of the additional 1% sales tax on restaurant food and beverage was his chief bugaboo. William’s comments fit into the subject of today’s blog, “GOP, RIP” nicely.

    Mayor Hudnut restructured this Republican City Government prior to beginning actively turning this city from “India-no-place” to the beginnings of a progressive, modern city. He did not accomplish this by placing “our” Sheila Suess Kennedy in her lofty legal position alone; he rid the government of unqualified employees and replaced them with experienced, qualified employees. Women, Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, an Asian or two and a few Democrats were brought into City government to get the work done. One Division of his Mayor’s office was the Division of Community Services; we monitored all multi-service, senior and health centers throughout Marion County for compliance to receive federal funds. Reagan’s election ended that humanitarian service which Mayor Hudnut had played an active part in. Illegal immigrants were aided to become documented and to study for American citizenship.

    I will only refer to the destruction of a competent organization of City government by Steve Goldsmith with his privatization/outsourcing/leasing/selling off this city (often with no-bid contracts or no contracts) and its assets due to avarice and greed. I watched and worked within Indianapolis Republican City Government as it healed from within due to Mayor Hudnut’s humanitarian form of business administration as I worked my way up from one of the lowest positions to one of trust and responsibility for vital issues. I was there when the downfall of the local Republican party began under Goldsmith, a microcosm of the Nixon administration and a forerunner of what remains today – and “remains” is an apt description of the entire GOP at this time. The current “remains” of the national GOP is dead and stinking and Trump will bury it if not stopped and not stopped soon.

  5. I concur with JoAnn about what the Goldsmith years did to our city’s government. I was on the other end of that period having served in the Peterson Administration where we were tasked with picking up the pieces and rebuilding the government. It was a daunting task for sure. Some of the city’s government procedures and practices could not be recovered, just as later Ballard buried the city under the weight of 30 year private contracts for things unnecessary. Every time the Republicans get their greedy hands on government there is a march backward into taking from the citizens and handing more, more, more to the already too wealthy, most of whom live outside the county.

    As for the GOP, I can only note what I have observed since Trump took office, and that is that the Republican Party is morally bankrupt. They have sold their souls to the devil himself, and it is too late for redemption.

  6. The faces we saw in Charlottesville behind the KKK, NAZI flags and white supremacists’ symbols were not, for the most part, old. They were young millennials and Gen Z men. The seeds of hate are passed to following generations too easily waiting for the moment when they spout into so many noxious weeds. Those young, mostly men, will grow old and have families who will grow up with the rhetoric of hate in their homes and social circles.
    We can never forget what that means for us as individuals and as a society. Be always on alert for the institutionalization of hate. It is still with us in Indiana after more than 100 years since the KKK ran the state. It had no gone away, just underground, to slink out from their holes filled with venom.

  7. The republican policies, tax breaks for the rich, big military, privatization of everything, is so far out of the mainstream needs and desires of the American people they have to rely on the lunatic fringe for votes. This can’t go on much longer. Either the American citizens will restore sense to our government or we will become another Russian style dictatorship.

  8. As Noam Chomsky has noted many times, the entire country has moved to the right. They’ve taken on their donors attitudes. We have to look beyond the actors on the political stage and peek behind the curtains at Mercer, Koch, Murdoch, etc.

    The Koch’s are Bircher’s and they funnel millions into conservative movements, colleges, and “think-tanks”.

    While you’re eulogizing over the GOP, you might want to do the same for the #DNC which is corrupted beyond repair. I think you’ll see the rest of 2017 be very unkind to the DNC and Debbie.

    Capitalism has two political parties which control the disbursement of power. Truth is, the DNC is an obstructive force meant to block true democratic movements in this country. It’s obstructive.

    The young people have tried entering the Democratic Party but it’s closed off to the people. This is why you are seeing DSA’s popping up all across the country – Democratic Socialists of America.

    “DSA is the major organization on the American left with an all-embracing moral vision, systematic social analysis, and political praxis rooted in the quest for radical democracy, social freedom, and individual liberties.” — Cornel West, DSA Honorary Chair

    The media should embrace them but they won’t. Quite frankly, it’s the only thing that will save the propaganda media model, but I suspect that Big Media, just like the two ancient and dying political parties, will side with capitalism and it’s Donor Class – Fascism.

    That is what I call a “Losing Bet”.

  9. Re comments from William (yesterday) and JoAnn today about Hudnut’s relation to IPS: I was on an IPS committee to recommend which schools to close. Sheila’s spouse was also. At one point a few members had a rump session to appeal to state legislative leaders to intervene. They were politely told “nothing doing”. The same appeal was made to the Mayor’s office. Same response. IPS budget and governance integrity was respected and reinforced.

  10. Reagan,Bush1,Bush2,trump. thanks for the set backs. b,clinton,unpaid holidays in jail. Obama, it was dream,but wall streets useful president.clinton2, minority after a minority, not a game to,play now. trump, most disgusting thing to ever walk into the light,much less the white house. where in hell have we gone.And whats next? a progressive community better get into tha basics again,and actully find a canidate who apeals and is,real…. best wishes. seems its all on head of a pin here,look back, and reread your own past… wages baby,wages.

  11. Elizabeth Warren last weekend called out the attempts by the Corporate Establishment Democrats to move to the “center”, which translated means farther to the Right.

    “We’re not going back to the days when universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected”.

    The Republicans talked and voted for years to repeal ACA. Trump had his repeal and replace. Just what Trump was going to replace ACA with was blank piece of paper. The Republicans were totally unprepared they had no plan.

    The Progressives in the USA are going to have to take the power away from the DNC and Corporate Democrats. This will be easier said than done.

  12. I’ve only been participating in this political game for about 10 yrs and what I see is disgusting. I see the GOP hanging on to the 50 plus crowd who are self righteous evangelicals that want to live back in the 1950s. Those days are gone and thankfully, Fox Spews is getting rid of their filth (and Hannity is next). Fox is the RT of the White House.

    I see the left wing people who really want people like Bernie to run the country but walked away and didn’t vote because of what the DNC did to Bernie. We have to make a decision in this country. Are we going to let the fly over states rule the vote and the country? Or are we going to let the majority? Let’s be real, the electoral college is a confederate hangover and needs to go. We need to get a handle on this gerrymandering and voter purges that are happening all over the country. We need to enforce our democratic votes and the first thing we have to do is get rid of Citizen’s United.

    But you know, I’m just a dreamer. I wish everyone would be kind to one another. Have a nice weekend.

  13. As long as Red States are predominantly rural and Red State cities remain relatively small, the Republican party can commit political suicide administration after administration, and every new election year will still find the Red vote ready and willing to cast its lot with any new Satan, so long as he or she (or it, as is presently the case) claims to be “Republican”.

  14. Unless and until we can rid ourselves of the Electoral College, a racist compromise with the South, we are in danger of repeating our past. The Electoral College serves to keep in place an upside down version of Democracy. e.g. a minority of voters are able to cement in place a majority of Electoral votes, thereby thwarting the will of the majority of voters. We saw it a time or two in the 1800’s and then again in 2000 and now in 2016. As long as it exists we will continue to see this bizarre occurrence repeated, particularly with Republican gerrymandering in place.

    Historically, a government by the minority which suppresses the majority doesn’t end well although It always ends.

  15. I disagree with one statement from Sykes, Trump didn’t take control of the TOP but was given it. The party tied their soul to the Trump corpse.

    I thought Bill Maher made an interesting point and that the GOP plays the victim card well. They have the WH, Senate, the House, and most of the State Legislature and they still play they are the victim. If they don’t like how things are going they have themselves to blame. Well, they actually still blame Democrats, Hillary, and Obama and their followers believe them. It’s a morally bankrupt party with no leadership.

  16. Civilizations fall when power becomes so entrenched that all lose faith in anything but violence and chaos to improve their lives, and then the chaotic results of many such individual actions weaken a society to the point of collapse, anarchy, or defeat to an enemy. What’s needed, ironically, to avoid this fate is leadership. The Hudnut years were remarkable because of Hudnut.

    The question is how to find these leaders and install them in power, given the level of insanity on the right and corruption on the left. That is our challenge. How can we overcome those entrenched interests to insure that women and men of intelligence and character rise to the top of our political system and begin to repair the system and heal the country.

    I don’t have the answers, but Trump is the symptom of imminent collapse. Control must be taken by those of sound mind and heart or all will be lost.

  17. The Republican Party arose from the ashes of the Whig Party in 1854, largely on the issue of slavery, and had I been around I would have been a Republican since the Democrats of that day were racist and old guard. Then the parties exchanged places, so I am a pround and unremorseful liberal Democrat. Whatever history the GOP makes from here on out is unknown at this time, of course, but unless that party changes course and eradicates certain elements within its ranks it is going to go the way of the Whigs. Another party will arise from the ashes of the current party, and it will be interesting to see what the new party’s undergirding principles will be. Perhaps I will become a “New Republican” or whatever name they assume. I am wed to no “ism” other than the ism of whatever works for the most people in a democratic setting.

  18. To me the GOP is still owned lock, stock and barrel by business interests who believe despite all evidence that capitalism can survive in the absence of government oversight. That simply is not true. In the absence of oversight and taxation to redistribute wealth back to labor being properly compensated, capitalism devours itself redistributing wealth up until the people revolt.

    Those interests though are too small in number to be electable so must invest in buying votes as well as politicians.

    It’s easily done using our campaign funding free for all.

    Business interests buy politicians by donating enough to fund successful campaigns. Politicians spend those funds buying votes through media advertising propaganda from the easiest to influence groups.

    Oligarchy in practice.

    Trump is a made in heaven opportunity to recover democracy as long as Americans stay focused and on message but it requires full support of the only alternative to continuing down the path of oligarchy and that’s the Democratic Party, warts and all.

    The incompetence of Trump’s regime is staggering and we can absolutely count on him continuing to shoot at least a foot a day through Twitter alone.

    Let him go. Don’t chase his squirrels. Support Democrats of every stripe and color. Limit the madness to 4 years. Build the recovery team starting right now.

    Then focus on campaign finance reform and all votes counted the same.

  19. I could only wish Trump would be responsible for killing the GOP. The GOP should die-as should the corporatized DNC as well. Some of us are not content with the current two party system;Republican and Republican-Lite (calling themselves Democrats).

    Keep defending Hudnut,as I typed yesterday,he created the milieu that bled IPS for “more important” interests. Gotta keep giving a few multimillionaires their subsidies at the expense of IPS. Bread and circuses.

    What happened in Charlottesville can be blamed on the old GOP and its former Goldwater supporters. They too, can be credited for creating today’s political climate. The idea of former Goldwater Girls now pearl clutching over such events is “touching”.

    Back to Trump. I believe Trump represents what is wrong with the political class in America. Keep in mind,this man was very,very good friends with the Clintons. The political class in America is fat,lazy,stupid and full of greedy narcissists. Moreover, ,if we could find an island in the Pacific and forcefully move all of the Trump voters and Hillary supporters/voters to that island as well. That’s an action I could support wholeheartedly. Both groups deserve one another. As for the political class in America? Anything less than guillotines would be undignified for such a group.

  20. It would appear that William believes as I do that the forces of oligarchy represent the biggest threat to democracy and the American way of life.

    Where we disagree is on how to solve the problem.

    He continues down the path defined by the forces of oligarchy to win the last election. Trump’s a terrible choice but HRC is worse as shown by 30 years of accusations without proof.

    I think that’s old, inaccurate and not relevant as HRC will not be running in 2020.

    What we can count on in 2018 and 2020 are Democrats running against Republicans. One of those will win virtually every race.

    If we don’t take back the country in those races we as a constituency are saying that the current circus is the best we are capable of. Or, we can insist on going home with who we brought to the dance and that’s returning to capable experienced problem solving people who both can and will represent our interests not corporate funds reallocated to buying power against us.

  21. I continue to be confounded by blog participants who seem programmed to toss in a reference to the ‘oligarchy’ in their daily posts. What’s with this insistence on mentioning the ‘oligarchy’? Is this frequency of ‘oligarchy’ word dropping similar to a grade 11 English student who’s learned a new vocabulary word?

  22. What this country need is a good Mayor. Mayors, the good ones, love their cities and their people unreasonably. The booster, encourage, and are certain that the mundane needs of day to day get done. trash picked up, conflicts resolved, public safety, health and jobs. Have a glorious vision for their future of their town or city. They tend employees and enjoy people.

    It’s hard work, and it requires working with all the stake holders. Building consensus that makes a healthy place to live. GOP sold it’s soul, Sowed the wind and now we will all reap that tornado. They twist truth obscenely; and now have a poster boy of their self deceptions. Seven years of scorn for Obama’s health reform they couldn’t come up with fixes and refused to work across the aisle. All or nothing and they got it ALL and we may, in the classic sense of tragic, end up with chaos nothing.

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