The Sad Morphing Of The GOP

Last weekend, I ran into an old acquaintance from my days in Republican politics. When the conversation turned political, this former longtime Republican ward chair said he was now an Independent –and hadn’t voted for a Republican in several years.

Anecdotes, as we all know, aren’t data, but I’ve had numerous, similar discussions with friends I made during my 35 years in Republican politics, including several former Indiana office-holders. All of them echoed my own assertion that “I didn’t leave the party–the party left me.”

The bottom line is that–whatever you want to call today’s GOP–it is absolutely nothing like the party we all worked for those many years ago.

I don’t think “regular” people–those who haven’t followed partisan politics very closely or routinely taken note of the policy positions of candidates over the years–realize just how radically different  today’s GOP is from the party of Hoosier Republicans like Richard Lugar, Bill Hudnut, and Bill Ruckleshaus. (Occasionally, when I was teaching, a student would come across my first book–“What’s a Nice Republican Girl Like Me Doing at the ACLU?”–and express shock that I’d been a Republican. I’d assure them that the GOP they saw –the only GOP they’d experienced–was a dramatically different animal from the one I’d once worked for.)

Catherine Rampell recently remarked on that dramatic about-face in a column for the Washington Post.She noted that the GOP no longer argues that free markets, rather than government, should choose “winners and losers.” Instead, for today’s Republican politicians, the role of the state isn’t to get out of the way. It’s to reward friends and crush political enemies.

Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham expressed the new ethos in a recent monologue threatening companies that advocated for LGBTQ rights, ballot access, racial justice and sundry other political stances that are anathema in today’s GOP.

“When Republicans, they get back into power, Apple and Disney need to understand one thing: Everything will be on the table,” Ingraham warned. “Your copyright, trademark protection. Your special status within certain states. And even your corporate structure itself. The antitrust division at Justice needs to begin the process of considering which American companies need to be broken up once and for all for competition’s sake, and ultimately for the good of the consumers who pay the bills.”

As Rampell notes, this philosophy isn’t limited to Fox News pundits. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis–irate at Disney’s criticism of his “Don’t Say Gay” bill–is threatening to cancel Disney’s status under a Florida law that has enabled the company to effectively govern itself within the bounds of its theme parks for some 50 years.

Similarly, last year, DeSantis signed a (likely unconstitutional) law to punish tech companies for privately determined content-moderation decisions, and another law that fines private companies that attempt to set vaccination requirements in their workplaces.

In other states, such as Georgia, GOP politicians have punished private companies for taking supposedly “woke” stands on issues such as gun violence. Republicans in Congress have likewise tried to use antitrust enforcement and other government levers to punish companies whose public stances on voting rights or internal policies on content moderation they dislike.

Trump, of course, understood the Presidency as a platform for rewarding his friends and punishing his (many) enemies. And the GOP–now the party of Trump– is “attempting to codify these responses into law, using the power and weapons of the state against those who disagree with them.”

Perhaps the most striking departure of today’s GOP from the party that used to bear that name is the nature of those disagreements. Today’s GOP has no discernible economic or social policy agenda–only culture war. What was once a political party is now a White Nationalist cult waging war on non-fundamentalist Christians, non-Whites, LGBTQ people and, of course, those despised “elites” (i.e., educated Americans of any race or religion.)

So–will the sad and pathetic remnants of a once “Grand Old Party” go the way of the Whigs? The Hill recently considered the possibility, giving several reasons for anticipating such an outcome.  One was that both pro-Trump and anti-Trump folks are departing, (the former finding the party insufficiently Trumpian). Another was the fact that corporate and major donors are fleeing the party.

And why would average Americans want to identify as Republicans? Soon, they must defend a party that acquitted their president after he incited a deadly insurrection to overturn a certified election based on his “Big Lie.” The Republican identity crisis is defined by its new “membership card slogan” reading, “We stand for shredding the Constitution’s impeachment clause and nullifying lost elections.”

It’s pretty clear that something has to give. The unanswered question is: will that something be America’s constitutional democracy– or today’s GOP?


  1. And yet – if nothing much changes, they could soon be back in control of the House, Senate and maybe the White House. The crazy times are far from over I fear.

  2. A major set of changes that people either have ignored or missed is (a) the statutes the “two major” political parties agreed to enact a couple of decades ago and (b) the closed nature of the not-for-profit corporate entity that is the Indiana Republican Party. If a group of progressive seek to form a “third” party, they might bump the Democratic Party from its automatic ballot access. As for the Indiana Republican Party, it is a D/B/A of the Indiana Republican State Committee. The State Committee is “the supreme party authority in the State.” (Rule 1-1.) The Rules are public. The by-laws are not. The State Committee is run by a Board that consists of anywhere from 3 to 23. Terre Haute attorney James Bopp, Jr., is listed as the incorporator. The GOP is insulated from take-over by voters. We have to change our laws on corporations to prevent a political party from being a private entity immune to takeover. After all, that “supreme authority” took the GOP over in the first place. It could consist of as few as two people who want to take us back to the 1800s and it’d be damn difficult to dislodge them.

  3. citizens united was er,saying corps are people,hense,the likes of ingram are saying,its your people we will distroy for not following our policy.
    kinda like hitler telling the jews in 1930s whats next,well thats already on the table. state
    legislatures churning out the first contests to legality at the supreme court,and the see
    how the chips fall? this became a all out process since news media has been bought up by
    rightwing corp ideals.(who are they?and what are their real motives?) its morphed into what we have today. i listened to how KFYR in Fargo NoDak and KNX Yankton,SoDak changed and then changed the listening ear here in NoDak, poxnews wasnt far behind. but the little minds here sought fit to rail against their own goverment,sometimes for the most trivial shit. now its the mandating of its content to source to its views by the obvious owners of such news corps today.. though outdated by some,since social media is king,we see where some little minds now have grip on others as the pied pipper in some following. this is all leading to our demise as a goverment for the people,but hey,whos talking about that except here and a few other places? seems the blow hards of corp news has our voices locked up or left looking like something floating down a gutter. the Demos in office have no backbone,no voice and no hope except to keep only the informed on their side. and were dwindling like a papar doll in a tornado.
    i hear a faint voice,is someone out there?

  4. I think that are mistaken if you believe that the Republican Party does Not have an coherent economic policy and perhaps a social policy as well. The economic policy – favors big business – playing off others (as fools) – against each other – supporting Monopoly Capitalism (while decrying some individual Monopolists who don’t support their rhetoric. I would refer you to Joseph Stiglitz’s “People, Power and Profits” ( Their taxation policies narrowly help some small businesses and help larger ones. USians – often vote – based upon their hoped for economic future – not their actual “class interest”. Yes – their voices – often seem incoherent – but economic chaos – often helps many well off people, while hurting poorer people. They also are masters at playing on the Fears of – many not well-off people. I think that they often are stealthy – and manipulative – yes in culture wars – but also in dividing and conquering Democrats and the Left.

  5. The transfer of Indianapolis City Government from Mayor Bill Hudnut to Goldsmith was NOT morphing; it was immediate and totally shocking and frightening. At the time, the only description to compare it to was city government becoming a microcosm of the Nixon administration. For those of you younger generations here; it was like the transfer from President Barack Obama to “The Donald”.

    One aspect of the results of that immediate shock and fright could be found in the general health of those of us who couldn’t escape to other employment for whatever reason. My Primary Physician said he lost count of the number of his patients (myself included) he was treating for stress, anxiety and depression. Another dedicated City worker who was left behind had a friend who worked in the Wishard Hospital ER and told her that she couldn’t even estimate the number of patients coming into the ER thinking they were having heart attacks or strokes; all were City workers with stress, anxiety and depression. Another symptom throughout the City County Building and the outlying City offices was severe paranoia; a lack of trust between long time co-workers.

    In my small neighborhood, where I was one of a handful of those who posted any political candidate yard signs (mine, always Democratic); in 2016 the Trump yard signs were throughout the neighborhood. Fertilized by his bullshit, they were on every street; SIX on my 2 block long street alone. In 2020, ONE Trump sign was up for 2-3 days then gone, never seen again. But; they probably all still vote for any Republican who is running because they have always voted Republican. They appear to be unaware they were long ago left behind.

    “It’s pretty clear that something has to give. The unanswered question is: will that something be America’s constitutional democracy– or today’s GOP?”

  6. If all these Hudnut Republicans are no longer voting for Republicans, who is responsible for the Republican domination of Indiana government? I think there may be a variation of the Bradley effect in operation.

  7. Anecdotes aren’t evidence, but I wonder how many Democrats converted to Republican voters during this party metamorphosis?

    It seems like a populist vs. establishment split or even something else. But instead, it’s a deeper psychological split within the unconscious. A crowd of ‘phony Americana’ has split from reality and is venturing into the sunset wrapped around the flag, religion, and violence.

    More later…

  8. “….they probably all still vote for any Republican who is running because they have always voted Republican. They appear to be unaware they were long ago left behind.”
    JoAnn, you absolutely nailed it with this statement! There are far too many voters who couldn’t tell you the first thing about a given candidate other than if they are sporting a D or R with their name. And if mommy and daddy were hardcore Democrats or hardcore Republicans, they are going to vote family tradition without question. In this radically conservative state, there are more human robots programmed for R.

  9. I wonder what Bill Tilden would say if he were asked about “today’s” Republican Party. When you believe you have a God given right to rule, shouldn’t you expect that, somewhere in your future, there might be a sewer you can’t get out of?

  10. Does anyone remember Richard Schweiker? He was liberal-leaning Republican from Pennsylvania in the 1960s and 1970s who served in the House and then the Senate. In 1976, Reagan made his first run for president and selected Schweiker as his proposed running mate. A lot of mainstream and liberal-minded Republicans who had supported Schweiker were shocked but he justified it by saying as Vice President he would represent a different, less liberal constituency. That was the beginning of the death of the GOP as we had come to know it and eventually politicians like Schweiker continued to put their finger to the wind and follow the extremes of the party further and further to the right.

  11. The well off and “professional classes” are happy and being left alone. They and most “average Americans” are sick of parties and politics and trust no politicians. Do not be surprised if the voting % is way down this year and that we will have more far-left and far-right that get elected by their “excited” bases.

  12. “DeSantis signed a (likely unconstitutional) law”. Since it is the Supreme Court that ultimately decides the constitutionality of any law, I am far from certain this, or any of the myriad other laws being passed by red states, will be found unconstitutional by the current Court.

  13. The GOP (with the help of ALEC and the rest of their strong ecosystem) know about wording…AKA “Defund the Police”. Too bad schools have long since left teaching critical thinking for STEM…

    Reported last week: “survey of 1,618 U.S. adults, which was conducted from March 31 to April 4, found that nearly a quarter of Democrats (24%) also think it should be “illegal” for “teachers or other school personnel to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity when teaching children in kindergarten through grade three,” despite weeks of objections and outrage from party leaders and activists. At the same time, another 24% of Democrats say they’re “not sure” how they feel — leaving only about half (52%) in explicit opposition.

    This is no accident. As critics of “Don’t Say Gay” have pointed out, the actual text of the law — “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards” — is vague enough to encompass nearly any reference that offends certain parents, including a passing mention of a student with two mothers or fathers. (The law’s preamble prohibits not just “instruction” but “classroom discussion” as well.)”

  14. As a Repub with the ACLU, I would not have been surprised if Ms Kennedy was personally accused of removing god from public school classrooms. That accusation was a longtime big beef for today’s party of wasicu magats..

  15. There is no better example of the workings of authoritarianism than today’s leading serial killer, Putin. Relentlessly and ruthlessly gather power to impose your will, whatever it might be, on anyone who is not you. As you are successful let Lord Acton’s law dictate your actions. Leave “power corrupts” behind and let “absolute power corrupts absolutely” consume your life and the lives of your comrades.

  16. Having just read, Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail 72. It’s interesting Thompson was as disgusted with the Democratic Party 50 years ago as I am today. I wouldn’t count out the Republican Party just yet. If anything,It seems as if the Democratic Party wants a strong Republican Party—-where have we heard that from? The Democrats NEED the Republican Party. Republicans are the bad cop to the Democrats good cop. Otherwise,the ruse becomes transparent.

    Both of the prevailing political organizations in the US seemed destined to the dustbin of history. Their allegiance to BIG MONEY interests is not sustainable in the long term. The government seems to work against everyone under the top 20%. This continuation will end badly.

    I think the future holds for even less participation amongst eligible voters to take to the polls. Why bother? Our politicians only respond to BIG monied lobbyists and government by think tank.How long must the public continue to play a role in what is really an illusion of democracy? The choices for candidates are made by the interests well before the public has a choice. And I use the word “choice” loosely.

    America at this very moment is the modern day Songhai Empire.

  17. Interestingly, as an aside, the “Grand Old Party” slogan was a big lie at the time it was rolled out: It was quite the brand new thing at the time, I have read.
    The Dems will have to use whatever bully pulpit leverage they have to widely inform the public of the extent of this morphing, as the next election approaches.

  18. The GOP doesn’t have a platform. It’s “do the opposite of liberals.”
    They used to stand for family values, low taxes and smaller government. Now, it’s a government so large, it fits in a woman’s uterus. It’s gun control for persons of color only. It’s “let the company blow up a neighborhood because we can” governing. Their media simply plays the blue and red teams and someone is always a loser! That’s us! We’re all losers!

  19. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. That shouldn’t be Bill, it should be Samuel Tilden, victim of a back room deal, in which the Republicans sold out the reconstruction for Rutherford B. Hayes.

  20. Well, I was Republican-leaning until 2003 with the swift-boating lies that undercut John Kerry. Then, I was independent. Then, I tried to be a Democrat, but the factions and in-fighting and lack of any cohesion ended that. Then I was “politically homeless.” And now I stand against the two-party duopoly, and will support and vote for They and RepresentUS are working to restore an American democracy. Until the people have a valid way to consent, nothing else matters. (We can’t even fix climate change until the people have the power again.)

  21. It isn’t true that a frog will sit in water as it is slowly brought to a boil.

    Republicans are another matter – sorry.

    From Nixon’s red-baiting and Southern strategy, through Reagan’s “welfare queens” and Philadelphia, MS, through Tea Party “shout down anyone who disagrees with you:, through Bush’s “water-boarding is a crime if used against Americans, but not if Americans use it”, with endless rounds of culture wars throughout it all and ending in Trump.

    They were walking the road, but didn’t pay attention because other issues (when the party still represented an actual view on issues) were being forwarded. There were also still many Republicans who didn’t fit into that bigoted, culture warrior mode. So they continued on.

    Then some began to realize that it was no longer the party that they had joined. Things had changed, and not in a good way. Others, as JoAnn points out, still just know that you must vote “R”, no matter what. Sure the candidate says some loony things and perhaps has done some bad things, but at least they aren’t a Democrat.

    Whether the Republican Party goes the way of the Whigs or gets “reclaimed”, I don’t want to try to predict. There is no need to speculate when I truly have no idea.

    My sympathies go to those who have lost their party. It is a sad state of affairs.

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