Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks to the Senate floor on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Opinion by Kathleen Parker Columnist
Feb. 9, 2021
Since you asked: The reason I’m hard on Republicans is because I expect more from them.
There, now, does that make it all better?
It seems that some of my Republican friends have had their feelings hurt as I’ve written so scathingly about Donald Trump and his enablers. Truth be known, I haven’t liked Trump since he came on stage. Not my kind of guy. The thought that he could become president was, to me, absurd and sickening.
Many weighty tomes have been written about why conservatives fell in line behind a reality-TV star, beginning with the goal of securing a conservative Supreme Court. Mission accomplished. Trump’s ideas about putting America first, going after China for unfair trade practices, securing our southern border and bringing home jobs were salutary, but also poorly articulated and executed.
As for why 74.2 million people voted for him in 2020, the answer is fairly simple: The alternative wasn’t tenable. First, the Democratic Party has moved as far left as the GOP has moved to the right. Given a choice between a tax-and-spend leftist state and a Fifth Avenue-Palm Beach loudmouth, the choice was easy if also inglorious. Second, many felt that Joe Biden’s age foretold a potentially abbreviated term, and they weren’t comfortable putting Kamala D. Harris in the Oval Office. So, many likely voted for the devil they knew.
Since last month’s mob attack on the Capitol, however, I’d wager that many among those millions now regret their votes. The extreme fringes of a political party can sometimes take over the main body, especially when encouraged by the president himself. Jan. 6 will for years be imprinted on every American’s brain, and Republicans won’t easily shed the association.
But whatever one’s politics, most Americans would agree that the country needs two strong political parties. When I recently wrote that the Republican Party is dead, I meant it in the Christian sense: Penance, forgiveness and rebirth are not only possible but also necessary.
The GOP’s fall from grace began when it forgot its roots and accepted a demagogue as commander in chief. Conservatism is a philosophy based most on collected wisdom and faith in the tried and true. Conservatism applies the brakes to progressives — careful to preserve what is good without deploying the air bags and causing more harm.
What we all witnessed on Jan. 6 was the antithesis of William F. Buckley Jr.’s insistence that conservatives place themselves “athwart history, yelling Stop.” It was bedlam.
So, yes, the Grand Old Party is dead. Today, it’s just the old party, peopled largely by a fading generation and powered by stale ideas. Gone is the intellectual heft that Buckley and his cohort brought to the debate. Missing are the big ideas that spur economic growth, excite incentive and cultivate hope. Absent, too, is the gentle temperament of so many past presidents, notably Ronald Reagan, whose good nature was sparked by a healthy self-deprecating humor and a powerful optimism.
By contrast, Trump brought a scowl to the party. His lack of intellectual curiosity was an insult to every American. His coarse behavior and insistence on constant attention, frantically tweeting at all hours like an adolescent whose brain hasn’t fully developed, was ridiculous and dangerous. He wasn’t worthy of the office, and everyone reading this knows it, even if it feels like a personal insult to have it said out loud.
It’s not. The insult was Trump. His stubborn refusal to act like an adult and his demand for loyalty as a prop to his improperly developed ego were assaults on every person who placed his or her faith in his potential to become something greater than himself.
He failed. And he failed you, my friends. Which means he failed our country, as well as our many allies, who counted on America to be a model for ordered liberty and democratic freedom.
It is imperative now that Republicans reinvent themselves: divest their interest in Trumpism and provide his supporters with an alternative vision; disempower the conspiracy propagators by offering fact-based truth and better ideas; and stand for something that inspires and attracts all people of good will.
It’s past time to throw open the tent flaps, beckon big thinkers young and old, and set places at the table for academics, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, artists and, yes, even actors. Democracy, like nature, functions best when the ecosystem is diverse, big, balanced and protected.
Maybe the Republican Party could start with that fundamentally conservative idea — before it’s too late.