Rupert Cornwell in The Independent:
“The Party of Lincoln is Dying.” Thus a headline in The Washington Post this week on top of an article about how far the Republican Party – whose moniker the “Grand Old Party” harks back to the Great Emancipator and the saviour of his country’s unity in the Civil War – has strayed from the great man’s ideals. So much, however, has long been obvious. More pertinent is the question: what comes next? Imagine the Republican Party as a supermarket product. If the product isn’t selling well, managers of the company would change or replace it. Indeed, an in-house post-mortem after Mitt Romney’s resounding 2012 defeat (an election Republicans genuinely expected to win), recommended precisely that. The party had to stop “marginalising itself”, said the report by the Republican National Committee, and boost its appeal to women, minorities and the young. Instead, the opposite happened. Republicans stuck to the same-old, same-old, concentrating not on making their product more appealing, but on making it harder for consumers to buy the rival one. Hence the introduction of tougher ID requirements for voters in Republican-run states, and other tactics designed to make it harder for poorer people, preponderantly Democrats, to take part in elections.
In short, the party was crying out for someone who claims to know how to run a business. And lo and behold, up pops Donald Trump, who boasts he’s the smartest businessman since John D Rockefeller. In doing so, he has blown to bits the coalition forged by Ronald Reagan, the Republicans nominal patron saint. Broadly, this coalition had three parts: traditional conservatives (including Wall Street, country-club Republicans and advocates of small government); national security hawks and neocons; and social conservatives and evangelicals. Sometimes the parts co-existed uneasily; more often they overlapped. Trump, though, has flouted core tenets of all three. By no measure is he a traditional economic conservative; he refuses to take an axe to social security. He’s obligatorily hawkish on America’s own security, but is positively Obama-like in his aversion to the sort of “boots on the ground” adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere favoured by neocons. His past support for abortion rights flies in the face of social conservative dogma. But none of this has mattered. Trump may change his position on the issues every few days, or even hours. But grassroots Republicans (and not a few Democrats as well) have responded to his call. What’s happened reflects a rejection of “politics as usual” of which Trump is the antithesis, amid disgust at Washington and the internal games of the ruling class, its disconnect with ordinary America. And yes, it also reflects the nativism and racism that persists in a party whose citadel is now the South.