The historic election of Barack Obama as president of the USA in 2008 propelled him into a frontier where no person of color had ventured before. His arrival into this new political frontier was like taking a small step for himself and a giant step for black people. While the world celebrated the historic event, the Republican Party’s reaction was the opposite.
Breaking the traditional 100 days honeymoon period for new presidents, the Republican Party began their Machiavellian crusade against President Obama. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader at the time said, “My number one priority is making sure President Obama is a one-term president.” His small and mean-spirited comment set the stage for the Republican Party to take a giant step to initiate their relentless crusade to demonize the president.
With about eight months to serve in his second term, it is reasonable to say that the GOP has failed in their anti-Obama crusade. The only thing the Republican Party has succeeded in doing is to weaken the foundation of their party. Like Humpty Dumpty, they sit precariously on the wall trying to prevent their fall.
The failure of the GOP’s anti-Obama crusade is a lesson about the failure of political leadership. It is also a lesson that speaks to the karmic consequences of unfair and unjust behavior or actions. Evidence of the latter is seen in some of their leaders fading into obscurity (losing or giving up their positions – Speaker Boehner, Darryl Issa, etc, some losing elections – Eric Cantor, etc.) and the party becoming increasingly dysfunctional.
Without the benefit of good leadership, the Republican Party now finds itself drifting to and fro on the ocean like a ship without a captain and with a defective rudder. This deficiency manifests itself in their irrational and dysfunctional behavior. Even when the party leadership shows some awareness of their problems, they seem unable to exorcise their demons.
It is ironic that the GOP questions the leadership of President Obama (when they are the ones obstructing his agenda) and do not see the leadership problem they have. Their leadership problem is the reason why they have the lowest congressional approval in history.
The economist, John Kenneth Galbraith defined the characteristic of a great leader as follows,
All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.
Galbraith’s explanation shows exactly how poor leadership contributed to the decline of the Republican Party.
The GOP certainly did not confront unequivocally two specific problems that have contributed to their decline – their party been hijacked by the Tea Party and Donald Trump. The ascendancy of the Tea Party came on the heels of the historic election of President Obama. This apparently triggered their fear of whites losing power and control as reflected in their mantra, “We want our country back.”
Once the Tea Party found a base in the Republican Party, they took advantage of the party’s leadership problem. Some of their elected members like Sen. Ted Cruz spearheaded efforts like shutting down the government, leading the charge to repeal Obamacare, signing a letter to the Iran Ayatollah to scuttle the nuclear deal, their reluctance to compromise, avoiding or thwarting any bipartisan bill, and other unethical things that undermine democracy.
Donald Trump’s notoriety in hijacking the Republican Party came from his Birther Conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in Kenya. Trump’s ridiculous claim meant that he had no confidence in the vetting system that would certainly have confirmed this if it were true. Even after the president produced his birth certificate, he was still not satisfied. Had the GOP leadership repudiated him, he would not have been in a position to see their nomination in the 2016 presidential election.
The tendency for the GOP to blame President Obama for the challenges and failures facing the country is frequently asserted in the GOP presidential campaign. Donald Trump’s campaign mantra is “We will make America great again, we don’t win anymore” is part of this tendency. This is what psychologists call cognitive dissonance – if we demonize the president, and brand him as incompetent, people will believe that we are not to blame.
With the Republican Party weakened by their leadership problem and dysfunctionality, one could be tempted to ask the question, “When is the party going to have its Humpty Dumpty fall?” The answer to this question probably lies with Donald Trump. He is the last proverbial straw that could break the camel’s (in this case the elephant) back. Regardless of where he ends up in the 2016 GOP presidential election, he will contribute to the demise of the party rather than unifying them.
To use a medical analogy, the GOP is like a patient with a cancer that has metastasizes and the prognosis is not good. This cancer was brought on by a toxic mix that include their political obsession of demonizing President Obama, the admittance of the Tea Party in the Republican Party, allowing Donald Trump to run his Birther nonsense, and silent applaud of those who blatantly disrespected the president.
With the GOP struggling to survive their political cancer, Mitt Romney’s effort to treat one of the symptoms (Donald Trump) last week in Utah comes too late. As alluded to previously, Donald Trump who is likely to win the GOP nomination and possibly the presidential election, will be a shock to their system that will hasten their demise. This conclusion is based on his several character attributes that do not make him a unifier. He is too controversial, has no experience working in an organization that functions on compromise, he is too egotistical, he does not take criticism of any type well, and he has alienated too many groups.
With the Republican Party precariously perched on the wall, the Donald Trump presidential campaign saga regardless of how it unfolds will lead to the disintegration of the party. Like in Aesop’s Humpty Dumpty fable, if the Republican Party falls, “All the King’s men will not put them together again.” If the Republican Party is able to regroup to become a credible party, it will be a miracle or it will take a long time for them to do so. For the sake of the country, and democracy let’s hope they do.
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