The Republican Party has been edging toward this catastrophe for 40 years, ever since it let goons like the late Terry Dolan help run its senatorial campaigns in the late 1970s. Dolan led to Lee Atwater, who led to Karl Rove and, altogether, they made Donald Trump not an aberration, but a culmination. It took into itself the debris of American apartheid. It allied itself with radicalized American Protestantism. It adopted a basic political philosophy of vandalism and nihilism. When confronted with an opportunity for human decency, such as in the case of Terri Schiavo, the party opted for cruelty. When presented an opportunity for political unity, such as in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, the party opted for the despicable in domestic politics and for the barbaric overseas. When handed an opportunity to change course, such as when the deregulated casino economy nearly destroyed the world in 2008, it doubled down on the basic economic philosophy that caused the wreckage in the first place. And when it became plain that the party was on the wrong side of history, such as the movement for marriage equality, it chose to work in the states through pestiferous god-botherers like Mike Pence, whose name Kelly Ayotte will write in for president.
When it won, the party opted for triumphalism. When it lost, it opted for obstruction. It has blown through democratic norms in every branch of the government. In the executive, it lied and tortured and worked almost exclusively to shove as much of the country’s wealth upwards. As a legislative majority, it has consistently refused to do even the most fundamental tasks of governing the country. In the judiciary, the judges so carefully nurtured in the think-tank terrariums of the organized Right have let loose a flood of money into our politics and have worked assiduously to carve away the franchise from the people who might most inconvenience the party on Election Day. They have come dangerously close to completing the project of creating a new Jim Crow to ensure a new Gilded Age. And now, there are not sufficient roosts for all the chickens. If you have a party dedicated to vandalism and nihilism, how can you possibly be surprised when your presidential nomination is spirited away by a career vandal and a superior nihilist?
It doesn’t matter now if he drops out or not. He has shown the world what the black heart of modern Republicanism—and of the modern form of conservatism that drives it—really looks like. He has become its beau ideal. He will stand for it until the party commits itself to real change and genuine outreach to those people it now only employs as targets for its timorous angry base to aim at. Whether he stays or whether he goes—and, god, I hope he stays—Donald Trump has burned down all the camouflage. He is what they are.
The only thing I would add is that none of this happens without the conservative media machine. It not only ‘catapults the propaganda’ (to use a phrase), but it now mainstreams both virulent bigotry and batshitloonitarian falsehoods (Got Birtherism?). That lead to an alternate reality (actually, a fantasy world) with the Republican Party as the safe space for those suffering from the mass communicable psychosis known as conservatism.
Unfortunately, they have done–and will like continue to do–so much damage. As long as the propagandists are able to ply their wares, the psychotic episode won’t break.