My parents (Norma, 1904-2000 and Lester, 1909-2000) were white, Evangelical Christians, blue-collar workers, high school graduates and Republican. Their profile resembles the current GOP base. However, the 1801 British idiom, “turn over in the grave,” would apply to my parents if they knew how their beloved party of choice has changed.
Historians are already noting the most telling development of the GOP occurred Aug. 24-27, 2020, when the Republican National Convention convened without presenting a party platform. Donald Trump — not policy, principles, values or beliefs — became the GOP.
According to a recent NBC News poll, 44% of Republicans support Trump more than they support the GOP principles (April 17-20). My high school and college government teachers were in accordance with my parents by stressing that when a political party embraces personality over policy, they can no longer represent “We the People.”
Hundreds of U.S. Republican senators and representatives behave as if they are afraid of Trump’s retaliation should they speak out against King Donald. They have also refused to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection in fear that some of their peers may have corroborated with white supremacy groups. The GOP has lost its integrity. I can feel the earth turning at the Nevada, Iowa, municipal cemetery.
It is well documented and even accepted by the GOP faithful that Trump, via an analysis by 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts, is a narcissist. As such, Republicans with a modicum of intelligence should know that narcissistic people advance their own popularity and power over everything else, including their party and our country. Trumpism has evolved into a cult and it appears much of the party is satisfied with that characterization.
While I was raised in a predominantly white community, I was fortunate to have parents who embraced immigration (98.3% of Americans are descendents of immigrants) and valued racial diversity. They would be appalled to read Leonard Pitts Jr.’s Miami Herald article about the change of GOP: “Trump supporters fear a black and brown America” (May 25, 2018).
Thomas Patterson, a Harvard political scientist, argues in his book “Is the Republican Party destroying itself?” that the GOP has drifted from conservative to reactionary politics, relies on right-wing media, supports tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and exudes an increasing disdain for democratic institutions.
Patterson claims “to a remarkable degree, the history of political partisanship and the trajectory of American parties has been bound up with the history of race in this country. If your base is 90% white and you’re losing Asian-Americans by two to one, the Black vote by nine to one, and the Hispanics by two to one, voter suppression becomes the only viable strategic option.”
Regarding new voter suppression laws in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas, 199 scholars of democracy have issued a statement of concern noting “our entire democracy is now at risk” with these anti-democracy voting laws (New America, June 1). Fellow Iowans: are you listening?
Jennifer Horn, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, told Jelani Cobb, a reporter for The New Yorker, the current GOP-directed voter suppression incarnation is “the most open embrace of an anti-democracy movement that we have seen in our country in a very long time” (March 8).
Edward Lempinen’s interviews with political science scholars suggest the GOP’s rejection of democracy is a story of “complex interplay of class and racial antagonism, aggravated by despair and social drift” (Berkeley News, Dec. 7, 2020).
For many Republicans, authoritarianism supersedes democracy, and Trump’s “American carnage” 2017 presidential inaugural speech still resonates today. Where is Iowa and America’s GOP-preferred authoritarian ecosystem heading?
Alarming times are before us in our 245th year (circa 1776) of the “Great American Experiment” — democracy.
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Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and former Denver Board of Education member. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.