In a column for the New York Times, David Brooks says that the Republican Party has lost its way with Donald Trump.
But he doesn’t lay the blame entirely on Trump.
Instead, in his column reflecting on the Democratic and Republican conventions, Brooks points his finger at the Mike Pences and Paul Ryans of the Republican Party for allowing Trump’s rise. It’s the "sane and reasonable Republicans who deserve shame," he writes:
This week I left the arena here each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the "sane" and "reasonable" Republicans who deserve the shame — the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.
Trump, Brooks writes, has allowed Democrats to seize traditionally Republican political territories: family values, middle-class morality, popular self-rule, and nationalism:
For decades the Republican Party has embraced America’s open, future-oriented nationalism. But when you nominate a Silvio Berlusconi you give up a piece of that. When you nominate a blood-and-soil nationalist you’re no longer speaking in the voice of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and every Republican nominee from Reagan to McCain to Romney.
Rank-and-file Republicans didn’t even try to stop this, Brooks argues. Instead, at the GOP convention, prominent Republican leaders twisted themselves into non-endorsement endorsements of Trump. Most Republicans attacked Hillary Clinton more than praising Trump. The establishment response to Trump, meanwhile, was to keep quiet or stay away.
Then again, stopping Trump would have required more than merely standing up against his rise — it would require a fundamental shift in the party, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias explains:
Trump has massive, obvious weaknesses as a candidate. He is a mediocre businessman who's become rich largely thanks to having a rich father and in part thanks to ethically questionable business practices...His Republican Party rivals have been unable to leverage these points against him either because ideological conservatives are incapable of criticizing them or because rank-and-file Republicans embrace ideas that the general public does not.
That's why Republicans haven't stopped Trump so far, and it's why they won't be able to stop him in the future. To beat him, Republicans either need to replace their voters or adjust GOP ideological orthodoxy. They can't do the former and won't do the latter, so they have lost.