Republican woes deepen in the Age of Trump

Photo: <a href="">Gage Skidmore</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

If you want a quick snapshot of just how dangerously broken the Republican Party has become, look no further than the internal memo from top GOP strategist Ward Baker leaked to the Washington Post. It offers a glimpse of a party establishment frozen by fear in the no man’s land between its hunger for victory in 2016 and its realization that Republican front-runner Donald Trump is a disaster, a man Baker portrays as unfit to lead the world’s most important democracy.

Along the way, Baker’s memo, circulated in late September, takes cynicism to its purest form. On the one hand, he urges Republican candidates to strive for authenticity, to portray themselves as courageous, committed to reform, good government, and change. But he also urges them to find ways to accommodate and co-exist with Trump, a candidate Baker describes as a “misguided missile” who is subject to “farcical fits.”

The document actually begins with a capitulation. It doesn’t argue for Republicans to do their duty by fighting to derail the candidacy of a man Baker clearly views as unsuited for the nation’s highest office. Instead, it accepts the possibility of a Trump victory as a fait accompli. “The place is Cleveland, Ohio,” the memo reads. “Donald Trump has just accepted the nomination of the Republican Party to be it nominee for President of the United States.”

Baker goes on to acknowledge Trump’s “extreme” positions. He accepts that Trump says “wacky things about women” and (apparently assuming that his party’s candidates will be men) he suggests that politicians should be prepared in advance to say that their “wife or daughter is offended by what Trump has said.”

Again, to be clear, this is a memo written not by Democrats or liberals or by the mainstream media. This is a memo written by the guy tapped by Republicans to coordinate the political fight to build their majority in the United States Senate. This is one of the GOP’s most powerful officials. And he’s saying point-blank that Donald Trump is someone that he expects to make “outrageous statements.”

Baker does one last thing in his memo that’s worth noting. He compares Trump repeatedly to Wendell Wilkie, a dark horse Republican candidate who stole the nomination in 1940 and then ran unsuccessfully against Franklin Roosevelt. But the comparison only works if you strip the two men of any substance or values. Trump is a guy, as Baker sees it, who says farcical, untrue, and offensive things as a matter of course.

Wilkie, on the other hand, was a man of actual courage who tried to steer his isolationist party toward early support for the Allies in World War II. At a time when the GOP wished to leave Britain to fight the Nazis alone, Wilkie campaigned on his conviction that America has an important role to play in a dangerous world. He was also a pioneer of the civil rights and civil liberties movement within the Republican Party.

In comparing Trump to Wilkie, Ward Baker steps firmly in the gray mess of frightened and valueless political calculation that ails establishment Republicans. If, as he suggests, party leaders truly believe that Trump is temperamentally unsuited to serve as commander in chief, then Trump is not like Wilkie at all. And authentic, courageous GOP candidates shouldn’t need a seven-page, lawyerly memo to understand their duty.

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16 Comments on “Republican woes deepen in the Age of Trump”

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  1. James Bullard says:

    Over 30 years ago the shrinking GOP courted the extreme right in order to have a viable majority. The original intention of the coalition I’m sure was to give them lip service or a small amount of what they wanted in order to retain a majority against the left. What has happened in the succeeding decades is that the extreme right, while still a 10-15% minority in the party, has used what power they have to push the GOP toward ever more extreme policies. The GOP is now at a point where the leaders have to decide whether to shear off the extreme right and lose their majority status or go go full blown fascist. Ward Baker apparently is okay with going full blown fascist in an effort to win regardless of moral cost.

  2. Paul says:

    Funny, since this party controls the house and the senate I wonder how they would do if they were not broken?

  3. telfish says:

    Gerrymandering can do greats things for a fascist leaning party.

  4. Dan says:

    If the past is any indication, Trump would drive the US into bankruptcy, and still declare himself successful…wouldn’t cost him any money. Probably make him rich…er.

  5. SESZOO says:

    It’s all up to the way people get out to vote , I always vote as it gives me a right to complain .People that don’t vote have no room to complain . So far I’m voting against Trump and for Bernie Sanders as the rest are just part of the same coin …

  6. Paul says:

    How do you vote “against” a specific candidate in the primary?

  7. Pete Klein says:

    The important thing to remember about Trump is that he is the none-of-the-above candidate.
    As such, he has a chance to win the nomination and the election.
    He is also the one to vote for if you hate the media trying to tell you who to vote for. This gives him more support.

  8. Peter says:

    Republican woes? How about this?


    Good luck Dems!

  9. nelson says:

    Actually, Donald Trump offers a really rare proposal, hope for a prosperous, safe future, free of the incursion of the middle east terror driven fanatics, that threaten our existence. A man that has proven that prosperity is within the reach of all.
    For the first time,a candidate for President that will truly in every way defend our great country.
    Can anyone imagine what having the U.S. under the leadership of Hillary would be, it is toooo awful to think about, soooo don’t,
    I like free thinkers and that is what NNY is all about, why Don Haig, running for congress, there was a power player, however, alas, it did not last, we have luke warm leaders representing NNY. But there is still time to mend the error of your ways, adios

  10. PirateEdward Low says:

    I know there are quite a few democrats who have re-registered as republicans so they can vote in the primaries… and vote for Trump. The figuring being that he drum up votes from the racist leaning republicans, but but in a race for president… common sense voters will vote democrat. This is not to say all republicans are racist.. or that no democrats are racist, but there is a core of misogynist / racist republicans.

    I heard there was a survey asking Trump supporters what would you make you not vote for Trump, and a good percentage said: “Nothing.” Which doesn’t surprise me since Trump has said enough foolish things for people not to vote for him already.

    As Mr. Mann editorialized before reminding us as a country, the US was a very racist country (

    Trump’s slogan could be:

    “Make America racist, again”

  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    My understanding of the primary process in NY is that people would have had to change registration before October 9th, or some date in there, in order to vote in the new party primary of the next year. Perhaps someone can correct me on that if I don’t have it right.

    Even so, the NY primary is so late that it is unlikely a change in registration by small numbers of people will make any difference at all in the end result. But I have also heard stories like that also happening for Bernie Sanders on the other side.

  12. TRUMP 2016! says:

    The confusion surrounding Trump is a real mystery to me, since all he is doing is repeating what he has learned from Right Wing Media.

    Every single “outrageous” statement he has made comes directly from Fox News, the Drudge Report, Red State, Newsmax, or another Right Wing media outlet.

    Imagine if you are dumb enough to believe Right Wing Media, imagine what your worldview is like. President Obama is a secret Muslim, who is holding the office illegally as he was not born in the United States. Thousands of Muslims celebrated 9/11. President Obama is secretly trying to give nuclear weapons to Iran, because as Ted Cruz said, in a nationally televised debate, Obama is the “greatest financier of Islamic Terrorism in the world”. I am really amazed they haven’t figured out a way to blame President Obama for 9/11 yet. I assume that is coming.

    If you are stupid enough to believe this stuff, the world must be an extremely scary place. You don’t care that Politifact has not rated one Trump statement as “true”. You do not care that he mocks handicapped people, you just want somebody to bomb your fears away.

  13. pirateedwardlow says:

    Knuck, I can’t correct you.. you are likely right.. but the change of party affiliation happened before, and like you said, by a few. Most do it for what they feel.. like they can make a difference..

    But then.. if you go buy into the thought that a few can’t change anything . .. then most people would say: “my one vote can’t change anything” However, in the republican race.. the polls show a few are kind of close i.e. Carson/Trump…

    It reminds me of how Rush Limbaugh would tell everyone to vote for Hilary during the primaries to put the democratic race in upheaval when Obama had a lead. Like you suggest, it was probably too little and too late… but it played well on the gop home front

  14. pirateedwardlow says:

    Remember when The Donald met with the RNC… and it was rumored he promised he wouldn’t run as an independent?

    When you make a deal with the devil… you usually lose

  15. Here’s the issue… the GOP’s divisionist strategy makes it virtually unelectable for the presidency because it’s premised on scapegoating as many groups as possible. I think liberals are hoping the GOP “braintrust” never figures out how much they have in common in terms of social conservativism with Muslims and traditionally Catholic Latinos.

    But this strategy works spectacularly well at the state level. States, by definition, are more homogeneous than the nation as a whole. And red states, for the most part (not exclusively), are more homogeneous still. Because they can use state legislatures to gerrymandering, this affects the US House as well.

    Of course, Dems gerrymander too but the GOP control of more state legislatures mean they can do it more. It almost makes me wonder if they’re okay with the trade off of not getting the presidency knowing that they can do significant damage (progress in their eyes) at the state level and use Congress to at least make sure a Democratic president can’t do anything.

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