The Republican Party is already dead – they just don’t know it yet

Valium and Tums are on the menu for the Republican Party establishment these days. Anxiety and GI tracts in overdrive over Donald Trump and an insurgent electorate. In the now smoke-free back rooms of the Republican National Committee, party elders are plotting and scheming to save the Grand Old Party from crashing into the side of Mount Trump either at the GOP convention this summer or on Election Day in November.

What they don’t realize is that the GOP plane is on autopilot, the pilot and copilot are dead, the cockpit is locked, and the plane is on a collision course with cubic miles of solid granite. As Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker, “Resistance is futile.”

What went wrong? Jeb Bush was the presumptive nominee. Primary dates were changed as was delegate distribution in those primaries. Jeb! was, “Willing to lose the primary to win the general.” He didn’t need the annoying conservative base, the pesky Tea Party, those against illegal immigration, Common Core, reckless tax and spend policies, and a politically correct war on terror. But someone else wanted those voters, spoke to those issues, and threw an insurmountable roadblock in Jeb’s path to the nomination.

Now with Super Tuesday today, Donald Trump has almost 50 percent of the Republican vote in a hypothetical three man match up between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. Hence the abject panic in the GOP establishment since Donald Trump is on his way to securing the Republican nomination.

This can play out in one of two ways. The GOP establishment can block Trump at the convention, through rule changes or other shenanigans, creating a brokered convention and choosing a different nominee, say Mitt Romney. Or if Trump is the nominee, they can campaign against him in the general election, preferring Hillary to Trump, handing the White House to her. Either way the Republican Party is finished. Let me go into more detail.

As reported by the Washington Post,

Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald Trump continues to sit atop the polls in the GOP presidential race.

The New York Times also notes, “Elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Mr. Trump.“ The hope is that if Mr. Trump doesn’t win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention, the delegates are free to shift their votes to another candidate. Most delegates are party insiders, part of the establishment, hoping for advancement up the GOP ladder. Any bets how most of them will vote after the first ballot?

In other words, the establishment can steal the nomination if Trump doesn’t win in the first round of voting at the convention. The Washington Post ran the numbers and believes Trump can garner enough delegates to win on the first convention vote. This assumes no last minute rule changes such as converting a winner-take-all state like Florida or Ohio to a proportionate delegate state.

If the GOP establishment manages to derail Trump at the convention, expect about half the GOP electorate to revolt, leave the Republican Party for good, support a third party candidacy, or just stay home on Election Day. The downstream electoral effects could be devastating, handing the White House and both houses of Congress to the Democrats with little chance of getting those disenfranchised voters back.

Now suppose these actions fail and Donald Trump is the nominee. The GOP establishment has already signaled they won’t support Trump and may actually vote for Hillary Clinton instead, effectively ending the Republican Party.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “told colleagues they will drop GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump like a hot rock.” He even gave fellow GOP Senators permission to, “run negative ads against Trump if he becomes the nominee.” How’s that for party unity? Remember the outrage when Trump was hesitant to sign the pledge to support the ultimate nominee?

More party unity from Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, flirting with the idea of supporting a third party candidate over Trump. He’s not the only one. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said there was no chance he would ever back Trump. Former George W Bush advisor Peter Wehner is also balking; “Party loyalty has limits.” Radio host and editor Erick Erickson declared, “I will not be voting for Donald Trump at all. Ever.” Glenn Beck likened Trump supporters to Nazi Brownshirts. There is even a new Twitter hashtag #NeverTrump for likeminded Trump haters to vent against The Donald.

Where does that leave the Republican Party if its leaders and establishment actively campaign against the party nominee? How can the Grand Old Party be rescued at this point? I don’t think it can. Either option fractures the party. Irreparably.

The establishment blames its own lassitude in the face of a popular Donald Trump last summer. Why didn’t they go after Trump earlier? Why did other candidates only go into attack mode at the most recent debate? In their arrogance, they expected Trump to implode, from the time of his announced candidacy last June. His rude comments, his gaffes, his political incorrectness all should have ended his campaign. But he kept growing stronger. In the face of reality, the establishment convinced themselves that Jeb! was the anointed one. Screw the base, he didn’t need them. Instead the base didn’t need him. Rather then preparing for Super Tuesday, Jeb! is playing golf.

The real blame rests on the Republican leadership in Congress. They created the vacuum that made Donald Trump possible. Absent opposition to Obama, looking with disdain upon their voters, ignoring all of their campaign promises, and governing against the will of their voters is why Donald Trump is even in the race. Porous borders, a record low labor participation rate, disdain for American culture and traditions, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness did not register with the Beltway elite. Now the GOP is on a rendezvous with destruction. Perhaps out of the ashes a new conservative party can emerge, but the transformation will not be ‘grand’ and it won’t be the ‘old’ party.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon, radio personality, and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter.