The year 2020 will remain a black mark on our history, both as Americans and Idahoans, for decades to come. COVID-19 ravaged our country and our state, millions of people lost their jobs, and authoritarianism rose and fell for the first time in a century. Weakness, anger and a lack of leadership on the state and federal level largely carried the day. While there is a bright shining light at the end of this tunnel, a lot of damage has been done. So much death. So much despair. Among the casualties of 2020: the Republican Party.
It’s officially dead.
Former Republicans like myself have seen this coming for years, but 2020 made it official. We were once the party of capitalism, energy and possibility, now the GOP in Idaho and across the country is just scared and angry. The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower is unrecognizable. As far as I’m concerned, Republicans can no longer claim those guys — two of whom are on Mount Rushmore. The GOP used to be the party that wanted to lead this country into the future by providing opportunity to as many Americans as possible. Now, it’s just living in a past of its own making.
The Republican Party is now just the Right Wing Party — totally devoid of ideology and principles. The Right Wing Party does not care about you, your family or your neighbors. As an authoritarian party, it only cares about hanging onto power and satisfying its highest-paid supporters. If you’re reading this, you may be a “Republican-in-name-only” because the Right Wing Party only values your vote — not your future.
As a former lifetime Republican, I can’t tell you how saddening this is. We used to be the party of action and results. Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War. President Grant oversaw Reconstruction. President Roosevelt busted up the trusts and got things rolling on the Panama Canal. President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System while integrating the schools in Arkansas. If you wanted to get something done, you turned to a Republican. We were strong, energetic and up to the task.
Now, we’re Brad Little. Weak, feckless and entitled. Or, we’re armed militants. Scared, angry and cruel. I’m not sure which is worse. When Idaho Right Wing Party members in Boise show up armed to intimidate a 12-year-old boy in his own home, what does that say about the “party.”
The death of the Republican Party is as much a Trump story as it is an Idaho story. Capitalism and widespread prosperity are dying around the country and our state under Right Wing rule. This is not breaking news to the thousands of Idahoans who have seen their buying power and incomes bounce around the bottom nationally over the last decade. When you belong to a political party that doesn’t stand for anything, people inevitably suffer.
As an OG Republican, I am naturally an optimist. There is hope for Democrats and a new wave of Republicans alike to fill the void and get our country and state back on track. It will take strength, perseverance and a lot of guts. But, as the great Republican abolitionist Frederick Douglass famously said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
In my opinion, the party or parties that bring capitalism back to more Americans has the edge. That means investing in public schools, healthcare and infrastructure. Capitalism likes all of those things. It also means eliminating discrimination, whether because of race, gender or who someone loves, at every turn. No doubt that’s a tall task, but Idaho, America and capitalism will be better off with more people participating in the American dream.
How do we get there? If I had that answer, I’d be a very rich man, but I have some suggestions. For Democrats, enough of the gluten-free rhetoric. Idaho is, generally, an economically progressive state. Health care, raising the minimum wage and investing in education are all popular ideas, not to mention roads, bridges and transportation. Speak plainly and directly to Idahoans about these issues and how they benefit working families. You might be surprised how receptive folks are. Whether you know it or not, you’re the party of capitalism now. Own it and make it better.
Republicans, in order to reemerge, have to show some guts. That used to be what the party was all about. Stand up against the militants. Show voters you’re not willing to back down because it’s in their best interests that you fight. Go back to your roots. Lincoln chose Grant to lead the Union Army because Grant was a fighter. So was Douglass, Roosevelt, Anthony and Eisenhower. Own that history and take it back.