Now that Donald Trump seems to be on the fast track to the Republican nomination, the party establishment is completely freaking out. They are preparing for a brokered convention where Donald Trump has the most delegates, but not a majority, forcing a second ballot in which they hope to defeat Trump. Joe Scarborough - a Republican former Congressman and host of MSNBC's Morning Joe - is writing scathing editorials as Trump himself seems to be going back and forth trying to decide whether to accept the endorsement of the KKK and David Duke after having called Mexicans rapists.
Republican officeholders and media personalities are putting up a brave front and saying they wouldn't back The Donald even if he were the Republican nominee (a lot of Republicans who are not officeholders are doing the same). Some are even going as far as to imply they might just help elect Hillary Clinton president in such a scenario. Others are predicting disaster in November.
It's worth examining, then, how we got here. Donald Trump didn't fall out of the sky and capture the imagination of Republican voters in a New York minute. That Donald Trump, the man who was in the forefront challenging the citizenship - the very birth - of the first black President of the United States, would be the top Republican seeking their party's nomination is a more likely scenario in the current Republican party than one might imagine.
The day President Obama was inaugurated, Republicans had a secret meeting where they decided that they were going to oppose everything President Obama supported.
They decided that as the economy was in the midst of a disaster, they would not help the President put it back on track. They decided that as the President began to push for health care reform - which included many ideas Republicans proposed in the 1990s - to protect consumers and expand coverage, they would make the case for insurance companies. They decided that instead of helping the President reform the financial system, they would stand up for the banks. They decided that instead of helping save the jobs of more than a million people in the auto industry, they would much rather let Detroit go bankrupt. They decided that they would rather vote against their own bills than vote with the President.
But universal opposition and unprecedented obstruction to the President's policies weren't enough. The GOP, as a party, decided to promote personal disrespect for and hatred of President Obama. Republican members of Congress shouted "You lie!" as the President spoke to Congress, and Republican leadership refused to condemn the conservative movement's attacks on the President's citizenship. They remained quiet as their grassroots and their candidates for public office openly talked about second-amendment remedies, used racial epithets and imagery, embraced the idea that a "legitimate" rape could not result in pregnancy, and cheered for wannabe cops who shot and killed unarmed black teenagers.
They muted their criticism when Democratic offices were vandalized and celebrated Sarah Palin's PAC literally putting shooting targets on Democrats. They had a massive meltdown over the mere suggestion that right wing homegrown terrorism (which are now materializing) - much of which is racist - is on the rise even as they themselves egged on their fringe. They associate the entire religion of Islam with violence while their base shows up to support murderers.
Republican officeholders right now are denying 4.5 million poor people access to health care that would cost their states nothing, closing down lifesaving women's health clinics, restricting voting rights, denying climate science, bashing immigrants, and passing and signing proclamations declaring "Confederate Heritage Month." They are spending their time trying to ensure that bigotry of businessowners (and even random county clerks) takes precedence over the civil rights of LGBT Americans.
The ginning up of the hatred in the form of the Tea Party worked, it seemed, at least in the short term. As sufferers of the chronic liberal disappointment fetish sat home (and encouraged others) to "punish" President Obama for not doing things fast enough, wide enough, or their way enough, Republicans took over the House in 2010 in a wave election. President Obama dashed their hopes of winning back the White House in 2012, but liberal apathy once again made way for Republicans to win full control of Congress in 2014.
The entire rise of the Tea Party was - and is - a racist uprising. They may have put up a front of caring about taxes or the budget, but neither the Tea Party nor their Congressional benefactors care that President Obama cut taxes for the middle class or that he has reduced the deficit by two-thirds as a share of the national economy. What they care about is, in Rush Limbaugh's ugly, racist words, that Obama fails, that brown immigrants and black citizens are pushed to the back of the bus, and that Muslims are banned.
The GOP cannot honestly be surprised that a candidate selling hate and bigotry of the worst kind is fast rising to the top of their ticket when their leadership has spent decades doing just that.
So to answer a charge from Scarborough, Donald Turmp is not antithetical to the modern GOP; Donald Trump is the modern Republican Party. For all the panic in the GOP establishment about Trump, there is not even the slightest daylight between what Donald Trump is and what the Republican Party has honed their base to become. Donald Trump is not the cause of the Republican Party's recent woes, he is the result of the GOP's decay over the past eight years.
Stopping Donald Trump - even if the party's leadership is ultimately successful in doing so - will not fix the very rotten core of the GOP that those very leaders have nurtured for what they thought would be electoral gains. The Republican Party's leadership has nurtured their own cancer; Trump is merely the cancer's loudest outgrowth.
And so if the GOP wishes to return to what used to be the party of Lincoln - or heck even the party of anything other than angry white people - they must treat that cancer at the root. They must cut out not just the Donald Trump growth but the Tea Party growth. They must apologize to the American people for intensifying their base with bigoted policies and rhetoric and they must, once again, begin to compromise.
I doubt they would be able to do so without ensuring 16 years of continuous Democratic reign in the White House.