There's a dolorous whinge permeating the chatter of the chattering classes about the state of American democracy.
Once the subject of Donald Trump arises, which seems to happen within five minutes nowadays at any dinner party or social event, it's become fashionable for educated progressives to put on an expression of great sadness and bleat out a lament for the future of humanity in general.
Then, because small "l" liberals love to overstate things, some tender soul offers an apocalyptic scenario: Trump is like Hitler, Trump will set women's rights back a century, good people will no longer be able to visit the United States, World War Three will happen, etc., etc.
All of which is foolishness. As all sorts of prominent voices in the Republican Party are publicly acknowledging, Trump is unelectable in a general contest.
Think about it: Trump's vulgarity and extremism has alienated him from his own party's leadership and most moderate Republicans.
In the primaries so far, he has averaged about 40 per cent of the Republican vote. So, a majority of his own party's members have so far opposed him.
And does anyone seriously believe Trump has any appeal across party lines?
This man is not Ronald Reagan. "Trump Democrats" might exist, but we haven't seen them in any great numbers yet.
As South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham — a Republican — nicely puts it: "Women and Latinos hate his guts, and with good reason."
GOP dissolution inevitable
No, Donald Trump is not going to be president, or invade Mexico, or deport all immigrants, or disenfranchise women voters, or drop nuclear bombs in Syria and Iraq.
What he almost certainly is going to do, though, is trigger an enormous disruption of the Republican Party, or even its breakup.
I use the word "trigger" deliberately here, because Trump himself won't actually bring about the end of his party. He's only the catalyst.
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If it weren't him presiding over the chaos, it would eventually be somebody else — say, one of those Tea Party characters who show up at rallies in tricorne hats, waving muskets around, vowing to destroy the career of any Republican politician who even considers bipartisanship for the sake of responsible governance.
Or perhaps it would be one of the fanatics who surround abortion clinics, harassing and screeching at patients as they enter, at a time when what they really need is privacy and sound medical advice.
Or maybe one of the Young Earth Protestant fundamentalists who take over local school boards, then try to force schools to give superstition equal place alongside the theory of evolution.
Or one of the zealots who demand, in the name of religion, the legal right to discriminate against anyone who isn't heterosexual.
Establishment mishandled insurgents
All of the foregoing groups are charter members of the so-called Republican Party base. And it is they who are actually carrying out the party breakup. They will proudly acknowledge it if you ask them (I have).
The party establishment, meaning most Republicans who have actually managed to win public office, handled the insurgents badly from the outset.
Rather than explaining to them that abortion is settled law, to use the words of the conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Republican politicians kept pretending Roe vs. Wade could somehow be reversed, if only the party base kept voting Republican.
They pretended that 11 million undocumented immigrants, the underclass that does America's scut work, could all be summarily deported someday, if the base just kept voting Republican.
They pretended to go along with the idea of cutting entire departments of government, and pretended that taxes could be cut endlessly, as though that could be done without also eliminating the entitlements that the base fecklessly embraces.
They promised to govern with the Bible in one hand, and the Constitution in the other.
But it didn't work. To zealots, surrender is like cocaine – there's never enough to satisfy.
So eventually, they went to war with their own party, waving their muskets. They chewed up John Boehner, the former House Speaker, and Eric Cantor, Boehner's No. 2. They made lists and targeted Republican incumbents nationwide.
And now, lo and behold, Donald Trump.
Unelectable, perhaps, but he's a big satisfying middle finger to everyone — the GOP brass, moderate Republicans, Democrats, immigrants and everybody else who would bring America into the new millennium.
Trump nomination will wreck state, local contests
So, ultimately, the Republican stable isn't just going to be swamped out. It's going to be burned down.
It will probably mean a generation in the wilderness, or maybe two, before conservatives reform and achieve national power again.
'It isn't the hated liberals or the politically correct left that are doing this to the GOP. It's a gloriously Republican self-immolation.' - Neil Macdonald
Almost certainly, as the conservative columnist George F. Will predicts, a Trump nomination will create all sorts of "down-ballot carnage": state, county and municipal Republicans will capsize in his bombastic wake.
Meanwhile, Obamacare will become unshakably entrenched, the nuclear deal with Iran will go ahead, and Democrats will see to it that the Supreme Court is stacked with progressive justices for decades to come.
But let's be clear: it isn't the hated liberals or the politically correct left that are doing this to the GOP. It's a gloriously Republican self-immolation.
President Barack Obama was wrong when he snarked at the media last weekend, asking us if we're proud of ourselves for paying so much attention to Trump, whose candidacy, according to Obama, was really just an attempt to boost his hotel business and not worthy of constant coverage.
In fact, Trump's run has been democracy in action.
Creative destruction and all that. A perfect free market solution for a party that adores market forces.
How can we not cheer such a thing? You go, GOP.