Our recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses the state of the parties. The state of the GOP is not good.
I completely reject the argument I’ve heard from critics on the left who claim that this is what Republicans have truly been all along—or at least since Goldwater. I freely admit that I was wrong about the strength of the reactionary right. A healthy political movement does not produce a Donald Trump. But the Republican river flowed differently when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were its leaders. The social, cultural, and moral pressures pushed in different directions.
Let’s put it this way: No one is writing a book called When Character Was King about Trump.
The great challenge for the GOP isn’t beating Democrats. That it can often do. The Democratic Party’s own inadequacies are responsible for many of its electoral weaknesses. A party that nominates Hillary Clinton is not a party that puts character at the center of its own political project.
No, the great challenge for the GOP is reversing the course of its river. To the extent that a person influences a party and a nation, the direction of that influence should flow towards truth, towards courage, towards competence. Make lies exhausting. Make incompetence countercultural. Make cowardice shameful again.
How do we know the conservative Christians of 1998 were correct? The evidence was right in front of our eyes then. Clinton corruption degraded our political culture in plain view. But if there was any remaining doubt at all, conservative American Christianity proved its own thesis. It tolerated serious wrong, its conscience was seared, and now unrestrained lawlessness and moral corruption rots the movement.
George Santos was inevitable. The American right rendered him inevitable. And now it lives with the consequences.