Neither of the two major political parties are as strong as they once were. Their weaknesses are resulting in two nominated candidates with the highest unfavorable ratings among presidential candidates since polling began.
Both political parties are in need of a transformation. The Democratic Party must reveal itself to be more than just the party for the poor and disenfranchised. It must commit itself to focusing first and foremost on resolving the issues that trouble the shrinking middle class.
The GOP must also make such a commitment. It must prove it is more than the party of no, more than a party that protects the wealthy and promotes divisive social policies.
Many in the GOP blame their current crisis on Donald Trump. Some say liberals are the cause of their crisis, but that is so ridiculous it requires no comment. Other Republicans blame the primary voters, and while the voters shoulder the ultimate responsibility for the party’s nominee, the basis of the problem lies within the party itself.
The Republican Party suffers from a schizophrenic personality. It has such a dichotomy it cannot decide what it actually represents. All liberals were driven from the once-progressive party of Lincoln, and few moderates remain in the GOP. Every primary opponent vies to prove he or she is more conservative than the other.
Republicans once rejected the extreme views of the John Birch Society but now have spent the past few years riding the back of its successor, the Tea Party. It did so because Tea Party attacks on Democrats, no matter how inane those attacks, were seen as helpful to the Republican Party’s chances of victory. The party forgot the warning of Theodore Roosevelt, who said the problem with riding the back of a tiger is such a person often ends up inside the tiger.
There is a crisis of identity because traditional conservatives do not recognize the extreme conservatism of the Tea Party, libertarian-leaning Republicans cannot fathom the social conservatism that holds the reins of the party, and primary voters gave the single-finger salute to the Wall Street segment of the party, also known as the party establishment.
Party conservatives are fed up with the failed promises of the conservative candidates they elected. Republican primary voters let it be known in exit polls that they are far less ideological, far less conservative, than their elected leaders, and sick and tired of an ideologically induced gridlock in Congress. They turned to two extremes: Tea Party Ted Cruz, referred to by some fellow Republicans as Lucifer and a miserable SOB; and to the non-Republican Trump.
This is a crisis of identity, the result of which will lead Republican voters to a crisis of conscience.
Despite nominating a man despised by a majority of independents and a large percentage of Republicans, a majority of Republican voters will do what they always do; fall in line and vote for the party, not the man. They remind me of a neighbor I once knew who left the polls in 1960 crying because she had to vote for Nixon.
Not all Republicans will fall in line. Some, like Mary Matalin, will swallow their pride and move to the Libertarian Party.
Some will vote for Hillary Clinton because they realize she is simply better qualified and less scary. She is after all more conservative than Trump on some issues.
I suspect there will be a sizable number of Republicans who will merely refuse to cast a ballot at the top of the ticket.
Trump, the most supersized ego to run for the presidency since General George B. McClellan, said he does not think he needs a unified party to win. With only 84 percent of Republicans currently saying they will vote for him, he will have to be correct to have any chance. Demographics and conventional wisdom say Trump is wrong, but conventional wisdom has been stood on its head thus far in 2016.
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.