Finley: GOP split may be a good thing

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

As someone who has voted for Republicans nearly every time I’ve cast a presidential ballot, I hear the predictions that the 2016 election could break the Grand Old Party in a way that it can’t be put back together and think, “Bring it on.”

A line of political analysis suggests that if Donald Trump — or perhaps even Ted Cruz — wins the Republican nomination, the ticket will be so outside the American mainstream that it will get slaughtered in the general election, and take with it most of the down-ballot GOP candidates.

Such an outcome, the thinking goes, would finally and irrevocably split the so-called establishment Republicans from the GOP’s hard-line and narrowly focused tea party and evangelical wings.

I do believe Trump is unlikely to beat Hillary Clinton, even if she should get indicted for compromising national security. I agree that traditional Republicans likely will not support Trump with money or votes (I’m less sure that’s the case with Cruz).

And a Trump nomination, I fear, could so devastatingly wipe out the Republican ballot it would take a generation for it to recover.

But better to get the destruction over with quickly and cleanly than to endure the steady unraveling of the party that’s been going on for the past decade or more.

The GOP is undeniably split between its ideological newcomers and its pragmatic establishment. The divide is so deep it has prevented Republicans from exploiting their control of Congress. And those who joined the party to force it to hew to unbendable principles, particularly on social issues like abortion and gay rights, have given the GOP its recent image and made it untouchable for many minorities, women and millennials who might otherwise warm to its sounder economic policies.

The party has also become an uncomfortable place for those Republicans who understand that the American system of governance depends on compromise, and who are more concerned about free markets at home and responsible leadership abroad than what goes on in other folks’ bedrooms.

So let the split come. And let the Democrats start worrying. Because a reconstituted Republican party that concerns itself with pro-growth economic policies, individual liberties and strong national security and lets the social issues lie would have broad appeal across the political spectrum.

The Democratic Party has its own inner turmoil. Both business-oriented and blue-collar Democrats cringe at the party’s adoption of the socialist Bernie Sanders as its conscience. Many are uncomfortable with the focus on class warfare, the knee-jerk bow to political correctness and the cowardly pandering to Black Lives Matter and other far-left extremist groups.

A new Republican Party absent its ideologues could be the political home not just for the GOP establishment, but also for moderate Democrats alarmed by their own party’s leftward lurch.

If Donald Trump is the Pied Piper who leads the Mad as Hell crowd off to their own political paradise, then he will do both the GOP and American politics a great service.

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