By Bill Kaplan
The Grand Old Party (GOP), born in Ripon, has been taken over. The so-called GOP presidential convention put the last nail in the coffin, with its choice of Trump for president. Conservative Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson lamented: "A party with a distinguished history, generally led by men and women of public spirit and decency, has embraced a demagogue who may be a genuine threat to American democracy. Trump is cultivating a state of panic to increase public tolerance for political risk - in this case, the risk of a candidate who is untested, unprepared, unstable and unfit." And, make no mistake - at the center of Trump is the fear of the "other".
Retiring Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble will not vote for Trump. Ribble said: "Something that walks like a duck, talks like a duck, is likely to be a duck. If you (Trump) continue to say what I believe are racist statements, you're likely to be a racist." However, other Wisconsin Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson, are acting like this is a normal political moment. Anything but.
Gone is the party of Lincoln that abolished slavery and supported civil rights. History will not forgive Walker, Ryan and Johnson for their endorsement of Trump, enabling an authoritarian leader to take over the GOP. Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin said: "Trump accepted the nomination of the Republican Party for president by appealing to and fanning the flames of fear and resentment." Rubin went on to equate Trump with "1930s fascists, tin pot dictators and snake oil salesmen." There's more.
Walker's convention speech had him "standing in front of an idyllic farm scene" (Politico). It was a Potemkin village - a pretty façade to mask serious problems in Wisconsin such as troubled family farms, lackluster job growth and a shrinking middle class. Acting like Torquemada, leader of the Spanish Inquisition, Walker implied that Hillary Clinton belonged in "prison" as the delegates (mob) chanted "lock her up" (one delegate called for Clinton's execution). And Walker's religious piety - "We'll see what God's calling is in all of this" - can't hide his presidential ambition and disdain for solving economic problems in Wisconsin. Moving on.
Ryan and Johnson won no kudos for endorsing Trump at the convention. The New York Times editorialized: "By supporting the Trump candidacy, Mr. Ryan has revealed himself to be a weak opportunist, far from the ideas man and budget wonk he made himself out to be.... He is tying his future to Mr. Trump's ugly campaign." Johnson's debut was no showstopper: a patronizing put-down of Clinton - once again discomfort with an independent modern woman. Later the Koch brothers pulled $2 million in ad time for Johnson. But it won't be a cakewalk for Democrats.
The Democratic Party still faces disunity. It must not repeat the mistake of the German left during the 1930s - internecine war - which led to the rise of Hitler. Democrats must unite. History will not be forgiving.
-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.