The bad news is that Donald Trump is almost single-handedly destroying the Republican Party. As Hillary Clinton said, “He’s taken the Republican Party a long way from ‘Morning in America’ to ‘midnight in America.’” She might have added that he has taken the GOP from the party of William F. Buckley Jr. to the party of know-nothings, from Abraham Lincoln to alt-right bigots and from Cold Warriors to Vladimir Putin’s poodles.
The good news is that he’s helping the Democratic Party improve considerably.
When was the last time the Democratic Party had a general at its convention who gave a rip-roaring speech as Marine Gen. (Ret.) John Allen did Thursday night? Allen declared:
We will oppose and resist tyranny as we defeat evil. America will defeat ISIS and protect the homeland. America will honor our treaty obligations. We will lead and strengthen NATO, the Atlantic Alliance, and our allies in East Asia and around the world whom we have solemnly sworn to defend. America will stop the spread of nuclear weapons and keep them from dangerous states and groups. Our armed forces will be stronger. They will have the finest weapons and equipment. They will have the support of the American people, and the American military will continue to be THE shining example of America at our very best. . . .
To our allies and our friends and our partners: We are with you. America will not abandon you. To those acting against peace, civilization, and the world order: We will oppose you. And to our enemies: We will pursue you as ONLY America can. You will fear us. To ISIS and others like you: We will defeat you.
My, oh my.
When was the last time the Democratic Party had the parents of a slain war hero rebuking the Republicans’ callousness and cluelessness about the Constitution? That’s what happened Thursday with the stirring appearance of the Muslim immigrant parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who gave his life to save his comrades. It may have been the best comeback to Trump of the campaign:
If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.
Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.
Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”
Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities.
You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
When was the last time a Democratic presidential nominee fervently and without reservation praised America as Hillary Clinton did? (“We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world. We have the most tolerant and generous young people we’ve ever had. We have the most powerful military, the most innovative entrepreneurs, the most enduring values: freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that those words are associated with us.”) Indeed, the robust celebration and affection for the real America — not 1950s America — was heartwarming.
When was the last time the Democrats had such overtly religious speakers on the podium as they did at this convention? Their nominee recited words of prayer. (“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”) The stirring remarks of the Rev. William Barber included this admonition:
As we are working together in the revival and calling for a revolution of values, and as we travel the country and see things, that is why I’m so concerned about those that say so much, about what God says so little, while saying so little about what God says so much.
In my heart, I’m troubled. And I’m worried about the way they do cynically used by some to serve hate, fear, racism and greed. We need to keep the bar of the scriptures. We need to heed the voice of the scriptures. The prophet Isaiah cries out, what I’m interested in, the nation, pay people what they deserve. Share your food with the hungry. Do this and then your nation shall be called a repairer of the breach.
By contrast, the GOP nominee is a man who worships only himself and is nearly bereft of religious values (e.g. humility, generosity, kindness, empathy, fidelity). He conducted the most secularized GOP convention in memory.
We don’t care frankly whether Democrats are sounding more religious, hawkish and patriotic way because Trump isn’t or whether this represents a sincere change in outlook for the party that has too often been ready to ignore American exceptionalism, shrug at reverence for the Constitution and shush religious voices. We only care that they are cheering American exceptionalism, religious values, strong international alliances and resoluteness against bullies and despots. Having absconded with these values Democrats might prompt the Republicans to regain their voices and recapture their signature issues.
If the Democrats can ever stop spending money we don’t have, refusing to address entitlements, pandering (as Republicans now do) on free trade, doubling down on the regulatory state and dreaming they can curtail the First Amendment (i.e. get a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, which is about as likely as getting an amendment to reverse gay marriage) center-right Republicans disgusted with Trump might find a permanent new home.
That’s not likely, but for now at least, Democrats in some ways are sounding more like Republicans than the Republican nominee. That’s why some Republicans who put principle above party and faith above expedience, will out of necessity vote for a Democrat for the first time in their lives. They will be proud to join Khan’s parents, Allen and Barber. If the GOP does not dump Trumpism and perform a radical makeover, it risks losing these voters for more than one election.