I’ve worked in five Republican presidential campaigns. Four won the nomination and two won the White House. It’s a presidential election summer but I am trying to do everything I can to help elect a Democrat: Joe Biden.
Another four years of Donald Trump would be a disaster for America and the world. They would also be a disaster, and likely fatal, for the Republican Party. The reality is that President Trump is a symptom, not the source, of the disease that is ravaging the Republican Party. Only by confronting that sickness can there be a possibility of a cure.
The Republican Party has lost its way
In 1956, Dwight Eisenhower got 36% of the African American vote. In 1964, that number fell to 6% for Barry Goldwater. One could have argued that once the Civil Rights bill, which Goldwater opposed, became law, many of those former Republican African Americans would return to the party. But it never happened, and Republicans have never come to grips with the reasons.
For decades, Republicans told themselves that African Americans would be drawn back to the party if only Republicans understood how to communicate with Black voters.
This launched a cottage industry of Black Republican consultants hired by the RNC to help white Republican candidates and campaigns deliver their message to non-white voters. “If you talk about ‘good’ jobs not just jobs, African Americans will hear you,” was a standard of these lessons.
It was all nonsense. African Americans heard Republicans clearly; they just didn’t like what they were hearing. The party that revered Ronald Reagan’s line, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I'm here to help,’” never realized that to many African Americans and lower income whites, the federal government was the last best hope for a better life.
After the 2012 election, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus commissioned a so-called “autopsy” to analyze the reasons the party had only won the popular vote once since 1988. The need to reach out to non-white voters, to appeal to younger voters and women was presented not just as a political necessity but a moral mandate for a governing party.
All of that was thrown aside a few years later when the party embraced the white grievance candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump didn’t bend the party to his will, he gave the party an excuse to quit pretending it really cared about anything but power.
Biden is right choice for Republicans
I’ve helped elect Republican governors or senators in over half the country, and I have given up any hope that there is some line Trump can cross to make more than a few Republicans in Congress stand for the principles they all swore to believe. The only way to save the Republican Party is to crush Trump and Trumpism and rebuild. It’s why I say, when I am asked what to do about the party I worked in for so long, “Burn it to the ground and start over.”
That starts with electing Joe Biden. Most importantly, Biden is a decent man with a seriousness of purpose that is totally lacking in the Trump administration. The alternative is four more years of a Republican Party that endorsed Roy Moore and stands silently by as Attorney General Bill Barr shreds the rule of law.
It is possible the party can squeeze out enough white voters and suppress enough non-white voters to eke out a victory for Trump. But it is impossible for that party to grow and prosper beyond November 3rd.
Today in America over half of those 15 and under are non-white. There is good reason to believe that when they turn 18 they’ll register as Democrats. That is a stage four cancer warning for the Republican Party. Had George Wallace won the Democratic nomination and been embraced by the Democratic establishment, what would that have meant for the future of the party?
So it is with Republicans and Trump. We have a president and vice president who refuse to say the words “black lives matter” and seem more determined to defend Confederate statues than the Constitution.
I spent years working to defeat Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. In those battles, I passionately believed Bob Dole, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney would make better presidents, but I never feared for the country if a Democrat won. That’s how a civil society must function. But today I do desperately fear for the country if Trump wins, again. History tells us that once hate is unleashed and legitimized by a major political party, it is difficult to stop. History will judge each of us on what we did to defend America in this tenuous moment.
America or Donald Trump? That’s how this Republican sees the November choice. I say to my Republican friends: I know what side I’m on, do you?
Stuart Stevens is a Republican consultant, writer and currently serves as a senior advisor to The Lincoln Project. His book, "It Was All A Lie: How The Republican Party Became Donald Trump," will be published in August. Follow him on Twitter: @stuartpstevens.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Republican Party has lost its way, Republicans should vote Biden