Michael Graham: Trump's candidacy means the GOP will lose more than just the election

NewsRadio 106.7FM host Michael Graham highlights why Republicans are worried for the future of their party

trump, donald, win, bernie, sanders, hillary, clinton, primaries, presidential, democrat, republican

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night press conference. Image: Julie Jacobson / AP/Press Association Images

If a year ago a cailleach had looked into the future and told me that 2016 would see Hillary Clinton struggling to defeat an elderly socialist fringe candidate and suffering beneath a 55 percent disapproval rating, I would have been thrilled!

Until she told me about Donald Trump.

I struggle to explain the scope of political devastation Donald The Destroyer has wreaked upon the American GOP.  It’s not just that his polling numbers are horrible, though they are. His negatives are “the highest ever for a presidential candidate in the modern era,” according to Gallup—currently 28-65 percent.

And it’s not just that Hillary’s crushing Trump in early head-to-head polling, though she is—in most polls by double-digits.

And it’s not just Trump’s rejection of what might be called basic campaign decency, though that’s true, too. Americans have never seen a major candidate—much less a major-party nominee—linking a reporter’s tough questions to her menstrual cycle, or attacking a politician’s wife for being ugly or suggesting an opponent’s dad is linked to the Kennedy assassination. Trump has done all this, and more. And yet this doesn’t capture the full measure of his destructive impact upon the GOP.

For movement conservatives who’ve been fighting for the party of Reagan for nearly 40 years, the Rubicon Trump has crossed is his open warfare on Reagan Republicanism itself. Trump rejects the notion of the GOP as a political party a) based on ideas; and b) specifically conservative ones.

“Don’t forget,” Trump said in an interview this weekend, “this is called the ‘Republican’ party. It’s not called the ‘conservative’ party. You know there are conservative parties. This is the Republican party.”

Trump has waged open warfare on both conservative ideas (free trade, economic deregulation, free market health care) and conservative sensibilities. Urging rally attendees to use violence on counter-protesters, using extreme profanity at public gatherings, attacking the representative democracy small-r “republican” presidential nominating system itself—all this is at odd with the conservative world view.  And while many conservatives willingly concede that George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war was inept, none of them accept the loony “Bush Lied, People Died” conspiracy kookery echoed by Donald Trump—that Bush deceived America into invading Iraq in order to [insert crazy theory here].

All of this makes many conservatives, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, reluctant to endorse Trump. Trump’s response is to double-down on his anti-conservative rhetoric. His surrogates attack Ryan, while Trump suggests that he may not need the base of the GOP to win the White House as the party’s nominee.

“Does [the GOP] have to be unified? I’m very different than everyone else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so,” Trump said Sunday. “I think it would be better if it were unified…but I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense.”

One year ago, the typical conservative fighting in the trenches on taxes or pro-life issues, simply assumed the Republican Party was their party. The notion of the GOP nominating a pro-socialized-medicine, pro-tax-hike, pro-Planned-Parenthood New York liberal—one who never even voted in a Republican primary until this year—would have seemed insane.

Today that New York liberal is taking over their party and suggesting there’s no room in it for loyal conservatives or their ideas.  Trump may not win in November, but the Republican Party has already lost.