The GOP’s Moral Credibility is all but gone for the Youngest Generations
This week opened up with one of the most shameful of Trump’s many despicable decisions. Donald Trump betrayed the Kurds, one of America’s greatest allies in the Middle East, and the allies most responsible for the defeat of ISIS, to the Turkish Government, who are looking to wipe out the Kurdish forces, who they consider terrorists. An act this abhorrent by Donald Trump is no longer surprising, as he’s committed reprehension after reprehension since his presidency started.
What’s more surprising is that it took an act this soaked in the blood of allies for Republicans across the spectrum to condemn the president’s actions. While it was welcome to see conservative leaders stand up for something that’s morally right, the lingering thought remains: Why should we care what these people think, after all they’ve excused?
By “we,’’ I’m talking specifically about the youngest two generations, Millennials and Generation Z. Things don’t look good for the Republican party when it comes to Millennials. Trump’s popularity is just as dirt poor with Generation Z. Organizations like Turning Point USA, meant to evangelize to young Americans, are largely grifter organizations and professional trolling operations, rather than a bulwark for the conservative movement. And every day brings a new embarrassment, debasement, or betrayal of our long term interests by the GOP.
The GOP’s brand since Ronald Reagan has been intrinsically tied to the issues of character, morality, and personal integrity. Growing up, these were the focal points which led me to be drawn to conservatism. As the son of Cuban and Argentine immigrants, I was viscerally aware of the dangers of authoritarianism, reckless spending, and looking to the government to solve societal issues. Watching as the GOP has embraced all of these vices in the name of Trumpism is a betrayal that I will long remember.
To appreciate the magnitude of this debasement, let’s trace GOP integrity politics through the last 25 years, AKA my entire lifetime. In 1994, Bill Clinton is sued for sexual harassment, which leads to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the 1998 impeachment proceedings. No one needs to be reminded of the stance of the GOP during this time, as the clips of Newt Gingrich and Lindsey Graham’s statements during this investigation are plastered all over social media in stark contrast to their current beliefs. Back then, they correctly understood the importance of the president’s moral integrity to the national character.
This understanding helped propel born-again Christian, George W. Bush, to the presidency in 2000. Compassionate Conservatism became the brand of the party. The rhetoric of compassionate conservatism was integral to the understanding of the War on Terror at the time, and help successfully convince the rest of the country to intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq. It led to the implementation of policies such as No Child Left Behind and PEPFAR.
Fast forward to 2008, and The Tea Party revolution kicks off in response to Obama, with purity politics being a core tenant. People wanted true believers who will fight for the beliefs of the party after feeling as if the leadership of men like Eric Cantor and John Boehner was too passive. Men like Justin Amash, Ted Cruz, and Jim Jordan built their entire political brand around being “true believers” who wouldn’t compromise on their principles, even to the brink of government shutdown multiple times. By 2012, Romney’s loss weakened the establishment wing of the party and strengthens the tea party purists. The stage was set for an internal civil war over the future of the party in the 2016 primary. Both sides of the divide understood the importance of personal integrity to selling their convictions to voters.
That civil war turned into a takeover. In 2016, The GOP accepted a deeply, truly immoral man as their leader, in order to get their policy agendas accomplished. They accept Trump attacking war hero John McCain, their former standard bearer, Muslim families, Hispanic immigrants, the disabled, and more. This comes to a head when the GOP decides to back Trump after being caught admitting to sexual assault on tape. The fealty sworn to Trump by the GOP to Trump is so all encompassing that by 2019, Republican leaders are attacking the institutions they’ve spent their entire lives defending, the constitution they swore an oath to, and reversing every major policy platform of the last 25 years of GOP orthodoxy in the process.
There are serious moral discussions to be had in America about the role of Government, personal ethics, and permissible activity in polite society. But who can listen to the moral authority of the leaders who let the Kurdish people get slaughtered? Who can listen to evangelical leaders espouse the values of sexual purity and the evils of divorce when they excused the actions of a serial cheater and three time divorcee? How can anyone believe that Republican leaders respect women after voting for an admitted serial assaulter? How can people believe any of these Republicans are pro-life when they let the Kurds get slaughtered and children be abused at concentration camps on our borders? How can we trust these men will tackle economic reform and the deficit when they’ve allowed the deficit to skyrocket, even with control of all three branches of government?
The simple answer is that you can’t. And that means the way that Republicans dismissed Democrats moral posturing in the past, Millennials and Generation Z have largely rejected any pretense of authority and morality from these leaders. By and large, we see them for the sycophants, liars, and sanctimonious hypocrites they are. For every election these men and women run in after the Trump era is over, the simple question is: Where were you when the going got tough? Why did you fail to stand up for your country when it needed you the most? Why should I trust you to be a leader when you couldn’t even stand up to a craven liar and bully like Donald Trump?
The legacy of the modern day Republican leadership is written by those who grew up under it. We have found them wanting. Acquiescing to Trump serves short term political needs, but it earns no one a legacy to be proud of, much like those who supported Nixon in his moment of shame. Republicans have earned their dishonor to through their abandonment of their oaths when the country needed them the most. In the end, the institution of the two party system is more important than which parties get to fill that void. If the GOP cannot reverse course and act like the leaders they are supposed to be, It’s time for them children to step aside, and let a new party run the show. Future generations have to tackle the growing deficit, clean up the environment, actually accomplish infrastructure investment, accomplish healthcare reform, and undo the foreign policy mistakes of Trump if we want another American century. Millennials and Generation Z may be younger, but we understand what words like integrity and principle mean in a way these men clearly never did.
Christian Thrailkill is a musician and graduate of Southern Methodist University. He lives in Dallas, Texas.