The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
What determined the outcome of the kabuki theater Americans just witnessed in the U.S. Senate had less to do with the guilt or innocence of Donald Trump, a man privately despised by many of his protectors, than by what his jury saw as the future of their party and its role in American governance.
Hidden behind its current dominance of the presidency, Senate and Supreme Court is the sobering fact that the Republican Party finds itself on the wrong side of American demographic trends.
The majority-white, male-dominated society that is the Republican base is giving way to a mixed culture with strong minority and female claims on leadership. California is exhibit A: America’s largest and richest state which produced Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan now lists Republicans as its third party.
After Mitt Romney won just 20% of non-white voters in 2012, and before the arrival of Donald Trump, GOP leaders established well-funded programs to attract minorities.
Failure to succeed meant that the election of the party’s future presidential candidates would require that they carry at least 65% of the white vote, an almost impossible task.
Party strategists believed that Republican ideology would appeal to socially conservative African Americans and especially Hispanics. The elections of George and Jeb Bush in Texas and Florida had proved the potential.
Then from the escalator of his eponymous skyscraper descended Donald Trump to show Republicans a different path: nativism, anger politics and crony capitalism. To the surprise of the experts, he won and became the vehicle for the future of a party whose ambitions he neither understood nor cared about. Nonetheless, he has been remarkably successful not merely in cutting taxes and regulations, but projecting a powerful role for his chosen party by the appointment of judges at all levels who may dominate U.S. courts for decades. This is what has bought President Trump the loyalty of the Republican Senate.
While the Democratic Party stands to benefit from demographic trends, its future remains uncertain. The Obi-Wan of the liberals, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will soon enter, God willing, her eighth decade, and the two men leading the polls in the party’s nominating process are 77 and 78 years old. This absence of youthful leadership is understandable in the face of the constant denigration of public service by conservative media combined with the social status we have in recent decades conferred on wealth as life’s singular goal.
Graduates from our top universities who once treasured a chance to work in the foreign service or Central Intelligence Agency now jet to Wall Street as soon as diplomas are in hand. Democrats are the party of government, and their challenge is to muster their demographic advantage into a force that wins elections, occupies government and restores the expertise that once made U.S. agencies the envy of the world.
The impeachment of Trump was a chapter in a much larger and more important American story. For now it is a story of a divided society, led to their battle stations by leaders who either enjoy the fight or don’t know what else to do. In the balance is the entropy of democracy and our way of life. The saving virtue of our system is that great leaders emerge in times of crisis. We can only hope that one is standing there in plain sight.
In 2000, Republican leaders gathered and hatched a plan to market conservatism to minorities and open its doors to their participation. This past week, in a desperate attempt to remain in power, Senate Republicans aligned themselves with a malignant presidency blighted with bigotry because it has provided a temporary bulwark for a party on a precipitous demographic slide. They would have bought any argument that let this president walk.
That assures his future, but it may imperil theirs.
Terry Bracy has served as a political adviser, campaign manager, congressional aide, sub-Cabinet official, board member and as an adviser to presidents.