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Jeffrey Gillespie: Obituary for the Republican Party (1854-2016)

The Republican Party of the United States died this week.

Born in 1854, and preceded in death by its parents, the Whigs and the Free-Soilers, the Republican Party had made its name on a platform of self-reliance, family values, small government and social and political conservatism. Throughout most of its life until the middle of the 20th century, the party had enjoyed good health, but had recently begun to shift increasingly toward the right. Departed members had found their fountainhead less and less recognizable as it left its traditional center in favor of a new brand of right-wing bigotry.

Long plagued by an aggressive illness that gnawed away at its capacity for logic, inclusiveness and internal discipline, the party finally acquiesced to the disease of archaism in the face of global progress. It succumbed to multiple maladies, including misogyny, xenophobia, isolationism, racism, monotheism and class warfare.

The deceased, having gone in the opposite direction of its most immediate rival, the Democratic Party, for some years, was pronounced dead on May 3 after complications from the Indiana primaries. Following a massive stroke of bad fortune that saw the party collapse under the weight of a Red Menace not seen since the perceived advance of communism during the McCarthy era — a significant viral infection from which the party recovered thanks to a change in public sentiment — the contagion that finally killed the party came, this time, in the form of a bloviating, narcissistic super-virus that some in the media have reported as simian in origin.

Unlike other historical systemic issues that have plagued the main body of the party establishment, administering physicians — among them, Dr. Ben Carson, a party also-ran whose candidacy for the GOP nomination may have been considered sufficiently sedative to provoke a sleepier outcome at the upcoming convention in Cleveland, Ohio — were unable to stop the super-virus from spreading throughout the body politic of the ailing entity. A splinter group of underemployed and under-educated voters had made its way into the heart of the organism that was once considered to have been kept in check through a healthy balance of Rockefeller Republicanism, paleoconservatism and libertarianism.

That combined holistic structure had managed to maintain an uneasy corporeal equilibrium until the birth of Reaganism, a political symptom that — while initially appearing to give the patient a much-needed shot in the arm — eventually led to a crippling case of economic and military overreach from 1989 onward. The illness went systemic in 2008-2009, when the fiscal health decisions of earlier free marketeers collapsed the integrity of the organization as well as the economy of the country in which it lived. Unable to stop the bleeding, the party had since attempted to address symptoms instead of cause. Badly weakened through years of anemic rhetoric over red-blooded action (and battered by a philosophical aversion to upgrades on a medical system that might actually have made it well again) the GOP finally unraveled during the 2016 presidential primaries, dying suddenly around 9 p.m. Indiana time on May 3, 2016.

The Republican Party was 162 years old. It is survived by a multitude of bewildered congresspeople and senators, a handful of baffled billionaires, an isolationist property developer and a group of his followers who are, as of this writing, largely unaware of the patient's demise.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com