Look, this shouldn’t come as a shock to either of us — we’ve been growing apart for years. I’ve got to be brutally honest and say I mostly blame you.
Hey, you used to be fun. A lot of fun. There was quite a bit of both “G” and “P” in the “GOP” when we started. Now you just seem all about the “O” and it’s not even the good kind of “O.” It’s not just a chronological thing, either. Even some of your younger candidates sometimes seem soooo serious and cranky, like America is one big lawn they want everyone to get off of. Reagan liked to joke. Jack Kemp still had that bubbly college jock enthusiasm, even when his health was failing. And Bob Dole was a solid go-to for witty one-liners as he rearranged deck chairs on the 1996 General Election Titanic.
Now there’s Mitch McConnell, always looking like someone just fed him tainted beef.
Sure, Paul Ryan is more charming, but he had to whine and complain about not wanting the job forever before he became speaker, taking most of the fun out of that.
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER LAUGHTER?
We had dreams then, too. Big ones! We were going to abolish the IRS, reduce the size of government, keep the military strong, and give kids stuck in awful public schools choices for their education. Those were things we were for! These days I sort of know what we’re against (Obama, Hillary, winning the White House), but if forced at gunpoint to describe a positive Republican vision in 2016, I’m getting a bullet.
I know that I am a little heavier and grayer than when we first met, but I do still try to be presentable. I’m not sure if you own a mirror, but you’ve really let yourself go, GOP. The orange hair isn’t working for me at all, and you haven’t lost any of that Department of Homeland Security weight you gained the one time in recent memory you managed to (barely) not screw up a presidential election. Come on, have some pride. There’s only so long you can get away with “I’m less hideous than the other party’s choice.” And that brings us to why we are really having this discussion.
The first time you used that line with me was in 1992, after President George H.W. Bush had screwed us on taxes. It was an easy sell, as we were still flush with the Reagan glow and thought that this mini-betrayal was probably a one-off thing. Still, I hesitated forever in the voting booth that year, unable to enthusiastically vote for the Republican at the top of the ticket. Eventually, I acquiesced, hoping that I’d never have to feel that way again.
In 1996, with an infusion of new blood and the party in control of the House for the first time since all television began broadcasting in color, you kept your “next guy in line” approach to picking nominees and offered up a septuagenarian who looked even older while running against Bill Clinton. Your “less hideous” spiel still worked then, however. Republicans dutifully rallied behind a candidate we all knew couldn’t pull in a crossover vote using a tuna reel and chloroform, and who we had no doubt would get creamed.
He got creamed.
2000 and 2004 were a little surreal. The Democrats managed to find two of the worst candidates in American presidential history, and you still almost lost to one of them. Your only overwhelming popular vote victory since the 1980s happened because Americans were justifiably freaked out after being attacked at home by terrorists. Kudos on the win there, but not exactly a sunshiny reason for it.
In 2008, faced with a youthful new face on the Democratic side, you once again cast an eye about for the oldest, crankiest nominee you could find. And just to one-up the pathetic Dem efforts of ’00 and ’04, he went out and ran a campaign so bad that it could have benefited from some of Al Gore’s political acumen.
All was not lost yet, though. From the ashes of that election, a grassroots movement sprang up to help reorient the party’s focus back to smaller government and to fight the looming bureaucratic nightmare called Obamacare. The forty-year exile that James Carville had predicted for conservatives barely lasted a month.
There was enthusiasm. There were new people getting involved in politics.
There were smiles. It was a party again. There was an overwhelming midterm election victory.
You left the same idiots in leadership roles in Washington though.
Then you nominated the one Republican who couldn’t sincerely rail against Obamacare in the 2012 general election.
That’s when the problems in our relationship really began to get bad. By 2012, your “less hideous” line had worn exceedingly thin and was barely believable. I thought of breaking up then, but beer and my last shred of optimism triumphed over common sense and I stayed. You looked less attractive each day after that, but I stuck it out because I knew there was an embarrassment of riches in the potential 2016 candidate pool.
Then Donald Trump did a naked cannonball into the pool.
The fact that Trump and John Kasich were the last two candidates standing from the original huge field is why, as the kids say, you can’t have nice things.
Now, you’re trotting out the “less hideous” reasoning once again.
First, it may not even be true this year. I have a hard time seeing profound ideological differences between Dame van der Cankles and der Orangenführer.
More importantly, however, and the real reason I’ve come to this painful point, is that I now realize you’ve depended on the “less hideous” plan for so long that it has now become your only strategy for presidential elections. You figure you can get away with it, because the Democrats are a treasure trove of candidates who aren’t palatable to any centrist or center-right Americans.
The problem is that no one wants to rally around a negative. For over twenty years, all you have been able to offer me in presidential elections is something and someone to vote against.
I’d like something to vote for again.
So I’m leaving. Don’t write. Don’t call. Don’t stalk me on Instagram.
We’re done, GOP. Several years too late, but it’s over.
I’d like my key back now.