Should the Republican Party be Saved if Hillary Clinton Wins?

The 2016 election is not the first time in recent history that the Republican Party has faced a fundamental crisis. In 1952, Robert A. Taft—the senior senator from Ohio known as “Mr. Republican”-- sought the party’s nomination. The favorite of conservatives, Taft fought the unions and had sponsored the Taft-Harley Act, which limited organized labor’s power. He was for small and limited government, and he opposed Eastern business elites and the Establishment that preferred Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Taft also had a foreign policy indistinguishable from that of the pro-Soviet candidate for president back in 1948, Henry A. Wallace. Supported by American Communists, Wallace, like Taft, opposed NATO, accepted the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, and believed that a peace with the Soviet Union was possible if the United States let it dominate Eastern and Central Europe.

Ike’s defeat of Taft guaranteed that the United States would maintain the bipartisan policy of exerting American leadership in the world, and that the Soviet Union would find the United States committed to stand in the way of Stalin’s expansionist goals.

Today, the equivalent of Taft in foreign policy is Donald Trump. He is the preferred candidate of ISIS, as Matt Olsen argues and as an article in Foreign Affairs also explains. ISIS’s support of Trump is the equivalent today of the support Henry A. Wallace received from the Soviet Union in the '40s.

It is hardly surprising that each day brings news of more leading Republicans endorsing Hillary Clinton. James Glassman, who served in the Bush administration, announced his decision Tuesday in an op-ed. Glassman, like other Republicans who have endorsed Clinton, disagrees with the former secretary of State on many issues. Yet he sees no other option than to give her his support:

I learned that this is, whether we like it or not, an election between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, period. And that means if you want to stop Mr. Trump, you have no choice but to vote for Mrs. Clinton.

The main reason Mr. Glassman is voting for Clinton, however, is because he believes this is necessary to “save the Republican Party.” If Trump wins, he thinks that a party once “built on freedom and internationalism will become entrenched as a party of authoritarianism and isolation” and eventually will “atrophy and die.”

In the 1950s, Ike’s victory had the effect of preventing such an outcome. Had Taft won the nomination and then the White House, America would have faced a rise in the strength of its enemies abroad. A Taft victory would have weakened the Republican brand for generations to come.

But today, contrary to Glassman, I would argue that the Republican Party is already finished as a political institution and cannot be saved. Trump supports programs that are anything but conservative. He favors some form of universal health care, he opposes any entitlement reform, and he seems indecisive and contradictory even on immigration issues, although his tough rhetoric on immigration is what first got him support.

Let us say that Trump loses. Glassman and others believe that if this occurs, his group of conservatives can slowly act to rebuild a strong GOP that will take up serious conservative reform alternatives advocated by those who now are on the periphery of the GOP as long as Trump is its leader. I believe Glassman is wrong.