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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Who will put the GOP back together?

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump campaigns Tuesday, Oct.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump campaigns Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Credit: Getty Images / Jessica Kourkounis

‘Tell us, grandpa, you were there,” the offspring will plead someday. “Tell us of the election of 2016, the Trump, the tape, the emails and the . . .,” who knows what we’ll see? Ransom notes? Tsunamis? A final debate by UFC rules?

The gutter is the limit.

The presidential election has been a wild ride, but a few things are clear: The GOP will need rebuilding. And the Republicans who want to boss the reconstruction angered the party’s supporters so much the base switched allegiance to an insulting, uncharitable, politically inexperienced, foul-mouthed reality TV star.

The GOP wants the base to forget “Make America Great Again” and what? What’s the slogan, exactly?

“Set the GOP in Opposition to the Economic Needs of Its Supporters . . . Again?”

In 2012, the Republican Party ran former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Romney is a business Republican: low taxes, less regulation, free trade, cut social programs. He will always be known for saying almost half the populace takes from the government rather than funding it, a point he made with disgust. He is forever Mr. 47 Percent.

Ryan is friendly and smiley and warm as a basket of puppies. His turn-ons are libertarian literary dominatrixes and tax cuts. His turnoff is Trump. Ryan is the speaker of the House and is known for devising plans to slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

So these guys got beat by Barack Obama, and after that loss, the GOP decided the party needed to be inclusive and grow the brand, particularly with Hispanics. Then the party spent four years fighting comprehensive immigration reform and alienating Hispanics, and that turned out to be nowhere close to its biggest mistake. Apparently, the GOP establishment never stopped to wonder how many of the 47 percent were white. And Republican.

The party lost the base and the brand. It offered up 16 mainstream Republicans for president and Trump destroyed them.

It happened because the GOP continued to harp to poor and middle-class voters about cutting social programs for the vulnerable and taxes for the rich. Those voters became increasingly dependent on those social programs after the 2008 recession, and disgusted with a chamber-of-commerce GOP (and Democratic Party, in truth) that did everything for corporate America and little for Americans. Thus, Donald Trump.

The nation needs a strong conservative party. Individual rights and constitutional freedoms must be preserved. The nanny-state idea that government knows how individuals should act, speak, spend or imbibe must be opposed. But the idea that Ryan and Romney and others can rebuild the GOP by touting low taxes, fossil fuels, a higher retirement age and less Medicare is deranged.

As automation encroaches on good jobs and wealth, and income inequality grows, there is no future in this country for a party that does not support a significant social safety net.

The idea floated last week that Mike Pence, the vice presidential candidate and Indiana governor, should replace Trump at the top of the GOP ticket was ridiculous, and it proved that GOP leaders still don’t get it. Many of the 16 candidates Trump crushed are essentially versions of Pence.

Some Republican officials get this. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for instance, bucked conservative doctrine to accept the Obamacare Medicaid expansion for his state so that more of his citizens could get health care. He’s bipartisan beloved in his state. He was the last man standing against Trump, and might have beaten him one-on-one. His example, not Ryan’s or Romney’s, is the kind the party needs to follow if it wants to rebuild.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.


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