In the late 80s, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, I read an essay describing the life cycle of political systems in a book left behind in a North Carolina vacation cabin. A book I wish I had swiped.
Depressed over the rise of Reaganism at the time, I came away feeling fairly optimistic over a prediction that this country would forever shift away from political conservatism 20 to 30 years after the Reagan era.
With the election of the first Black President, Barack Obama, in 2008, 19 years after the end of Reagan’s second term, it seemed to confirm what I’d read in that essay.
However, I suspected another prediction made in the essay would also arise:
The dying system would push back in a desperate last gasp that would ultimately accelerate its death.
The results of the 2016 GOP primary and general election appear to confirm this prediction: the election of the most overtly racist, power-hungry, fascist president in modern history was, in my opinion, the last gasp of a dying party.
And who pushed him over the top with an electoral win?
Desperate white people who fear they are becoming a demographic minority in this country.
For the last decade or more, FOX News talking heads have been delivering this message loud and clear: “They (non-white people) are going to outnumber us, soon!”
Unfortunately for them, it’s true, as evidenced by demographic trends highlighted at the end of this piece.
For now, let’s look at the similarities between the life-death cycle of businesses/industries and compare it to the GOP (which is an industry in many ways).
When a business or industry goes into “Decline” followed by “Death” it’s obvious as to the reasons why:
- Their loyal customer base has greatly diminished (the older white population is shrinking)
- Their product has become obsolete or less desirable (racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia)
- Their main competitor has started to dominate major markets (red states skewing purple)
When a business enters their “Decline Stage,” it’s very difficult to reverse the negative impact.
Worse, there’s a tendency to make destructive, panicked decisions, while doubling down on failing strategies, which only accelerates their decline.
I contend there are strong similarities between what’s happening in the GOP party right now compared to a business/industry that has entered the “Decline Stage.”
The Decline Stage has the following five sub-stages.*
STAGE 1: HUBRIS
When successful enterprises become insulated, hubris arises and leaders become “…arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement ….”*
Political Similarity: Hubris, arrogance and entitlement— this describes the GOP over the past several decades.
STAGE 2: UNDISCIPLINED OVERREACHING
Hubris is followed by an undisciplined grab for more of whatever those in power consider their success. Add to this, “When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall. Although complacency and resistance to change remain dangers to any successful enterprise, overreaching better captures how the mighty fall.”*
Political Similarity: The overreaching by trump and his henchman, like Bill Barr, along with the subsequent falling in line by elected Republicans, is a sign the GOP has been in this stage of the Decline Cycle since 2016.
The GOP also exhibits great resistance to change and instead has doubled down on strategies that have helped them win in the past: amplified racism and voter suppression.
In my opinion, these are signs of desperation.
STAGE 3: DENIAL
This is when warning signs increase yet leaders discount or ignore negative data. And “… fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether. When those in power begin to imperil the enterprise by taking outsized risks and acting in a way that denies the consequences of those risks, they are headed straight for Stage 4.”*
Political Similarity: The 2018 Blue Wave in the midterm elections was negative data for the GOP. However, they not only discounted the significance of this data, they resorted to propping up trump’s lies and “alternative facts” to explain away any negative data affecting their party.
Sinking even deeper into their denial, Senate Republicans failed to see the Impeachment process as a chance to salvage their party by removing trump from office.
Their abject fear of trump’s core racist base turned them into lemmings marching toward the cliff. And now we’re at the point that Republican groups like the Lincoln Project are working against them.
Worse, they’re failing to raise money for this election — donors are voting with their wallets and refusing to support trump with their money.
Worse, by failing to remove trump from office, the GOP left him at the helm when the country was hit with the most unexpected and uncontrollable “negative data”— COVID-19. Yet another issue for which they remain in denial along with their leader.
STAGE 4: GRASPING FOR SALVATION
After the Denial Stage, “Those who grasp for salvation have fallen into Stage 4. Common “saviors” include a charismatic leader … or any number of other silver-bullet solutions. Initial results from taking dramatic action may appear positive, but they do not last.”*
Political Similarity: Stage 4 is where we are right now. Republicans are wildly shooting as many “Silver Bullets” they can think of to give trump a second term, including:
- Downplaying the spread of COVID-19, as if the GOP can leverage a pandemic to their advantage, only to see the death toll rapidly rise.
- Ramping up overt racism and anti-BLM rhetoric to frighten easily raced-baited white suburban voters.
- Painting the Democratic Party as “Antifa” and “Socialists” who will abolish the right to own guns.
- Attempts to suppress mail-in voting by sabotaging the USPS plus the usual GOP voter suppression strategies.
- And, currently, ramming through a trump-selected SCOTUS nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg before the General Election to appease single-issue, anti-abortion voters and tilt the court to favor trump.
In the business arena, when a company or industry continues to grasp for Silver Bullets, the more likely they are to continue spiraling toward STAGE FIVE: their death.
There’s no need to reiterate the horrors of the trump administration over the last three-plus years — and the suffering and deaths for which it is responsible — because we all continue to live through it.
However, as I think about that essay I read over 30 years ago, and analyze how the death cycle of businesses/industries echoes what I see happening in the GOP, I’ve come to believe the 2016 election of trump has greatly accelerated the Republican Party’s end-of-life process.
The Gradual Collapse of The Republican Southern Strategy
As demographics in the Southern states continue to grow more diverse, the Southern Strategy continues to erode turning former solidly Red states into Purple states. The GOP’s failure to bring non-white and social minority voters into their tent is fueling the acceleration of their party’s death.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Taking A Greater Toll On Older Conservative Voters
“The pandemic is going to take a greater toll on the conservative electorate leading into this election — and that’s simply just a calculation of age,” Andrew Johnson, the lead author and a professor of management at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said in an interview. “The virus is killing more older voters, and in many states that’s the key to a GOP victory.”
The loss of a significant number of older individuals could reshape U.S. politics. This could be particularly true in the U.S. presidential election as critical swing states were won by Trump with very narrow margins including Michigan (10,704 votes), Wisconsin (22,748 votes), and Pennsylvania (44,292 votes) (Meko et al., 2016; New York Times, 2017).”
“Due to this steep age gradient to COVID-19 mortality, it is important to consider the varying age distributions of America’s racial and ethnic groups. A higher share of White Americans are in the older age brackets than any other group. To illustrate this, consider that the median age of non-Hispanic White Americans is 44 years, according to the latest Census Bureau data. The comparable figure for all populations of color is considerably lower—for Asians (37), Blacks (34), Pacific Islanders (33), Indigenous (32) and especially Latinos (30), half of whom have not yet reached their 30th birthday.
Over the Last 10 Years, the White Population Has The Lowest Growth Rate:
The White Population not only skews older than other groups, it also has the lowest growth rate over the last 10 years.
- The White population: an increase of 4.3% since 2010.
- The national African American population: an increase of 11.6% since 2010.
- The Hispanic population (any race): an increase of 20% since 2010.
- The Native American and Alaska Native population: an increase of 13.1% since 2010.
- The Asian population: an increase of 29.3% since 2010.
Future Voters: The Majority of Americans 15 Years Old and Younger Are Non-White
“Of Americans 15 years and under, the majority is non-white … the fact that white children under 15 have already become a minority in their age group puts an exclamation point on the fact that the nation’s diversity is percolating from the “bottom up” as the white population ages.”
A Case Study As Harbinger of The GOP’s Death: The Three-Decade Shift In California
“Thirty years ago, in 1989, Republicans were on a roll in California …. GOP candidates dominated the state’s presidential elections, including the election and re-election of Ronald Reagan.
Republican George Deukmejian was winding up two terms as governor and would soon be succeeded by another Republican, Pete Wilson. The roll continued into the early 1990s as Wilson won re-election in 1994, his party captured several other statewide offices and Republicans won a one-seat majority in the state Assembly.
And then the bottom dropped out. Republicans now claim fewer than 24% of the state’s registered voters, are frozen out of every statewide office, hold just 7 of the state’s 53 congressional districts, have seen Democrats capture three-quarters of the Legislature’s seats, and have lost every state presidential election since 1998. [NOTE: As pointed out, the quoted article is incorrect. Should read: “…and have lost every state presidential election since 1992.”
The dramatic turnaround was a convergence of economic, demographic and cultural factors, along with years of denial by Republican leaders.”
There’s that word again: DENIAL.