Was the 1999-2015 Republican Party a corrupt and evil institution that deserved to be destroyed? Yup.
Did they bring it on themselves? Yup.
Should liberals and progressives be happy about this? Absolutely not. We have replaced the GOP with something far worse, and downright scary, warns Isaac Chotiner on Slate.
Try to imagine a Trump presidency the day after a major, 9/11-like terrorist attack. There is simply no telling what the man would or could do. He has already threatened to go after his enemies if elected, promising a sort of Nixon-but-worse approach to governance. In the event of terrorism, how far would he go to curb civil liberties? What insane foreign policy idea would he dream up and pursue? Sure, George W. Bush curtailed civil liberties and invaded Iraq. But that’s the point. Trump is a more hateful person than Bush and threatens to be even less bound by democratic checks and balances than Bush was.
Even without an attack, Trump could move the United States closer to what Fareed Zakaria has called an “illiberal democracy,” a country with regular elections but little regard for the people or the institutions of state, which the leadership can ignore at will. (The current list of countries with illiberal elected leaders stretches from Russia to Turkey to India.) Recent American history has not featured a candidate who, if victorious, could fundamentally alter the country’s character in such a way.
Some schadenfreude-soaked liberals will argue that Trump could never get elected. Maybe so, though the Republican establishment was not long ago just as smug in such a conclusion. But even if Trump doesn’t win the presidency, it’s not clear that a shattered Republican Party is good for liberalism, or the country, however satisfying it might be. In the short term, Hillary Clinton is likely to benefit. But there is no guarantee that whatever emerges from the rubble of Republican collapse will be any better, or any less hateful, than what came before it. Two-party systems require two healthy parties. Rot would increasingly infect the Democratic Party if it had no real opposition.
And the Democrats aren’t anybody to cheer about even today.