The party of Lincoln is dying

When the choice came, only a handful of Republicans at the national level answered with a firm “no.” A handful. It was not shocking to me that the plurality of an angry Republican primary electorate — grown distrustful of establishment leaders — might choose a populist who appeals to racial prejudice. It is shocking to me — and depressing and infuriating — that almost no elected Republicans of national standing would stand up to it.

By this standard, Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) is the moral leader of the GOP. But given the thinness of his company, many of us will never be able to think about the Republican Party in quite the same way again. It still carries many of the ideological convictions I share. Collectively, however, it has failed one of the most basic tests of public justice: Don’t support racists — or candidates who appeal to racism — for public office. If this commitment is not a primary, non-negotiable element of Republican identity, then the party of Lincoln is dead.

Without a passion for universal human dignity and worth — the commitment to a common good in which the powerless are valued — politics is a spoils system for the winners. It degenerates into a way for one group to gain advantage over another. And for Trump in particular, politics seems to be a way for white voters to take back social power following the age of Obama.