The Republican convention that nominates Donald Trump for a second term will be the greatest event in the political history of cancel culture. What Trump is cancelling is nothing less than the Republican party as it has existed before him. He ran in 2016 in the primaries on cancelling the GOP and in 2020 he ratifies his triumph. After the election, political scientists and historians will study his obliteration of the Republican party as his greatest and most enduring political achievement.
The Republican party has been on a long journey away from being the party of Abraham Lincoln, accelerating since Barry Goldwater and rightwing cadres captured it in 1964 in reaction to the civil rights movement. After Richard Nixon embraced the southern strategy and won the nomination in 1968 with the help of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the Dixiecrat segregationist presidential candidate in 1948, the party increasingly radicalized in every election cycle and became gradually unmoored. In 1980, Ronald Reagan opened his general election campaign at the Neshoba County Fair, the place where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. Surrounded by Confederate flags, he hailed “states’ rights”. As brazen an appeal as it was, Reagan felt he had to resort to the old code words.
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