Tonight, the GOP is facing the abyss.
Sometimes, a political party faces an identity-altering choice. The Democrats did in 1948, when the growing power of the black vote in the North led to the party’s nominating Harry Truman, who had offended Southern sensibilities by integrating the armed services by executive order, and adopting a plank supporting civil rights in its 1948 presidential platform. That was the year when southern white Democrats formed the short-lived Dixiecrat Party and the Democrats lost the deep South states for the first time since the Civil War.
When the Democratic Party continued to turn away from segregationist whites and enacted civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, LBJ said presciently that those actions would cost the party the South for a generation. He was right and more than right. The GOP capitalized on this with Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.”
Today, thanks to the tape of Trump’s unrestrained, supremely vulgar and offensive comments about women, the Republican Party may be facing a similar identify-altering choice. The party has been accused of conducting a war on women for years, thanks to its retrograde policies concerning abortion; Trump already was losing to Clinton among women by a large margin.
Women constitute more than half of the electorate. The existential question the videotape presents to the GOP is this: if Trump continues to be the GOP nominee and if Republican leaders like Ryan, McConnell, and other officeholders continue to endorse him, will the Republican Party lose women for a generation?
The GOP is facing the abyss — and the abyss is looking back.