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In Our Time

With the GOP—Or Without It

Donald J. Trump is the political issue of our time.  Yet Mr. Trump is, in a very real sense, peripheral to present events.  He is a result, not the effective cause; a symptom, not the disease.  The significant thing is not the rebel candidate but the crisis of the Republican Party, so long arriving, which in turn is a crisis of the party system and even of democratic representation itself, reminiscent perhaps of the situation in Britain in the mid-18th century that so concerned Edmund Burke.  On the one hand, party officials are unrepresentative of the party rank and file.  On the other, voters in all the Western democracies today no longer trust the wisdom, the competence, and the discretionary judgment of their political representatives, and so they are attempting to act through a myriad of special-interest groups whose intrusion upon the work of career politicians is the closest democratic societies have yet come to direct democracy (which is why, in the end, it will destroy democracy).  The GOP is unsuited to represent this antiestablishmentarian, even rebellious political movement across the Western world, as are the main European parties today.  “The old is dying and the new cannot be born,” Gramsci, at the time a political prisoner of Mussolini, wrote; “in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

The Republican establishment persists in treating...

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