The Republican Party started out auspiciously in 1854, in opposition to slavery and soon headed by Abraham Lincoln. By the 1890s, it became the party of the wealthy, which it is still today.

Until recently, it could boast of some influential, somewhat liberal, so-called “Rockefeller Republicans” who accepted most of the New Deal of FDR. Without the Republicans, the 1964 Civil Rights Act could not have passed; in the Senate, of the 67 Democratic senators, there were 21 Southern Democrats who initiated the longest filibuster in our history and who could have blocked the bill if Republicans had not supported it.

For the 1965 Voting Rights Act, 30 Republicans supported it (only two opposed), with 112 supporters in the House (only 24 opposed). Compare this with the widespread voter suppression Republicans now support. There was a relatively liberal wing of the Republican Party represented by such eminent figures as former New York Gov. and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and Sens. Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island, 1999-2007), Jacob Javits (New York, 1957-1981), Charles H. Percy (Illinois, 1967-1985), Mark Hatfield (Oregon, 1967-2007), Margaret Chase Smith (Maine, 1949-1973), Edward Brooke (Massachusetts, 1967-1979) and Lowell Weicker (Connecticut, 1971-1989).

Ronald Reagan initiated a sharp switch to the right. Besides being starkly anti-labor union — unions have declined from nearly one-third of all workers in the 1960s to 10 percent of workers today — Reagan was racist enough to be the only head of a major country to support South African apartheid. That rightist shift was complemented in 1994 by a nasty, ruthless leader as speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, signaling a significant change in the character of Republicans.

Then came the lowest dip in character: Donald Trump — a pathological liar (over 22,000 lies or deceptions in office), a credibly accused sexual predator and accused rapist (who thinks women should be treated liked “dirt”), a phony “populist” champion of the ultra-wealthy, an instigator of racism who is appreciated by neo-Nazis and other white nationalists, a bungler of handling the coronavirus pandemic, and a vindictive, malignant narcissist who cares only about himself, certainly not for the country.

Trump cared no more for his country than did Adolf Hitler. Nazi Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer reported on Hitler’s last days. That’s when Hitler issued the infamous “Nero” decree on March 19, 1945, which ordered a radical scorched-Earth policy that Speer objected would destroy the German people. Hitler responded: “It is not necessary to worry about their [the German people’s] needs for elemental survival.” They supposedly failed him and deserved to die.

That’s the kind of patriotism Trump embodies. Analogously, Trump must feel the American people let him down, and their survival is of no interest to him, either. He is, as Paul Waldman wrote, “salting the earth behind him.”

Roger Carasso is a professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge. He lives in Santa Fe.

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