Things Are Even Worse for the GOP Than You Think

Republicans just faced crippling blows on abortion and Benghazi, while Trump continues to destroy the party

Donald Trump visited a Pennsylvania recycling plant Tuesday, making for an odd backdrop for a speech on U.S. trade policy. Credit: Louis Ruediger/Reuters

It has not been a slow news week. In the space of just two days:

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that Texas' onerous abortion law was an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to the procedure.

—The House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report on the tragic 2012 attacks that killed four Americans, finding "no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton," according to the New York Times.

—Donald Trump gave a speech in front a literal garbage pile in which he called for the destruction of existing trade pacts and an all-out trade war with China.

It's a political cliché that the Republican Party comprises three pillars: religious, defense and economic. In just two days, all three have been turned upside down.

It's impossible to overstate what a huge victory the Supreme Court's Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt decision was for abortion rights. For years now, the anti-abortion movement has realized it has little chance at making the procedure illegal again, so it's pursued another strategy: making it as difficult as possible for women to obtain abortions.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned parts of a Texas law designed to severely limit abortion access in the state.

Conservative legislators, aided by anti-choice groups like Americans United for Life, have passed laws mandating waiting periods and sonograms. They've forced women to visit anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers" that lie to them. But their real success has come in shuttering clinics with ridiculous, unnecessary requirements like wider hallways, more parking spaces and grass of a certain length. Shut down clinics, and you force women to wait longer, travel further and spend more on travel, childcare and missed time at work.

But on Monday, the nation's high court ruled Texas had finally gone too far — the state had made it too difficult for women to obtain an abortion with requirements that not only did nothing to make abortion safer for women, but that actually made them less safe.

The Court's decision utterly undercuts the right's strategy of forcing women to carry pregnancies to term, effectively punishing them for having sex. And it's only going to get worse for the GOP from here. If Senate Republicans continue to refuse to even hold hearings for, let alone confirm, Merrick Garland's nomination, chances are good Hillary Clinton will appoint the next Supreme Court justice. Either way, by next year the Court is likely to have a solid five-vote majority ready to expand on Monday's ruling and strike down even more ridiculous laws that hurt women.

One reason Hillary Clinton is more likely to appoint the next Supreme Court justice — and possibly even the next three or four — is that Republicans have utterly failed in their attempts to blame her for the September 11, 2012, deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, a State Department information officer and two CIA contractors.

The deaths in Benghazi were a tragedy, but the record is clear: There was no order not to send in the military to help. There was no cover-up. No matter how desperately Republicans wish Clinton was somehow personally responsible for the attack, or engaged in some sort of campaign of lies in the aftermath, the facts — even those in the Republicans' own exhaustive report — don't back them up.

If anyone needs to be held accountable, it's the Republicans who took a genuine tragedy and spent four years and millions of taxpayer dollars trying to squeeze out an ounce of political advantage. It was shameful, but they don't have any shame.

The whole ugly debacle shows how little respect they have for the actual practice of national security. Instead of a serious investigation into an attack against our citizens, we were treated again and again to a partisan circus with the sole purpose of destroying a candidate for president. And their plan backfired.

For reasons that will leave historians and philosophers guessing into distant times, Donald Trump did indeed stand in front of a literal pile of garbage Tuesday to deliver an economic address.

Worse even than the worst backdrop in the history of political campaigns was the vision Trump laid out for America's future. There is an important and genuine debate about the role of trade and trade agreements in our economy, but Trump has never participated in a discussion that makes sense to anybody but himself.

He'd replace trade agreements with trade wars, raising tariffs and issuing nonsensical threats that would send our economy — and possibly the world's — into a tailspin. There's no telling the damage Trump could do. How many millions of jobs would disappear from Trump's America? How many people would lose their homes? Would it be worse than the 2008 recession? Would we approach levels of suffering seen during the Great Depression?

Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in election years usually serves as an unofficial arm of the Republican nominee's campaign, took to social media to attack Trump's speech point-by-point in real time.

That's not to say the Chamber's critiques of Trump were the correct ones; like the crushed cans behind Trump on that stage, the Chamber is a pile of sticky refuse. It exploits hard-working people for the enrichment of a very few. But one of the most powerful organizations in Republican politics just publicly and explicitly issued a rejection of the party's nominee.

The Chamber represents the economic elite of the GOP, one of those three crucial pillars. That pillar has always been the most open with its discomfort around Trump; many of the party's high-dollar donors refuse to support him. The rich who have always driven the party's economic policy suddenly find themselves on the outside of the very structures they built. Whether or not Trump wins in November, their party is irreparably damaged.

So too is the party of national defense. It isn't just the way Republicans tried to exploit the deaths of Americans abroad by turning it into a witch hunt; it's the embrace of torture, the replacement of foreign-policy ideas with absurd displays of machismo. If you're a serious thinker who cares about a strong, strategic national defense, what do you do when Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the last men standing in the fight for your party's nomination? Do you turn, as many Republican foreign-policy establishment hands now are, to Hillary Clinton? You may not agree with all her ideas, but you can be fairly certain she won't hit the big red button on the nuclear football because Vladimir Putin insulted the size of her hands.

The radical evangelical Christians who dominate the third pillar of the party may be the most lost of them all. The country has utterly left them behind on the once-reliable issue of same-sex marriage because we realized two men kissing isn't icky. Conservative Christians are so desperate for wins they're targeting the most vulnerable, abused segment of the population and denying them access to public bathrooms. Even that discrimination is so nakedly obvious it's doomed to quick failure. And now their most successful strategy on their most important issue — abortion — is falling apart.

It's an ugly week in an ugly time to be a Republican. No matter what drew you to the party, the world is falling apart around your head. The walls are closing in.

The coverage of Donald Trump in eight top media outlets amounted to $55 million in ad buys. Watch here.