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Bill Press: RIP for the GOP

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Many seasoned political commentators agree: Take a good look at today’s Republican Party. The way things are going, before too long, it won’t exist anymore. 

That’s not good. It’s not good for the Republican Party, it’s not good for the country and it’s not good for the Democratic Party, either.

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This battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is nothing new. There have always been reactionary forces, like Barry Goldwater, who tried to drag the GOP so far to the right it lost touch with the vast majority of American voters. 

But, until today, they were never successful. Saner voices prevailed.

I experienced this firsthand. My first political job was serving as chief of staff to a California state senator from Marin County named Peter Behr, a Nelson Rockefeller-Republican. One of the most respected politicians in the state, Behr’s most determined political enemies were not Democrats but Republicans from the far right wing of the party, who believed he was too willing to compromise.

As a young Democrat, I was still proud to work for a Republican because this socially moderate, fiscally conservative party actually delivered on many important issues. 

Former President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, built the federal highway system, established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and warned against the “military-industrial complex.” Richard Nixon delivered the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act and opened relations with China. Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to 3.2 million illegal immigrants. George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and repudiated the National Rifle Association. George W. Bush raised the minimum wage and added prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

These were all actions Democrats could and did support in an age, not that long ago, when Republican and Democratic leaders were willing to reject extremist elements in either party and work together for the common good. 

As recently as the 2012 Republican primary, when it looked like the party might veer too far to the right with an extremist candidate like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain or Rick Santorum, party leaders once again came to their senses and realigned behind establishment candidate Mitt Romney.

But that’s not the case today.

Look at the 2016 GOP primary. The inmates have taken over the asylum. Riding a wave of anti-Washington sentiment, outsiders Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump team may let Christie lead debate prep Trump, Clinton to headline Al Smith dinner I sashed Alicia Machado and she is a pawn in this political game MORE and Ted CruzTed CruzFour states sue to stop internet transition House approves stopgap funding, averting costly shutdown Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security MORE dominate the field, despite the fact that even most Republican strategists agree that Trump and Cruz are so far out of the mainstream that, were either one to become their presidential nominee, the Republican Party would get wiped out, losing the White House and Senate, and maybe even the House, and cease to be a real political force.

So far, no Republican leader has called to ask for my advice. But here it is anyway: Convince all other establishment candidates to drop out and unite behind one and stop saying they’d accept Trump or Cruz as the party’s nominee. 

In other words, do whatever it takes to prevent Trump or Cruz from getting the nomination. The future of the Republican Party depends on it.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “The Obama Hate Machine.”