By Brent Budowsky - 12/02/15 07:35 PM EST
The Republican front-runner in the presidential campaign, who does more to define the GOP brand than any politician in America, has made the following destructive contributions to Republican politics during his White House bid:
He insulted heroic POWs by saying he prefers troops who were never captured; demeaned Hispanics by equating immigrants with rapists and murderers; is playing bigot politics against Muslims by falsely stating that thousands of them in New Jersey cheered the death of Americans after the terror attacks in 2001; berated various women by calling them fat slobs and bimbos, among other things; approved the beating of a black supporter of Black Lives Matter at one of his campaign rallies; leveled vindictive and personal insults against his GOP opponents; claimed the president of the United States is a foreigner who falsified his birth certificate; and in one of the most sickening acts in presidential campaign history, offered a derisive impersonation to ridicule the disability of a New York Times reporter.
December has arrived. The primaries and caucuses are weeks away. GOP leaders and their smartest strategists are terrified because the campaign has entered a phase that promises to bring an intraparty bloodbath of epic proportions that could continue until the Republican national convention and potentially the general election if an angry Trump is not nominated and runs as a third-party candidate, which I now believe he probably will.
There is a distemper in the GOP that bears a strong resemblance to the battles in Europe that pit traditional conservatives against far-right extremist parties such as the National Front, parties that abandon classic conservative values and run campaigns based on race, religion, bigotry, anger and fear.
When we add to this distemper the almost total fixation of major media on the Trump campaign, far more electable and more presidential-caliber Republicans are marginalized and unable to get their message through to voters.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), for instance, is relegated to marginal status in polls. While Trump has become ubiquitous to the point of absurdity on shows such as “Meet the Press” and on CNN, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — who are far more qualified and electable than Trump — are treated as virtual nonpersons for purposes of informing voters about how they would lead the nation.
The candidates of the right-wing faction compete with Trump by moving even further to the right. While Pope Francis prays for Syrian refugees, Ben Carson compares them to rabid dogs. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says most criminals are Democrats, a bigoted dog whistle attack that would make the National Front party proud.
The GOP bloodbath has begun and will worsen as the nomination battle intensifies and voting becomes imminent and ultimately arrives. Trump will continue to insult and berate his GOP opponents. They will be forced to respond in kind. The venom, vitriol and vindictiveness of Republican against Republican will escalate to a white-hot intensity.
The GOP is now embroiled in a civil war between an anti-establishment, far-right wing led by Trump, Carson and Cruz and a traditional center-right wing divided among multiple weak candidates and supported by fearful GOP leaders and mainstream donors.
Civil wars can be the bloodiest battles. The two competing wings of the GOP hold each other in great contempt that will become increasingly aggressive and ugly. We will soon see a Stop Trump movement that will probably decide the ultimate nominee, leading an angry Trump to run as a third-party candidate, which will create grave danger for a bitterly divided GOP.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sens. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.