James Spader, as Raymond Reddington, describes the aftermath of a suicide bombing, in the “Cape May” episode of NBC’s The Blacklist:
The shock wave knocked me flat, blew out my eardrums. I couldn’t hear. The smoke… It was like being underwater. I went inside. A nightmare. Blood. Parts of people. You could tell where Safar was standing when the vest blew. It was like a perfect circle of death. There was almost nothing left of the people closest to him. 17 dead, 46 injured. Blown to pieces. The closer they were to the bomber, the more horrific the effect. That’s every suicide. Every single one. An act of terror perpetrated against everyone who’s ever known you. Everyone who’s ever loved you. The people closest to you, the ones who cherish you are the ones who suffer the most pain, the most damage. Why would you do that? Why would you do that to people who love you?
This is what it’s like to be a conservative these days. We loved the Republican Party. Of all the factions of the party, we were almost certainly closest to its beating heart. We formed a defensive ring around it when it needed us, protecting it from those who would weaken its strong pro-life message, its unapologetic full-throated love of capitalism, its powerful drive to make America the only standing superpower.
But sometimes we ridiculed its flaws instead of helping to repair them. Like when we excised John Boehner, the mass of squish that had attached itself to the Party when he was useful and loyal to the cause, but had gradually become parasitic, undermining the Party by letting the enemy in. We rejoiced in the successful operation, but the replacement to be transplanted was not immediately available. We had planned an operation without thinking through the aftermath. We avoided another sepsis by diverting Kevin McCarthy, but then settled for a possibly incompatible organ, Paul Ryan.
It’s still touch and go, but you only get one shot at this.
While waiting to see if the Party was going to get better, we got distracted by our dozen or more good conservative candidates. We focused on what they might be capable of and failed to notice that random Republican voters were chanting “Make America Great Again” and draping the Party in ties made in China and cheap red hats.
It was a garish, vulgar display. It was tasteless, but instead of putting things back in order, we left it there and focused on Cruz–the perfect one the Party didn’t want.
Then, almost before we knew what was happening, there was only Ted Cruz (and somehow Carly Fiorina), and time was accelerating, and there was a ticking sound, getting louder and louder and suddenly it was too late and we realized with horror–
The Republican Party exploded with a blast even louder than the screams of the ravening mob, and the shrapnel tore apart the conservative movement–its interest groups, its media, its intellectuals and politicians, the small and the great.
The red ties and cheap hats were nearly all that was left of the Party. As the smoke began to clear, some of the wounded, raving like maniacs, in shock and half-delusional, made their way to the bomb itself, begging it to hide them and protect them and not hurt them again. Others crawled the other direction as fast as they could, away from the crazed, still-chanting voters, toward the exits, hoping somewhere in the wilderness they could find someone or something to help them rebuild the party–or some kind of home for conservatism.
The Party embraced the suicide vest that was Trump, and now we see the aftermath. Its reputation hangs uselessly from its damaged frame. Its dream of attracting more women and minorities–once its hope for a vibrant, forward-looking future–is nothing more than a pile of ashes that millennials eye warily as they pass by on their way to a Bernie Sanders rally. The prize we had all expected after eight years of building–an easy general election that would crush Hillary Clinton–was blown to bits when the Party strapped on the dynamite of White Nationalist misogyny and lit the fuse of Constitutional illiteracy.
Conservatives looking for protection from the terrorist group Orange will slap bumper stickers on the dying husk of the GOP–claiming to be pro-life, pro-family, pro-trade–but they won’t stick, and those who have escaped will stay away while the Party rots away, engulfed in long red ties and ugly hats, poisoned by chronic immorality, cowardice and failure, collapsing lifelessly in November.
It will hurt. We may cry. But, in the end, we can only ask, “Why did you do that, GOP? Why did you do that to the people who loved you?”