When one steps back and looks at the bigger historical picture, certain crisis and cleavages at least appeal to trying to make sense of things. Perspective will always vary, and history is never tidy, so caution is required.
In the linked column, George Will channels his (in my opinion justified), disdain for Trump into a potential ending of the current Republican party. It is worth reading, but in general I do not agree with all that much of it.
His short history includes Teddy Roosevelt's attempt to convert the Republican party from a somewhat conservative party into a "progressive" party, failing, running under the "Bull Moose Party" banner and giving us Woodrow Wilson as a result. Wilson was the most "progressive" anti-Constitutional president up until BO. A little background on that debacle is covered in "Liberal Fascism" . The idea of a "conservative party" was preserved in Will's mind, but it was far from pure.
Will then considers the Goldwater run the point at which the Republican Party became a "true conservative party". I disagree ... we elected Nixon twice. Nixon took us off the gold standard, founded the EPA, agreed with Keynesian spending, put in wage and price control, and went to China -- none of which are in any way "conservative".
Reagan TALKED about being conservative, but given the entrenched D congress he had to deal with, he settled for ending the USSR and lived with huge deficits and a giant FICA tax increase! HW Bush raised taxes ... nuff said. W Bush created a vast new medicare drug program.
Reagan DID slow the GROWTH of government spending, but Newt and the '94 congress were the only truly "conservative influence" that the R's have managed to muster in a LONG time ... and it requires some twiddling on what one means by "republican".
The Republican party of Lincoln was ANYTHING but "conservative"! It wielded vast centralized government power and FORCE in order to edict it's will upon the South. While my review of the book "The Conservative Mind" doesn't go into much on that aspect, the book does in it's discussion of the effects of the Civil War on the conservative principle of states rights.
We really have to go back to Jefferson and Madison to find a "smaller government" party, that interestingly enough was called "The Democratic Republican Party" -- for it wanted small government AND more democracy, while the Federalists (Washington, Hamilton, Adams, ...) wanted more government and more centralized government.
A major source of our problems is our loss of understanding of the human condition, and the ultimate conservative position of "transcendence" -- ultimately correct values over "what looks/feels good today" which comes from "man being the measure of all things". This is possibly best and most succinctly covered in "The Ethics of Rhetoric".
So in summary, I disagree with Will that we have REALLY had a "conservative party as a constant presence", but I agree that Trump is a clear marker post on the fall of man and the specific fall of what was America. While not "likely", I consider it "possible" that Trump may win, and in fact, I'd claim it hard to really explain "who is worse"? Yes, both are exceedingly bad, but it is more a question of "What do you hate worst" ... complete fecklessness, total incompetence, total disdain for vast swaths of the American public (R's) that you declare them "enemies" in the same class as ISIS (Hillary) ... or Trump, which the article and day to day media now castigate with justified regularity.
So, I think things are already a lot worse than Will seems to think for "conservatives" ... and given his thought that we have had a "consistent conservative presence" in the R party for a long time, I question what he means by the term "conservative" ... (here is what I mean if you need a refresher).
His closing ...
"In 2016, a Trump nomination would not just mean another Democratic presidency. It would also mean the loss of what Taft and then Goldwater made possible — a conservative party as a constant presence in U.S. politics"'via Blog this'