Republicans, along with Americans in general, are turning away from the Republican Party, The Washington Post announced late last month.

Under the headline “Republicans like the Republican Party less and less. Why?,” Amber Phillips reported July 24 that Americans’ view of the party is at a six-year low, mostly because Republicans themselves are growing more hostile to their own party’s actions.

Democrats have dropped, too, but not as much. In 2009, when Barack Obama took office, Democrats were viewed favorably by 62 percent of the people, while Republicans were stuck at 40 percent.

After six years of ups and downs, with the Democrats generally maintaining at least a 5-point lead, the parties were tied at 41 percent at the beginning of 2015.

Since then, Democrats have risen to 48 percent favorability while Republicans have dropped to 32.

“Among Republicans,” Phillips said, “that decline has been even sharper: The percentage of those who view the party favorably has dropped 18 points since January, to its lowest share in two years.”

In January, 86 percent of Republicans viewed their party favorably; in July, that had dropped to 68 percent.

Now, favorability ratings are general categories. Scoring below Democrats didn’t stop Republicans from gaining control of the House in 2010 and the House and Senate in 2014, or surging to control most governors’ mansions and state legislative chambers in the past few years.

Nevertheless, the drop is real. What does it signify?

Phillips, to no one’s surprise, blames Donald Trump, whose rise in pre-primary party polling is surpassed only by the number of people who say they wouldn’t vote for him with guns to their heads.

But if you’re a Republican and don’t like Trump, you have only (at present) 16 other candidates to choose from, in what is becoming a selection worthy of Baskin-Robbins (and one that can give you an equivalent brain freeze). That doesn’t mean Democrats are any better off, but that’s a different column.

Meanwhile, other analysts think they’ve located the party’s problems not at the presidential candidate level, but in Congress.

“Here’s Why Republicans Hate the Republican Party,” wrote David Harsanyi in The Federalist, a conservative journal, on July 27: “If the Republican Party is incapable or unwilling to make a compelling case against the selling of baby organs or the emergence of a nuclear Iran or the funding of a cronyist state-run bank (the Ex-Im Bank, which subsidizes companies the size of Boeing, practically the definition of ‘corporate welfare’) – or all three – then really, what exactly can it do?”

And columnist David Limbaugh, brother of Rush, claimed July 28: “Generally speaking, conservatives are optimistic and bullish on America. But they have witnessed assault after brutal assault against the Constitution, our liberties and our values, and they are justifiably mad as hell and are not inclined to take it anymore.

“Adding insult to injury, they continue to elect Republicans to office based on their promise they will try not only to stop Obama’s momentum but also to reverse it and make real headway toward saving this nation. Time after time, they deliver instead outright betrayal.”

“Betrayal” is a strong word, and we shouldn’t attribute to perfidy what can be explained by incompetence.

Nevertheless, it is a mystery how long a political party can promise something, and then not only fail to deliver it, but fail to make even a reasonably convincing effort.

Conservatives realize that President Obama will veto any meaningful reforms, and they know enough Democrats will lope along at his heels to make their override attempts futile.

Nevertheless, like the many Mainers who hoped that electing a Republican governor and Senate meant spending could be cut and welfare’s horrendous excesses be reformed, only to see the budget swell by $300 million and all the reform bills die with nary a vote, conservatives nationally are wondering why they should continue to vote for Republicans if the word “fight” is entirely absent from their vocabularies.

Is this a reason to support some third-party effort? I hope not. If that mistake is to be made, let the Democrats’ socialist wing make it.

But it is a reason to scour the countryside with one goal in mind. As Abraham Lincoln reportedly said of the often-disheveled and occasionally intoxicated Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, “I can’t spare this man; he fights!”

Donald Trump is a fighter, too, which is why he is popular now, but he is also erratic and egotistical, and to call his politics “flexible” is an understatement.

So, getting past all the squishes to find a competent, principled and fearless political counterpuncher is what most Republicans want and need – even if the man they aren’t able to spare is a woman.

If we don’t locate another Ronald Reagan, another Margaret Thatcher would be equally satisfactory.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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