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When Ted Cruz dropped out the presidential race, making Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee, there was no shortage of surprised reactions. Many people, including the leaders of Republican Party, were left wondering how we got to this point. In reality, however, this surprise was completely unwarranted, and not only because the Cruz campaign had seemed completely unviable for months. Donald Trump’s rise was inevitable considering the direction in which the Republican Party had been headed even long before he was even considered a legitimate political contender.

For years now, the Republican Party has been using dog-whistle politics to attract voters, hiding their bigotry behind coded language. Even those politicians who might not personally agree with the racist and xenophobic views espoused by their party have taken advantage of this ability to reach out to voters who are feeling insecure in an increasingly diverse society.

Now, Donald Trump has traded in that dog-whistle for a bullhorn, but underneath it all, his message is not that radically different from that of his party, despite what the Republican establishment might claim.

Donald Trump is an embodiment of the ugly side of Republican politics, and Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for his rise; Trump is a monster of their own creation. The Republican Party has tried to tap into a growing fear of change by focusing mainly on social issues, whether through vociferous fights over birth control, immigration or gay marriage, and the hatred generated by all of this fear, anger and insecurity has only begun to spiral more and more out of control. The GOP has been using these feelings to fire up supporters, projecting their message through the sensationalist coverage of conservative media outlets such as Fox News. The true state of the Republican Party showed more than ever following the 2008 election, when a large number of voices, led by none other than Donald Trump, were accusing our first black president of not being truly American. The GOP leadership could have distanced themselves from these racially charged and undeniably false attacks, but instead kept silent or even publicly bought into the conspiracy in an attempt to not alienate their base.

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Eventually, the anger and fear encouraged by the Republican Party boiled over, leading to the rise of the Tea Party, a group fueled by an unceasing contempt for progress. The Tea Party was the first sign of a fracture within the Republican Party, and from that point forward, the GOP’s problems have only grown more out of control, culminating in the rise of a candidate whose platform is based on nothing but hatred.

There is a reason Donald Trump’s fans praise him for “telling it as it is.” It is because his words carry the same message the GOP has been peddling for years, but it is finally being said out loud and not just implied. Trump is reflecting the Republicans’ most unappealing side back at them. The Republican Party now has the opportunity to use this as a moment of realization and self-reflection and must make the critical choice between changing their message or truly becoming the party of Trump, continuing down the dark path they have been traveling for a long while now.

Hopefully, as the GOP grapples with these issues in the upcoming election, our nation will not be dragged down with a party that has long lost sight of what truly makes America great.

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Julia Jordan is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future. 

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