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Opinion: It's the end of the Republican Party as we know it

Good morning. I'm Paul Thornton, The Times' letters editor, and it is Saturday, Jan. 30. Here's a look back at the week in Opinion.


If you're in the GOP and among the majority who support either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz for president, now might feel like a pretty good time to be a Republican. Trump walked away from Thursday's GOP debate and appears unscathed by his tantrum, leaving the spotlight almost entirely to Cruz to sell himself as the true conservative standard-bearer.

But according to Times columnist Jonah Goldberg, from a broader perspective who considers the viability of the party, things look much bleaker. That "conservative crackup" we've been hearing about for years might actually be happening now, he says:

There's a fierce internecine battle over whether to oppose Trump's run, passively accept his popularity, or zealously support his bid.

The level of distrust among many of the different factions of the conservative coalition has never been higher, at least not in my experience. Arguments don't seem to matter, only motives do.

Questioning motives is poisonous, because such claims are not only unfalsifiable, but they also give an instant excuse to ignore sincere, reasoned arguments.

Nearly every position on Trump is immediately subjected to a kind of vulgar Marxist analysis. "You think Trump would make a bad president? Oh, you're just saying that because you're part of the establishment!" "You think Trump would make a good president? Oh, you're just saying that to get attention."

National Review magazine, where I am an editor, recently published an issue arguing that Trump is unfit to be a conservative standard-bearer. Trump responded by saying we were a failing "paper." That's not true, but even if it were, how does that refute our criticisms?

» Click here to read more.

Readers aren't troubled by the conflict in the Republican Party. In letters to the editor reacting to Goldberg's column, one writer says the GOP doesn't have much of a philosophy, but instead professes a "hodgepodge of political jargon put forth by people who are out of touch with the electorate." Another says Republicans should split into pro-corporate and tea-party factions. L.A. Times

Los Angeles has decided to do something (again) about homelessness. Will it work? The most intractable problem facing the city and county is getting more attention, thanks largely to the El Niño rainstorms that could make living on the streets acutely dangerous this winter. Click here to read the ongoing discussion hosted by The Times that includes reaction by homelessness activists, an editorial on housing homeless veterans, a comparison of current efforts with past ones and an on-the-ground report of attempts to accurately count the number of homeless people in the county.

Californians should enjoy their pristine coastline while it's still unspoiled. Steve Blank, a former member of the California Coastal Commission, worries about the body's future status as a bulwark against overdevelopment along the state's thousand-mile shoreline. For Gov. Jerry Brown, whose at-will appointees are leading the effort to fire the commission's conservation-minded executive director, nothing less than his legacy is in play here: "But 40 years from now, people are not going to say, 'Hey remember the budget of 2015?' What Californians will remember are his actions about our coastline." L.A. Times

The federal government took a low-key approach to handling the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and it's taking a low-key approach to prosecuting the occupiers. The eight defendants arrested Tuesday are being charged with something easily provable and most likely to result in time behind bars: conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States. In an op-ed article, Ken White puts the charge this way: "These people got together with guns and took over federal buildings and now the employees can't do their jobs." L.A. Times

If an average citizen had done what L.A. police officers did on Feb. 7, 2013 — shoot up a truck carrying two newspaper delivery women — he'd be hauled before a judge. But the officers who said they were on edge in the manhunt for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner will face no charges, evidently because they were stressed. The decision not to charge these officers raises questions about the best ways to police the police. L.A. Times

Tell me what you think about this newsletter. Email paul.thornton@latimes.com.

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