It’s been said fire is cleansing.
That is little consolation to conservative Republicans watching their party self-immolate in the spectacular dumpster fire that is the Donald Trump campaign.
Hillary Clinton almost certainly will win the White House, not because of her experience or popularity but because the GOP wasted its best opportunity in years to elect a new kind of conservative leader.
No one anticipated the confluence of events that led to the nomination of Trump.
But party leaders did not react quickly when Trump’s crude populism began taking hold, and they’re left with a candidate who shares none of the party’s core values.
As the primary season began, with a field full of youth, diversity and promise, it appeared the GOP would march straight up Pennsylvania Avenue.
Instead, it will struggle to hold its majority in Congress while public policies move ever-left.
Many conservatives fear that nothing will be learned from the Trump fiasco and nothing will change.
That’s a reasonable assumption, one that presages the eventual self-destruction of the party.
But Republican leaders have to change — not their core values and beliefs, but how they respond to the shifting landscape of America.
They must pursue public policies that marry conservatism with an increasingly diverse nation.
And they must craft a message of inclusion for communities with deteriorating families and declining economic mobility, which together have increased dependency on government.
It’s time to listen, allow them to lead and leave the ashes of the Trump train behind.
Cynthia M. Allen, a conservative, is a Star-Telegram columnist and editorial writer.