Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trump is the GOP and the GOP is Trump

My dad asked me to cross-post this here on his blog. The original post is here.

If (and hopefully when) Donald Trump’s presidential campaign finally suffers its well-deserved, long-overdue collapse (if not before Election Day, then on it), Republican politicians, pundits, and media outlets will try to rewrite history, claiming that they never truly supported him, or that they share very few of his values and policy positions, or that they actively criticized and challenged him from day one, or that they did everything they could to prevent him from becoming their nominee, or that they were totally blindsided by his words and actions, or that he is an outlier, a party of one, completely unrepresentative of modern conservatism and the Republican party.
This is bullshit. And we shouldn’t let them get away with it.
Going back more than half a century, the Republican party has made white racial resentment a key part of its sales pitch (google “Southern Strategy” if you’re unfamiliar). Under President Obama, this was often their only clear, consistent ideological pillar, as they offered little in the way of coherent policy beyond “othering” Obama and opposing and obstructing anything that he did, even if it was previously a Republican idea (Romneycare comes to mind) or previously bipartisan and relatively uncontroversial (Voting Rights Act reauthorizations, raising the debt ceiling, regulating dangerous pollutants and deadly weapons, engaging in global diplomacy, and sensible immigration reform all jump out).
(To be fair, tax cuts for the rich have also been a consistent and near-unanimous Republican policy position for quite some time, but GOP politicians are often embarrassed to admit this to their voters, and so they couch thoroughly-debunked and deeply-unpopular trickle-down economics in misleading or false language, suggesting tax cuts for all, or painting progressive taxation as regressive, or basically suggesting that all tax revenue is squandered by incompetent government so we should deprive the country of as much revenue as we can. So it’s hard to even give them credit for this if they won’t admit publicly that it is what they support.)
In the primaries, none of the other candidates forcefully and consistently spoke out against Trump when they had the chance (and they had plenty of chances). Jeb Bush is often given undeserved credit for challenging Trump, but let’s recall that he actually tried to out-Islamophobe him (via an unworkable and Unconstitutional “Christian test” for refugees) before later settling on condemning him. John Kasich is often lauded for staying “above the fray,” but that essentially amounted to Kasich ignoring Trump’s worst statements, rather than challenging them. And Ted Cruz slobbered Trump with praise, perhaps more out of strategy than sincerity, before harshly criticizing Trump and then reversing course again and endorsing him. Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan had ample opportunity, good cause, and more than enough political influence to rebuke and repudiate Trump (and to encourage others to do the same), but instead hopped aboard the Trump train whenever it was politically expedient. Even well-regarded elder statesmen like John McCain, whose honor was viciously attacked by Trump, relied more on polling data than principle to guide their actions. Hardly profiles in courage.
Into this vacuum of policy and principle stepped The Donald. In a party void of ideas (or at least any worthwhile, empirically-sound, and/or popular ones that they are willing to clearly state, commit to and to defend), elections are nothing more than popularity contests, a cult of celebrity, with a particular emphasis on and unsettling fetish for authoritarian strongmen. When virtually all policy is opposition (repeal Obamacare; strip rights from gay people, and women, and minorities, and immigrants; block all regulations; fight a war against the entire Muslim world; vilify scientists and deny climate change; end or block government programs that disproportionately benefit “those people”), the loudest, most confident fear-monger in the room tends to win the argument (fact and reason be damned!), scare up the vote, and win elections.
In fact, the more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes that Donald Trump was the natural choice for Republican nominee, the apogee of modern-day Republicanism. Sure, the party claims to support “family values” and wears Christian religiosity on its sleeve, and we’ve always known that Trump is a thrice-married philanderer (even before yesterday’s “grab them by the pussy” revelations). But the GOP’s moral crusaders are curiously very frequently hypocrites of the highest order, and their “family values” often start and end in the womb, discriminate against “non-traditional” families, and strangely exclude, overlook, underfund, or actively harm almost all major family-related issues like child care, nutrition, housing, education, health care, and equal pay for working women.
What I’m trying to say is that Trump IS the Republican party and the Republican party — including most of its current governors, senators, and congresspeople — is Trump. They fundamentally stand for the same things (for example: discrimination, encoded in the law; heaping benefits upon the fortunate, neglect/scorn upon the less fortunate, or at best faux concern not backed up by actual funding/support) and share many of the same flaws (for example: dishonesty/inconsistency on policy, especially regarding taxation; denial of science, especially regarding climate; fixation on bogeymen, like an imaginary invasion of foreign terrorists who kill at most dozens of Americans each year, rather than real problems, like the guns which kill 30,000+ Americans each year).
I’m not gloating. I think this is a terrible state of affairs. A democracy without at least 2 reasonable, rational, sane political parties (or, at the very least, 2 reasonable, rational, sane opposing points of view) is not really a democracy at all. It leaves many voters feeling justifiably angry, abandoned, and disillusioned. It diminishes opportunities for meaningful discussion, honest debate, scholarly inquiry, and good-willed compromise. And it makes it nearly impossible to govern. As liberal as I am, I would really like to see a Republican party that offers actual, sound, coherent, reasonable, honest policy alternatives to the Democrats, if only to educate voters and provide a basis for real comparison.
But until that day, they all need to be voted out of office. Every last one of the spineless, self-serving, cruel Republicans who, at best, enabled and who, at worst, promoted, echoed and celebrated Trump’s racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, authoritarianism, demagoguery, jingoism, sick flirtations with Neo-Nazis and other sundry hatemongers and anti-Semites, and abhorrent megalomania, crudeness, and antisocial behavior — every last one of them should see their political careers and reputations justifiably damaged (future history book writers, take note). This goes double for the greedy opportunists who make money by normalizing and defending this indefensible filth (which, I’m convinced, most of them know is indefensible filth) — including right-wing pundits and propagandists convincingly or unconvincingly masquerading as legitimate news sources (::cough:: Fox News ::cough::) — pumping (mostly) white Americans full of irrational fear and misinformation.
If there are no consequences for the Republican party that made Trump possible, we’ll see nothing more than another hollow, ignored “autopsy” report after the general election, and then more of the same shit for years to come. No lessons learned. No changes made. A party that grows more radical, more hateful, more mendacious. And a government that grows even more dysfunctional as a direct result. And, bad as that all is, I shudder to think what happens if there’s some “October surprise,” the tides turn again and Trump actually wins this thing…
- Richie Jay


Robert said...

This is an unbelievably thorough analysis of the Republican party and the values that it, and Mr. Trump, represent. EXCELLENT!!!!!!

Bruce said...

Dear Bob--Richies writing skills are about as superb as any seasoned writer of the New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Atlantic or the old Esquire. Bravo