Saturday, March 05, 2016

A Party is Getting What It Deserves

“These seeds were planted decades ago with the Southern Strategy, and fertilized with 25 years of Hate Radio.” 

I found that quotation in a comment to an article posted on Media Matters for America.  It was pointing out what everyone in America with half a brain is now saying: the Republicans are finally reaping what they have sowed. 

If you’re like me, you don’t know whether to laugh at the Republican Party or to cry for America.  Every Democracy needs at least two functional political parties or else the people will have no voice at all.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at the way the Democratic Party elders rigged this year’s election – holding as few debates as possible and at times that will attract the fewest viewers (like on a Saturday evening, opposite an NFL Playoff game), as well as providing for hundreds of “superdelegates” virtually all of whom were committed to the establishment candidate.  If there had been no Republican Party and we left everything in the hands of Debby Wasserman-Schultz and her fellow Democratic apparatchiks, we might as well have coronated Hillary Clinton without a contest.   In twenty-five years, we could do the same for Chelsea.  That’s called one-party government.  It’s a disgrace.

But so is the contemporary Republican Party.  And please don’t blame its problems on Donald Trump. 

Trump isn’t primarily responsible for the Party’s refusal to recognize anything other than abstinence and marriage as strategies for reproductive sanity.  In fact, he’s the one Presidential candidate from that Party with the guts to point out that Planned Parenthood is actually doing some good in this country.

Trump isn’t primarily responsible for the Party’s refusal to recognize that Israel needs to be doing more to plant the seeds of peace with the Palestinians and that America needs to give Israel a nudge in that direction.   In fact, Trump should be credited for saying that, despite being “pro-Israel,” he also wishes to serve as an honest broker for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.  In response, Marco Rubio, the darling of the Republican Establishment, attacked Trump, saying that you can’t both be an honest broker and be pro-Israel.  Tell me, who sounds like the crazy candidate there?

Trump isn’t primarily responsible for the Party’s refusal to call for meaningful campaign finance reform.  By contrast, he seems to be the only Republican Presidential candidate who is criticizing the obscene role of money in politics.

Trump isn’t primarily responsible for the Party’s let-‘em-eat-cake attitude about the poor.    Unlike his other prominent Republican rivals, he is not calling for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  And while his health care plan would provide less universal coverage than, say, the plan advocated by Bernie Sanders, it is hardly less compassionate than the plans favored by the Republican Establishment.

Of course, this is not to say that Trump is mainstream on every issue.   We all know about his offensive comments on torture and Muslims.   Fortunately, he is walking back the former.  As to the latter, I guess his Islamophobic positions are just too damned popular with Republican voters to withdraw – at least during the primary season.  Trump is also a flat-earther when it comes to the greatest threat to our planet today: climate change.  Then again, climate-change denial has been Republican Orthodoxy from the time that scientists first sounded the alarms about the problem.

Infamously, Trump’s candidacy began with various statements about what has turned into his signature issue, Mexican immigration.   He referred to some of these Mexicans as “rapists” and essentially declared war on illegal aliens.  He was using sharp rhetoric, to be sure.  But when it came down to his policies, Trump’s primary Republican rivals followed him like lemmings.  And that’s not surprising, considering that back in 2012, the GOP candidates were similarly battling to show their anti-immigrant bona fides.  Even on that issue, Trump’s language might be harsher than others, but his policies are well within the mainstream.

So there you have the facts.  On issue after issue, Trump is either taking the moderate American position at a time when his Republican opponents have moved to the extreme right, or he is taking “conservative” positions that are in lockstep with his rivals.   If anything, he sounds like one of the less dangerous candidates in the Republican pack.  So why all the sturm und drang?
It’s the rhetoric.  It’s all about the rhetoric. 

Trump isn’t afraid to spew Republican Party views in visceral terms.  He isn’t afraid to use obscenities.  He isn’t afraid to speak his mind and reveal the fruits of his id.  But why does that make him more dangerous than his more “establishment” critics?  Soon after Barack Obama was elected, Senator (and current Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell said that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”   Indeed, Vice President Biden claimed that he spoke to seven Republican Senators who claimed “Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything.”  If Donald Trump were to express those sentiments as a member of the opposition, he would have been accused of treason.  But when Washington insiders express them, their conduct is accepted as just a way of playing the political game.  The difference is that Trump makes his comments with gusto, and he makes them in public.   Somehow, we seem to think that as long as our statesmen confine their obstructionist and uber-partisan actions to the back rooms, they deserve to be treated as honorable men.   Once they grab a mike, utter a four-letter word, and boldly announce what they’re doing, only then do we chastise them as dangerous and unworthy of public office.

To watch the Republican establishment ganging up on Trump today is an amazing spectacle.  The same people who used to kiss Trump’s ring are now making him the scape goat for all that is wrong with the universe.  Mitt “Mr. 47%” Romney, for example, said that Trump is a “twisted example of evil trumping good” (no pun intended, I assume), and added that “If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospect for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.”   This was the same Mitt Romney who four years ago praised Trump for showing “an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works."   It’s also the same Mitt who ignored Trump’s “birther” challenges against Obama (questioning whether Obama had a Constitutional right to serve as President) and instead embraced Trump’s endorsement of Mitt’s own candidacy.   “There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them … Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.”    

The same mainstream Republican politicians who talk as if Trump is the second coming of Adolph Hitler have been feeding at the same divisive trough that has satiated Trump.  They have put party before country, rich before poor, our generation before our children’s and grandchildren’s generations, fear before hope, and hatred before love.   No, they haven’t had a monopoly on political vice – the Democratic establishment has hardly served as role models either.  But at least the Democrats haven’t had the chutzpah to heap all their ridicule on one of their own, simply because that candidate resorts to bad language and advances party orthodoxy in visceral terms. 

I have no intention to vote for Donald Trump.  But nor will I sit back and pretend that politics-as-usual in this country would be doing just fine if Trump would just go back to Hollywood.  In 2013, after being invited by a friend to keep his liberal father company, I sat at an American Spectator gala and listened to one speaker after another spew condescending, hateful comments against progressives and liberalism.  I could have cared less if they used obscenities or turned up the rhetorical heat.  Their divisiveness was amped to the max.  Trump would have had nothing to add other than a little pizazz.

If you want to know my prediction, it’s that all the vitriol that is being heaped upon Trump by the Ben Steins, the Mitt Romneys, and the Marco Rubios will only make it EASIER for the Donald to win the nomination.  The masses of that party are speaking, and they are apparently calling for a candidate who is more comfortable in front of a microphone than in a smoke-filled back room or at a fundraising gala packed with fellow travelers.  When put that way, a vote for Trump actually makes sense.  After all, isn’t sunlight the best disinfectant?

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