Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Donald Trump’s politics “toxic” and his 2016 candidacy a “cancer” on conservatism back in July of 2015. Not long after that that Perry got steamrolled by the Trump train. Perry almost got it right, but Trump isn’t a cancer on conservatism. Conservatism itself is the cancer. Donald Trump is simply the visible melanoma. He is the end result of decades of xenophobia, climate denial, gay-bashing, nativism, and gun addiction.
I correctly predicted in December of 2015 that Trump would eventually be the Republican nominee when nearly all national pundits gave him no chance. I saw Trump as the embodiment of what the base had hoped to see in a candidate. I made my prediction because I wasn’t in a bubble and observed the hate and fear rampant among likely GOP voters.
Republicans weren’t always controlled by the right wing
How many of you knew at one time the GOP was actually considered quite progressive? The period from 1896 to 1932 was referred to as the Progressive era of the Republican party. Theodore Roosevelt was a dynamic individual with big ideas. It was Roosevelt who broke up Standard Oil and established the federal protection of almost 230 million acres of land, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, and 18 national monuments.
In the 1930’s the Republican party was dominated by what Goldwater later to referred to as the “Eastern Establishment”. This mostly included Northeastern Republicans who weren’t nearly as concerned with social issues as the modern GOP. They took relatively liberal positions in regards to labor unions and even the New Deal programs. They advocated for a free-market but with some degree of regulation. They were also called Rockefeller Republicans because Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York was among the most famous members of the group. The few remnants of this group that remain are now derisively called RINO’s (Republicans in name only).
Nixon ran as a moderate in 1960 and his defeat gave Goldwater and the conservatives hope. Goldwater and his allies began to fight against the progressive wing and succeeded in 1964. They slowly but surely began to defeat progressive Republicans in primaries, others retired, and others still became Democrats. This is strikingly similar to how the Tea Party has worked in recent elections.
Goldwater defeated moderates like Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Goldwater’s victory was a turning point even though he was soundly thrashed by LBJ. Four years later in 1968 Nixon ran far more to the right and by the time Reagan was elected in 1980 the coup was complete.
Goldwater never for a second imagined his own machinations would eventually allow the takeover of his party by the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
By 1980 when Congressman John B. Anderson of Illinois bolted the party in 1980 and ran as an independent against Reagan, the last remaining liberal GOP element had faded away. The entire Northeast which had been a Republican stronghold for decades changed loyalties and has been a Democratic stronghold ever since. I believe having Trump as the nominee will mark another major shift as the GOP moves even further right and becomes more extreme.
Obama derangement syndrome
Obama Derangement Syndrome isn’t so much paranoia about President Obama’s policies as it is a paranoia about the man himself — that he is, in some fundamental way, different, foreign, untrustworthy, even traitorous. What’s odd is that it is attached to a president whose presidency has been, in almost every respect, conventionally moderate if slightly left of center.
“A 2014 Economist/YouGov poll found that “a full 23 percent of Americans said they still believed it was possible that Obama was born outside the United States. Among Republicans, the numbers were even more shocking: two thirds disagreed with the statement that the president was born in the states.”
Only recently Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue called for imprecatory prayers seeking the President’s untimely demise, and the psychotic senator did it in front of a group of “Christians” at a Faith and Freedom gathering. This is the first time in history a sitting Senator has ever prayed publicly for the death of a President.
Perdue is far from alone. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) revealed that he was solely responsible for putting a hold on one of the President’s ambassadorial nominees simply to “inflict special pain on the President.” Republicans have also refused many other key nominees without any logical reason with an approval rate slower than any time since 1969. Mitch McConnell the head of the Senate Republicans said, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.”
This is not some sudden change brought about by the election by President Obama, it has been bubbling below the surface since Nixon and his “Southern Strategy”. Electing President Obama was simply the catalyst that released pent-up Republican rage and craziness. A rage that would have not been so visceral if Obama were white.
The GOP have also denied climate change for decades, have fought hard to deny the LGBT community basic civil rights, have fought against making health insurance accessible to the poor, have engaged in minority voter suppression, and battled to protect the Second-Amendment rights of suspected terrorists while at the same time calling for greater surveillance of us all.
U.S. income inequality has been increasing steadily since the 1970s, and now has reached levels not seen since 1928. Republicans have consistently supported policies that are harmful to nearly everyone below the top percentile of income earners and most especially to the top 1% while somehow convincing poor white voters to vote against their own self-interest.
In a brilliant commentary Neal Gabler wrote:
Today’s GOP is closer to a religious cult than a political institution. It operates on dogma, sees compromise as a moral failing, views enemies as pagans who must be vanquished, and considers every policy skirmish another Götterdämmerung.
Götterdämmerung means a collapse (as of a society or regime) marked by catastrophic violence and disorder. So please explain to me again why Donald Trump’s win as the presumptive nominee is a surprise? He is the very embodiment of decades of Republican hate-mongering and nurturing the basest instincts and fears among Americans. He is the culmination of all their policies come to life.
Donald Trump is no aberration
Trump wants to make America great again but for whom is that dog whistle intended? Certainly not women, minorities, LGBT, and so many other groups who have less fond memories of the 1950’s. This is presumably the last time America was great using Trump’s descriptions of an idyllic country.
After Donald Trump (hopefully) loses in November, the GOP will not implode. Instead they will reload with someone like Ted Cruz who is already preparing his 2020 run. They will claim Trump lost because he was not a “sensible conservative” like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio who in my estimation are more dangerous than Trump if a bit more talented at politesse.
When you actually look at policy positions Donald Trump is actually far more moderate than Cruz or Rubio. Forget about some of his more outlandish statements like banning all Muslims. Trump is far more mainstream on healthcare, gun laws, LGBT rights, foreign policy, abortion, and the environment than true conservatives like Cruz or Rubio. Goldwater didn’t realize that he enabled Falwell and others to take over his party. Conservatives are now realizing the Tea Party and Trump just pulled the same trick on them.
With a few exceptions, nothing Trump has said is really at odds with mainstream Republican views. He simply had the audacity to vocalize what had only been whispered behind closed doors before or spoken in code words on talk radio by the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Mitt Romney was shamed when he made his infamous 47% comment. Donald Trump says far worse and feels no shame. His supporters love him for his audacity to flaunt acceptable behavior. They don’t care that he is more of a moderate than a conservative on many issues.
Donald Trump’s biggest sin to party elites is not being afraid to share the GOP playbook openly with the masses. Trump didn’t persuade the GOP base to embrace his extreme and bigoted views — he didn’t have to. Those views match up well with what the rank and file of today’s Republican Party already believe.
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans support Trump’s ban on Muslims coming to the United States. On immigration, 70 percent of Republicans support building a wall along the Mexican border and a 2015 CNN poll found that 63 percent of Republicans support deporting all of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants. As I mentioned earlier in the article, two thirds of Republicans also believe Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
Trump became the presumptive nominee precisely because of hate-mongering and fear, not in spite of it. The New Yorker said it best when describing Donald Trump.
Is he a Fascist? Trump’s movement flourishes without white hoods and burning crosses, without jackboots, gangs of thugs, insignias, patriotic anthems, without secret police or any state power at all. After all, he hasn’t won anything yet. His movement doesn’t fit any standard definition of Fascism.
A plumply loutish golden billionaire, he is a superb entertainer. Yet there are sickening echoes in his speeches of the Fascist movements of the twentieth century—extreme nationalism, the appeals to bigotry and fear, the emphasis on humiliation, the shrewdly gangsterish, undermining contempt for anyone who stands in the leader’s way.
The Republican party will survive Donald Trump, but will it learn any lessons? Doubtful. Conservative commentator George Will announced he was ditching the GOP to become “an unaffiliated voter” because he did not believe the Trump-headed GOP represented his views. I respectfully ask George Will why he failed to notice the change to his beloved party long before Trump entered the fray. George H.W. Bush is perhaps the last president approximating George Will’s Republican party. Cruz, Rubio, and the other candidates all share most of the same views as Trump but chose to use less inflammatory rhetoric when making their cases which is also why they lost.
Donald Trump didn’t convert anyone to his views. The Republican base held those views long before Trump started yelling it loudly at rallies. Trump’s supporters were waiting for someone like Trump to come along. Any successful demagogue is also an opportunist. Trump understood the sentiment of the base and seized his chance at exactly the right time.
Whether Trump wins or loses he clearly represents the majority of the Republican party’s views on most issues. This populist demagogue was created by the GOP base who are accustomed to reality TV, inflammatory talk radio, the snark and trolling of the internet. Fox News is Dr. Frankenstein and Trump is their creation.
Conservatism is a cancer that has been eating at the fabric of American society long before Trump came along. They seem to be impervious to facts or logic and view compromise as an anathema. Since the New Deal they have been on the wrong side of history on nearly every issue that mattered. Trump represents the purest form of “conservatism” because he doesn’t bother using politesse or code words. But make no mistake, he most definitely represents most Republican voters quite accurately.