Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Search for the Republican Soul

Once upon a time the Republican Party honored knowledge, learning, science and intellect.  Then the Christofascists and their foul Tea Party cousins hijacked the party base and in a 180 degree turn, the GOP came to embrace ignorance and the ugliest elements of religious extremists and white supremacists.  Now, the party finds itself with the inmates in charge of the asylum and those who closed their eyes to the Frankenstein monster that they were creating in the quest for short term advantage can no longer control the crazies and angry white voters.  With the appearance of Donald Trump on the scene, even GOP obstructionists who fan the flames of resentment like Ted Cruz find themselves being pushed aside by the unwashed lunatics they nurtured.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the state of the GOP:

Imagine for a moment that you are Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas and proud voice of the Tea Party. You have built your career by stoking the rage of conservatives, much of it against the very Republican Party to which you, and they, belong.

If you are Ted Cruz, you have spent years honing this message, telling  members of the right wing to be suspicious of their elected leaders, to purge and cast out the perfidious incumbents who grease the system and make the deals. You have fed their anger and their fear. You have taken all the right positions. And all you’ve got to show for it, at this early stage of the presidential primary, is seventh place out of the 17 candidates.

What on earth do Republican voters want? The candidates, at this stage, are as clueless as the pundits, and the pundits have no idea. They certainly never foresaw Donald Trump . . . Trump has inspired horrified bouts of introspection within the GOP, as shocked party stalwarts try to figure out where the tycoon’s momentum is coming from—and how it can be stopped.

RedState’s editor, Erick Erickson, may be the most powerful conservative in America. If there’s anyone who ought to have his finger on the pulse of conservative America, it’s him.

I asked Erickson what it said about the Republican Party that Trump was doing so well. Did it prove the party’s base consisted of racists and haters? “The Republican Party created Donald Trump,” Erickson told me, “because they made a lot of promises to their base and never kept them.” Voters are drawn to Trump, he said, because “he’s burning down the Republican Party that never listened to them to begin with.”

This is true enough. But surely some of the blame also lies with figures like Erickson, who encouraged activists to demand ever-more extreme tactics from their leaders and branded anyone who didn’t agree a RINO, or Republican In Name Only. At this year’s Gathering, Erickson pushed the candidates to support shutting down the government if Democrats wouldn’t agree to pull funding from Planned Parenthood in the wake of the gory recent fetal-tissue-harvesting videos. Cruz was one of several who agreed; Huckabee went further by saying he would refuse to raise the debt ceiling, threatening default.

Trump, ironically, actually is a Republican in name only. But he’s also a professional entertainer, and he has proven better than any of the actual candidates at the performative outrageousness that the GOP base has been encouraged to demand. When and if he finally stalls out or quits, the deep Republican divisions that he has successfully exploited will remain, bedeveling whichever candidate ends up with the booby prize of the nomination.

Erickson considers himself a good barometer of the conservative temperament. He told reporters on Saturday that he thought this might be “the beginning of the end” for Trump. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case: In post-debate polls, Trump is holding steady in first place, and Fox News has bent over backward to make amends.

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