Friday, November 27, 2015

The GOP's Self-Created Frankenstein Monster

What happens when a political party welcomes (i) religious extremists who want a theocracy and reject science and knowledge, (ii) white supremacists that want to return to the Jim Crow era, and (iii) vulture capitalist who want to revive the Gilded Age?  You get today's Republican Party and it's current front runner, Donald Trump.  The slide of the GOP into insanity began first with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in the late 1960's, but it rocketed into crazy land when Karl Rove and imbecilic George W. Bush decided to energize and welcome in the Christofascists, using anti-gay animus as the inducement.  Now, the so-called GOP establishment is in shock at the results of its handy work.  A column in Talking Points Memo looks at why there should be no surprise that Donald trump is so far the GOP presidential nomination front runner.  Here are highlights:  

Read the editorial and news pages today and you'll find a mix of hand-wringing and demands about an uncouth and outrageous outsider who is threatening to wrest the Republican party from its rightful owners.

The Washington Post gives us a look at the waiting game members of the GOP donor class are playing, resisting calls to spend money on a Stop Trump movement because they remain convinced that GOP base voters will eventually reject Trump's brand of politics. 

But for now the most notable is the focus group data suggesting that there's basically nothing Trump can say or anything that can be revealed about him that will sway his supporters.  After conducting two focus groups of Trump supporters this fall, GOP consultant Frank Luntz said he has concluded that there is no political issue or stance that will turn off his supporters.

But all of this is simply a mix of denial, willful ignorance and aggressive flimflam. My first thought when I started writing this post was that Trump is nothing so much as the Frankenstein's monster of the contemporary Republican party.

Is Trump really too anti-immigrant for the 21st century GOP? Or too hostile to Muslims in the US and abroad? Or has he broken with the party in pushing caricatures of black criminals either threatening the safety of ordinary Americans or mobilizing through voter fraud to take away the stuff earned by middle class white people? It's not too much to say that there's nothing Trump has said in recent weeks that you couldn't hear any given Monday on the Rush Limbaugh Show, from various backbench House conservatives or a million other places in conservative media.

What Trump has done - I suspect more intuitively than with a conscious strategy or plan - is to package them all together and strip away the window dressing which has allowed this menu of resentment to both stoke base conservative anger and appeal to more respectable conservative elites without creating channel conflict between the two. This is no more than the monster which Republican elites created and used to marvelous effect. Only now it appears to be in the process of slipping its leash and devouring its creators rather than uneasily or crankily serving it.

There's nothing new under the sun about Trumpism. It's just a turbo-charged, more media savvy version of the resentment politics the GOP has been tapping for fuel and riding for decades. 

I know many of my Republican friends are aghast and will insist that Trump's politics is one they abhor rather than endorse. For many that's true. But the Republican party has also been relying on this politics for many years to drive its campaigns. Trump, in his current incarnation, is no more than right wing politics turned up to eleven. It shouldn't surprise us he's garnered a ton of support or that it's proven, thus far, almost impossible to dislodge.

The GOP establishment sold its soul to the ugliest elements of the party base and is now reaping the whirlwind that it created.  The party bears no relation today to the party I once was involved in.  Now that the haters and extremists hold the grass roots, I honestly do no know how control has been seized back from the lunatics. 

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