Friday, April 07, 2017

Trumpism and the Ugliness of Today's GOP


As I have often noted, I was once a Republican back in the days before the ascendancy of the Christofascists and the white supremacists (the two generally go hand in hand) within the Republican Party.  Indeed, in May of 1999, near the end of my membership in the GOP, I even handled the incorporation of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach at the request of the then moderate City Committee chair who was later ousted by a coup by the hard right.  Since that time the Republican Party at both the state and national level has continued its descent into ugliness and misogyny.   The only true principles of the party now are trashing the environment, attacking the rights of those its base deems "other" - gays and Muslims being two favorite bogeymen - and concocting schemes to shift wealth from the poor and working/middle class to the most wealthy individuals and the nation's large corporations.  Things that were once too reprehensible to say in public discourse even if one thought them in private are now mainstream in the GOP and there seems to be no limit to how low things will go.  The election of Der  Trumpenf├╝hrer is the culmination of years of malignancy and, despite the media's efforts to depict economic worry as  the motivating factor for Trump voters, the truth is something much uglier.  An op-ed in the New York Times describes the sickness and the party's leader well.  Here are excerpts:
This week’s New York Times interview with Donald Trump was horrifying, yet curiously unsurprising. Yes, the world’s most powerful man is lazy, ignorant, dishonest and vindictive. But we knew that already.
In fact, the most revealing thing in the interview may be Mr. Trump’s defense of Bill O’Reilly, accused of sexual predation and abuse of power: “He’s a good person.” This, I’d argue, tells us more about both the man from Mar-a-Lago and the motivations of his base than his ramblings about infrastructure and trade.
First, however, here’s a question: How much difference has it made, really, that Donald Trump rather than a conventional Republican sits in the White House?
The Trump administration is, by all accounts, a mess. The vast majority of key presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation are unfilled; whatever people are in place are preoccupied with factional infighting. Decision-making sounds more like palace intrigues in a sultan’s seraglio than policy formulation in a republic. And then there are those tweets.
Yet Mr. Trump’s first great policy and political debacle — the ignominious collapse of the effort to kill Obamacare — owed almost nothing to executive dysfunction. . . . . it failed because Republicans have been lying about health care for eight years. So when the time came to propose something real, all they could offer were various ways to package mass loss of coverage.
Similar considerations apply on other fronts. Tax reform looks like a bust, not because the Trump administration has no idea what it’s doing (although it doesn’t), but because nobody in the G.O.P. ever put in the hard work of figuring out what should change and how to sell those changes.
[G]iven what we heard in the interview — basically incoherent word salad mixed with random remarks about transportation in Queens — it’s clear that the administration has no actual infrastructure plan, and probably never will.
True, there are some places where Mr. Trump does seem likely to have a big impact — most notably, in crippling environmental policy. But that’s what any Republican would have done; climate change denialism and the belief that our air and water are too clean are mainstream positions in the modern G.O.P.
[W]hat Trumpism has brought is a new sense of empowerment to the ugliest aspects of American politics.
By now there’s a whole genre of media portraits of working-class Trump supporters (there are even parody versions). You know what I mean: interviews with down-on-their-luck rural whites who are troubled to learn that all those liberals who warned them that they would be hurt by Trump policies were right, but still support Mr. Trump, because they believe that liberal elites look down on them and think they’re stupid. Hmm.
Trump gives outright, unapologetic voice to racism, sexism, contempt for “losers” and so on — feelings that have always been an important source of conservative support, but have long been things you weren’t supposed to talk about openly. . . . Fox News in general, and Mr. O’Reilly in particular, is that they provide a safe space for people who want an affirmation that their uglier impulses are, in fact, justified and perfectly O.K. And one way to think about the Trump White House is that it’s attempting to expand that safe space to include the nation as a whole.
And the big question about Trumpism — bigger, arguably, than the legislative agenda — is whether unapologetic ugliness is a winning political strategy.


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