Friday, May 18, 2018

The Growing Toxicity of the GOP

As I and many other former Republicans have noted, one of the ironies in politics today is the allegiance of so-called "Christian conservatives" and evangelical Christians to Donald Trump and the Republican Party.  Trump embodies everything that a true Christian should reject - greed, indifference to the plight of others, gluttony based on his obesity, and general cruelty and racism - and the agenda of the GOP to destroy the social safety net is the antithesis of the Gospel's call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick.  The result?  More than of Millennials have rejected religion and the term Christian has become synonymous with hypocrisy, hatred of others and cruelty in general.  Seemingly, no one within the GOP sees this ugliness for what it is or, if they do, they are too fearful of a primary challenge to call out horrific behavior.  Sadly, Trump is normalizing reprehensible behavior - at least within the Republican Party, which is why many of us walked away from the GOP.  The descent of the GOP into a moral cesspool did not happen overnight.  I saw the beginning of the trend two decades ago and left the GOP after years of activism.  The catalyst for the GOP's embrace of the ugly and reprehensible?  The rise of evangelicals in the party base.  They, not the leadership, brought the bigotry and open racism with them.  The leadership out of shortsighted opportunism merely embraced the values evangelicals  brought with them.  Trump is merely the result of the mainstreaming of these ugly values within the GOP.  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican White House official bemoans what has become of the GOP.  Here are column excerpts:

In Georgia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams drives around in a bus he promises to fill with “illegals” who will be deported to Mexico. On the rear is stamped: “Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molestors [sic], and other criminals on board.” In Arizona, Republican Senate candidate (and former Maricopa County sheriff) Joe Arpaio is a proud “birther” with a history of profiling and abusing Hispanic migrants. Vice President Pence recently called Arpaio “a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law.” In Wisconsin, Republican House candidate Paul Nehlenruns as a “pro-white Christian American candidate.”
In the Republican Party, cranks and bigots are closer to legitimacy than at any time since William F. Buckley banished the John Birch Society.
For some of us, this was a concern from the beginning of President Trump’s rise — not just the policies he would adopt but also the attitudes he would encourage and the passions he would provoke.
The problem is one of social psychology. Human beings are wired to favor their ingroup and to view people in outgroups as interchangeable and dispensable. We are willing to form ingroups at the drop of a hat, based even on minor characteristics. We tend to believe that bad things that happen to people in our ingroup are bum luck, while bad things that happen to people in outgroups are evidence of a just universe. Because we are inherently predisposed toward stereotyping, we are particularly vulnerable to propaganda.
Whatever else Trumpism may be, it is the systematic organization of resentment against outgroups. Trump’s record is rich in dehumanization. It was evident when he called Mexican migrants “criminals” and “rapists.” When he claimed legal mistreatment from a judge because “he’s a Mexican.”  . . . When he attacked Muslim Gold Star parents. When he sidestepped opportunities to criticize former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. When he referred to “very fine people” among the white-supremacist protesters in Charlottesville. When he expressed a preference for Norwegian immigrants above those from nonwhite “shithole countries.” This is more than a disturbing pattern; it is an organizing political principle. And it has resulted in a series of radiating consequences.
First, it has given permission for the public expression of shameful sentiments. People such as Blankenship, Williams, Arpaio and Nehlen are part of a relatively (and thankfully) small political group. But the president has set boundaries of political discourse that include them and encourage them. Even when Trump opposes their candidacies, he has enabled the bolder, more confident expression of their bigotry. . . . Trump’s Christian supporters in particular must be so proud.
Second, Trump’s attacks on outgroups have revealed the cowardice of a much broader faction within the GOP — those who know better but say little. Some Republican leaders (see House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin) have been willing to criticize specific instances of Trump’s prejudice. But few — and very few with a political future — have been willing to draw the obvious conclusion that Trump is prejudiced, or to publicly resist the trend toward prejudice among the GOP base.
In Republican Senate primaries such as the one in Indiana, candidates have engaged in a competition of who can be the most exclusionary. Mainstream attitudes toward refugees and legal immigration have become more xenophobic. Trump has not only given permission to those on the fringes; he has also changed the Republican mean to be more mean.
As I have noted before, nowadays I do not believe a decent and moral person can be a Republican.  Those who remain in the GOP are little better than the "good Germans" who sat by as Hitler rose to power. Bad things happen when decent, moral people do nothing. 

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