Sunday, September 06, 2015

Birthers, "Trumpists" and the Potential Split of the GOP

As often noted on this blog, some years back, the so-called GOP establishment, including George W. Bush and Karl Rove made the short term political calculation to welcome Christofascists and by extension white supremacists into the Republican Party.  Before that time the religious extremists were typically not voted onto local city and county committees which tended to be controlled by moderates and establishment types.  During my last years on the City Committee for the Republican Party of Virginia Beach I saw this change and witnessed a coup whereby the moderate chairwoman was forced out by early forces of the Christofacists/Tea Party with the help of power hungry opportunists.  It's been a steady downward spiral since that time, both locally and nationally.  Now, that short term opportunism is on the brink of splitting the GOP unless the party sells it soul wholly to the forces of religious extremism and white supremacy.  A column in the Washington Post looks at what is happening:
The story line around Donald Trump’s “rise” has got the narrative wrong. It mistakes the man for the movement. While we do need to reckon with what Trump himself means for U.S. politics, we need to reckon even more urgently with what can now be called the “Trumpists,” a solidly right-wing ethno-nationalist voting bloc that has been growing since the mid-1990s.

What points to this story? The numbers capturing the ebb and flow in the belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim and the crisis over the president’s birth certificate. Those are the ones to watch.

Even after the release of the [Obama's long form] birth certificate, 23 percent of Republicans continued to hold the view that Obama was born overseas. These, I suggest, are your Trump voters. 

Recent polling has in fact confirmed that Trump, a particularly prominent “birther” in 2010 and 2011, is tapping into this constituency. According to Public Policy Polling, 66 percent of his supporters believe Obama is Muslim and 61 percent think he was not born in the United States. 

The Trumpists are our equivalent of Britain’s U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) and France’s National Front, both anti-immigrant, nationalist parties. . . . The critical difference between our nationalist faction and the European ones is that their parliamentary systems register them as “parties,” whereas our two-party model makes it harder to see that what we’re confronting truly is the rise of a new party. Provided, that is, the Republicans don’t sell their souls.

If the Republicans can hang on to the convictions that make them the party of Lincoln, we ought to see the party split. For the good of the country, we should hope for it.

Two larger shifts in our sociopolitical landscape provide the framework necessary for understanding the Trumpists.

First, there is the dramatic movement of the United States toward becoming a majority-minority country, where no ethnic group is in the majority. . . . It is unsurprising that our clear movement in this direction should provoke resistance from those whose well-being, status and self-esteem are connected to historical privileges of “whiteness.”

Second, there is the Internet. Digital communications technologies have plainly enabled geographically dispersed people with niche interests to find one another and form communities.  . . . the first uses of the Internet to build political solidarity among those with fringe political interests emerged on the right. The Drudge Report started in 1994 and Free Republic in 1996.

The real story, then, is not about this or that candidate but about precisely how the realignment of U.S. public opinion away from the two major political parties will shake out and about who or what the major parties will sell down the river while trying to save themselves as the “big tents” they need to be to win elections. And the burning question inside this story is whether our two-party system can survive the digital era. Or, perhaps better, how to ensure that it doesn’t so that we can save our center-right party, the Republicans, for the center.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

If the Republican party was ever "the party of Lincoln," it ceased to be when to secure the White House for Rutherford B. Hayes (the first president who had received a minority of the popular vote), the Republicans agreed to end Reconstruction (Southern strategy I).

OK, Theodore Roosevelt was in some ways a progressive, though also a raving imperialist, but Eisenhower overthrew democratically elected governments of Iran and Guatemala (fallout from both continues!), did not challenge Joe McCarthy, and only with great reluctance enforced the unanimous Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools in the South. Reagan pioneered rejection of "reality-based policy-making" (and with his vice-president committed high crimes in Iran-contragate, as well as cutting taxes while increasing expenditures, not least military ones). Etc.