Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The GOP’s Cruz/Trump Cancer

I complain often about what has happened to the Republican Party, a party that I once strongly supported.  Now, it is like insane asylum peopled by white supremacists, right wing religious fanatics, and spittle flecked racists who are furious about their waning white privilege and the demographic changes sweeping the country.  As a piece in The Daily Beast underscores, the current vile state of the GOP traces back to opportunistic members of the party establishment like Karl Rove that welcomed in the ugliest elements of American society for short term election victories.  Now, the swamp fever ridden party base has hijacked the GOP and the so-called party establishment seems powerless to stop the monster it has unleashed.  Enter Donal Trump and Ted Cruz who like a cancer are moving to kill the Republican Party for perhaps a generation.  The piece has dome great quotes from Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen, who is on target as to the problems facing the GOP and the menace posed by Trump and Cruz.  Here are some article highlights:
When asked to assess the presidential prospects of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Sen. Lindsey Graham famously said, “It’s like being shot or poisoned. I think you get the same result, whether it’s quick or takes a long time.”

Republicans breathing a sigh of relief because Cruz beat Trump in Iowa are rejoicing at the prospect of being poisoned. They may have dodged a bullet, but there’s a long-term critical condition they can’t afford to ignore.

Because Cruz and Trump do not represent different visions of the Republican Party so much as different manifestations of the same kind of conservative populism that gets weak-kneed watching a strongman preach with fact-free certainty from the right side of the “us vs. them” divide.

These Crump voters see incivility and inexperience as political assets. Their candidates are proudly dividers rather than uniters, channeling white populist anger at undocumented immigrants and Muslims as well as President Obama. Amid the emotional blurring of church and state, social-issue litmus tests have moved so far right that libertarians need not apply. The Crump coalition constitutes a majority of the Republican field right now. And they can’t win a general election.

The rise of Cruz and Trump are symptoms of a larger problem in the GOP, a problem of their own making. Because the Republican Party systematically purged its center-right, it doesn’t have the ballast to withstand Wingnuts anymore.

Trump’s strength in national polls, where he still leads by double digits, was spurred by fear-mongering over illegal immigrants, Fortress America promises to build a border wall, and a proposed ban on Muslim travel to the United States
And while conservatives might be relieved by the Iowa results, Ted Cruz does not represent a return to normalcy in the GOP. Despised by his Senate colleagues, his chief accomplishment is shutting down the government, leading a coalition that his fellow Republican Devin Nunes memorably described as “lemmings with suicide vests.”

In contrast to Trump, Cruz is the darling of the conservagencia, because he reflects their beliefs. He is a card-carrying member of the sub-generation that grew up with the conservative catechism, a steady diet of right-wing texts offered up by his father. 

The rise of Crump is a result of the RINO-hunting that narrowed the base to the point that the Grand Old Party can be easily hijacked by a small but intense group with little interest in winning general elections and even less interest in governing.

The current mess began when mandarins of the conservative movement insisted that the two parties should be cleanly divided on ideological lines. This began the process of marginalizing people who loudly espoused libertarian views on social issues or a more centrist approach to creating winning coalitions.  Their efforts were reinforced by the rise of partisan media and the rigged system of redistricting, which has virtually eliminated competitive general elections from Congress.

Not so long ago, each party fielded a diverse coalition, with progressive Republicans from the North balanced by conservative Democrats in the South. A byproduct was a degree of stability in the system: Divided government was not by definition dysfunctional government because bipartisan governing coalitions could always be created, birthing everything from the Marshall Plan to the Interstate Highway System to civil-rights legislation to welfare reform.

But as geographic and ideological polarization took hold, those coalitions became more difficult to build.  By the start of the 21st century, Karl Rove’s play-to-the-base strategy became the rage, arguing that a razor-thin win was as much of a mandate as a landslide. The red state versus blue state mantra meant that the centuries-old centrist New England Republican tradition was almost extinguished within a decade after running the region as recently as the 1990s.
Whatever unhinged anger came out of the protests was more than tolerated with a wink and nod by Republicans who felt they could harness the fury into election victories and then channel it into something constructive once in control of Congress. But the mob quickly set the tone, creating conditions where elected leaders needed to pander to the outer reaches of politics to avoid their own primary challenges.  Center-right senators were the first to bite the dust, condemned as heretics to the cause.

Another measure of the creeping Crump cancer is the rise of Marco Rubio as the much-spun savior of the center-right. This “establishment” voice was a Tea Party insurgent six years ago. His rhetoric is optimistic and inclusive, but he continues to resist marriage equality and deny climate change, while abandoning his own immigration overhaul bill and opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest. This is center-right only by the standards of the Crump era.

Speaking to The Daily Beast from Manchester, New Hampshire, Sen. Lindsey Graham was typically blunt in his assessment . . . . . Our party’s got nuts again on immigration, and Trump started this. Trump’s position on immigration’s insane. . . . . .  every problem we’ve had, Trump has made worse.”   The Republican path to victory means reaching out to women as well as Hispanics, according to Graham. “Name one person who’s been more insulting to women than Donald Trump. When it comes to abortion, I’m pro-life. [But] very few people support the idea of no exception for rape and incest. That will define Rubio and Cruz with young women… that you can have no exceptions for rape and incest, and sell it with a smile, you’re kiddin’ yourself.”

Given the growing diversity of the American electorate and you have a disaster brewing whether Trump or Cruz is the nominee. Both men are underwater in support from independents, women, blacks, Hispanics, and suburban voters.

It’s time to stop pretending that the Crumps’ polarizing populist appeals represent ideas or ideals as much as channeling inchoate rage at changing demographics. The always thoughtful former Bush aide Pete Wehner recently wrote, “If Mr. Trump heads the Republican Party, it will no longer be a conservative party; it will be an angry, bigoted, populist one.”
But that prediction also serves as a diagnosis of the GOP’s predicament, which Trump and Cruz have only revealed. The problem will persist and lead to more general-election losses until the base of the party is broadened. Until then, the Republican primaries will look and feel like a fatalistic circus.  As Senator Graham told The Daily Beast, “that’s what so stupid about this thing. It’s like buying a ticket on the Titanic after you see the movie.  You know how it ends.”

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