- What the hell?
- How the hell?
- No, seriously, Why the hell?
In my experience, in the decades I've followed politics since the 1980s onward, I've seen the "dog-whistling" that the GOP used in their campaigning to get their Southern Strategy of fear-mongering working. There's been a bit of subtlety to it - not a lot, but it's there - and it usually masked the race-baiting under other topics such as crime (Willie Horton), welfare reform (Welfare Queens and Young Bucks Buying Lobster), education (Affirmative Action is unfair), tax reform (shift the burden away from income and capital gains taxes of mostly-white CEOs, and onto sales and property taxes that adversely affect mostly-poor minorities), and the utter destruction of the social safety net (well, not that subtle at all).
There'd been a few hard-core haters that made attempts in the last 12 years - Tancredo comes to mind - to run for the Presidency but all of them were alienating and with few followers. Trump is the first one who's come out swinging hard on an anti-immigrant position who's actually gone up in polls to where he's being viewed as a possible primaries winner.
But why? The reactions outside of the Republican polling base has been harsh and quick and financially painful for Trump: he's been dumped by various business partners, NBC has kicked him off his shill-show The Apprentice, and various Hispanic businesses and advocacy groups are calling 24/7 for apologies across the board (not just Trump but the GOP leadership).
There's been theories why Trump has gone Full-Hater:
- Trump is actually a Democratic stooge, a stealth agent provocateur trying to sabotage the entire GOP platform. George Will seems to be an early supporter of this idea. Never mind the fact that most of his primary opponents are not nuking him from orbit on Trump's gross behavior - Jeb so far has been the harshest critic - and never mind the fact that Trump is selling an existing GOP marketing strategy that has attacked Hispanics as a dangerous Other for years. Trump is just amping it up to eleven.
- Trump is actually a Republican stalking horse who's taking such a hard-line and radical racist stance in order to make the other GOP candidates - Jeb in particular - more appealing to moderate and centrist voters needed to win a general election. I'm more of a proponent of this conspiracy theory, although this all relies on Trump flaming out early to leave an "Establishment" candidate like Jeb or Scott Walker standing at the end of the primary race.
- Trump is genuinely running to win the nomination, and realizes that without an actual electoral history he's going to need to win primary voters as quick and as easy and as cheap (despite all his "wealth" Trump will always choose the cheapest path to profit) as possible. He's going Full-Hater early in order to stake his position before anyone else does: and the polling seems to prove that attack plan is working for him. And he's been a Hater before - witness his obsession over Birtherism - and never paid a price for it, so why expect a penalty now? Simplest - the most direct - explanation tends to be the most correct one.
This is essentially the end result of forty-plus years of the Southern Strategy that Republicans used from 1968 onward to bring social conservatives over from a Democratic Party fracturing after LBJ's civil rights reforms. As Lee Atwater was caught saying in an interview in 1981, you marketed for all the hate that you can wring out of your voting base - hard-line social conservatives who lean towards racism as a unifying cause - to ensure they vote for conservative candidates regardless of the real issues. You did it by hiding that hate under "code": You can't say "N-word" by the Eighties, but you say it as "forced busing," or "states' rights". You place it within the fears of having criminals and drug abusers - who all look like minorities in the telling of the tales - roaming the streets. And that got you a voting bloc of angry, fear-driven White voters not just in the South but the Midwest and Southwest all eagerly voting for an increasingly hard-core conservative Republican agenda.
But now the bill's come due. There's few other places of shock and fear the social conservatives can push the ever-rightward Republicans. No amount of "moving the goalposts" of debate can hide the fact the entire GOP platform has gone fully right-wingnut. We've endured campaign years of wingnuts like Tancredo and Bachmann and Palin and Santorum. We had a line-up of 2012 that behaved like Upper Class Twits that underwhelmed. We already have a 2016 lineup of demagogues like Cruz and Jindal, and bullies like Christie and Walker, and nihilists like Rand Paul, and opportunitists like Jeb and Huckabee, all of them pandering to a Far Right voting base worried less about issues and worried more about an apocalypse sold to them on Fox Not-News every hour on the hour.
Trump is not exposing anything new: he's just taken the Republican messaging - Fear The Other - and amped it up as loud and as obnoxious as he can (which is all he does, and isn't very good at it). That's what the hell is happening here. This shouldn't be all that surprising. If Trump hadn't gone this extreme, one of the others - Cruz is the likeliest candidate - surely would have by the end of the upcoming August debate.
This isn't the worrying part. What's worrying is that Trump is getting supporters out of this BS.