Saturday, March 19, 2016

So What Exactly Is It About Trump That Terrifies The Republican Party?

So, as the freakout about a publicly-known con artist like Donald Trump becoming the likely nominee for President drives the Republican Party into open displays of panic and fear, a question is bound to come up.

Just WHY are the Republicans so terrified of Trump?

After all, Trump is doing absolutely everything expected of a Republican front-runner: he's bashing liberals as weak, Obama as evil, his opponents as failures. He's pandering to the GOP base on exactly the issues the Republicans have raised - illegal immigration, political correctness run amok, a broken bureaucracy, the conservative desire to punch hippies in the face - since the Clinton years. He's pushing a massive tax cut program that favors the rich. He's the buzz: everyone's talking about him. Even in politics, bad news is good PR if you spin it the right way.

But the Republicans - the "Establishment" faction as it were, the pro-Business "slightly saner" faction that tried over the last forty years to herd the religious and financial and social conservatives into a Reagan Big Tent juggernaut - are absolutely scared of Trump being the front-runner. They didn't want him, they wanted the likes of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie (and now John Kasich as the Last Best Hope).

Because the Republican Establishment - which had those three as well as many of the other would-be candidates for the White House - knew they could control those candidates and keep them in line.

Most of the would-be candidates, even Jeb, all are career politicians. Campaigning and making speeches and posing for photo ops is what they do for a living. They've paid their dues into the Republican social club, and they each owe the party a little something - their respect, their continued support, their fealty - for all that the party had done keeping them on the gravy train (and out of jail).

Trump is different in that he doesn't owe anybody anything within the Republican Party. He came in on his own, hell he was chased after for campaign funds and public endorsements and whatnot for years before today. In some respects there are enough players within the party ranks who owe him to a point where he can own them.

Trump doesn't have a career in politics to worry about. He can go back to being a bankrupt landlord and media gloryhound if he wants. This jump at the Presidency is a one-shot deal (it's one reason why he never ran for a lesser office to prove himself: any proof that he can't be effective in an elected job would have killed his shot at the Big Chair), and he's acting like he knows it by the way he's bulldozing down every form of civil behavior most politicians hold themselves to because they're thinking about the next job.

Trump doesn't have to worry about money in terms of fund-raising and sucking up to the party deep-pockets. He's even losing money doing all this, when you consider the lost deals and broken contracts in the wake of his insults and racist campaigning... all because he knows he can still con his way into similar deals down the line. That was one of the early signs that the RNC wasn't going to control him.

Just on those points alone there's a good reason why the GOP Establishment types are worried. The growing terror about Trump right now is coming from how Trump is shattering the illusions that enveloped the Republican leadership for the last thirty years. (This includes the mainstream media enablers of the Far Right who think they have influence within the halls of politics)

The panic is coming from people - not just the likes of the RNC leadership like Prince Rebus, uh Reince Priebus (I shouldn't rib him about that, I've got people misspeeling my name all the tyme...) or Mitt Romney, but also the self-proclaimed wise men of the columns like David Brooks and the National Review editor board - who suddenly discover that Trump is stirring up anger and rage among the Far Right voting base that no longer responds to the elites' attempts to control that voting base.

Despite the well-organized structure and singular agenda of the Republican Party, and despite the twenty-year push to purge the moderates and progressive forces of the GOP, there are still factions within the voting base itself that have to cooperate and get along for the party to win at the national level. While there's overlap between the pro-business tax-cuts-forever faction, the pro-fetus / evangelical faction, and the pro-bomb-our-enemies neocon faction, those are usually distinct groups with pet issues that need pandering in different ways.

Trump has disrupted all of that. He's wrangled out of those three factions a relatively new fourth: the Nativist / Populist faction, which cherry-picked the issues between all three existing factions and cast aside the issues that doesn't interest them. Trump's faction is openly racist in a way that the Republicans tried to ignore or excuse away through their use of dog-whistles, it's openly anti-trade and disdainful of the global economy in ways that scare the business leaders, and it's openly dismissive of abortion as a priority even as the faction expresses disdain towards women's health and women's issues. Mix in with all that the fact Trump's faction is violent and operates with a hair-trigger mob mentality, and the Republican Establishment is looking at a hostile, uncontrollable group they can neither wrangle back into their ranks nor ship out into exile.

And it's a faction that has grown larger than the existing factions within the ranks, meaning they can't overwhelm the Trump-ites by sheer numbers.

The Establishment leaders - reflected by the increasingly insane reactions and denials from their media cohorts - are showing signs of anxiety bordering on open fear. They're coping with a party that they no longer recognize, even though they've spent decades building the Republicans to be exactly what the party is today. It's like they didn't realize that forty years of demonizing everything that wasn't Rich White Male would create an army of racists.

This is what decades of self-fulfilling reality-warping does to a group of detached oligarchs. We saw smaller versions of this back in 2012, when Karl Rove and Mitt Romney and a lot of others in the GOP ranks convinced themselves they were beating Obama in the polls. That epic collapse of self-delusion on live television - when Rove had to be trout-slapped back into the real world over the Ohio ballot count going for Obama - was just a harbinger. The Epistemic Closure of the Republican leadership - by their media handlers, by their elected leaders in Congress and governors' offices, by their lobbyist buddies and deep-pocket funders buying up as much influence as they wanted - simply never paid any damn attention to what was happening in the Reality-Based Community they so easily dismissed during the Bush the Lesser years.

They've kept themselves in their boardroom meetings and country club golf courses and their television studio green rooms, isolated from their own base on the Far Right as much as they isolated themselves from the despised Far Left. They knew they were stirring up fear and anger among the masses: they just didn't care to know what the consequences would be.

That's why they're panicking now. It's about as much to do with the possibility of Trump leading their party to electoral disaster in November as it is about the possibility the Republican Establishment has lost a huge chunk of their voting base.

It's getting to the point where their "respectable voices" among their ranks are openly talking about forcing a Third Party run despite the fact that will clearly split the Right for the foreseeable future, perhaps decades. They may already be realizing it's too late, and they need to destroy the Beltway Village now in order to save it.

This would be tons of enjoyable schadenfreude, except for the fact that con artist Trump is still menacing the countryside like a monster run amok.

It's up to the Democrats to clean up after the f-cking Republicans. Again.


dinthebeast said...

They're scared of Trump because he is outing their favorite big cons. By appealing to poor white males, who have been getting financially screwed since (and by) St. Ronnie, he's effectively giving up the game that's been their gravy train for most of their lives. Much has been said about "the monster of their own creation" now shambling around in the light of day, but few have actually identified it as poor white males. Being one myself, I have no such fear about identifying them. Without them, how can Republicans exist, much less win elections? It has been a weird riddle how they could induce poor white males to vote against their own interests for a long time, and now Trump comes along and threatens that achievement. Of course they are going to hate him and try to stop him. They have to.

-Doug in Oakland

Infidel753 said...

Fear of losing control of the party, and fear that Trump's bull-in-a-china-shop behavior will wreck the party which is their instrument of power, play a role. But I think there's something more visceral at work.

The Trumpolines want to blow everything up and wreck the established order as a way of venting their frustration. The Republican establishment and its rich backers don't want that to happen. They've been doing pretty damned well out of the established order just as it is.

Beyond that, do you think they're comfortable with the thought of a man as rigid, belligerent, and stupid as Trump being in charge of the US military and the nuclear launch codes? If he blunders into an all-out war with Russia, everybody dies. Including the Republican establishment and the Koch brothers.

Bonus ribbing: If you take all the vowels out of Reince Priebus's name, you're left with RNC PR BS. Seems appropriate.

Paul Wartenberg said...

Jamelle Bouie just posted on Twitter some polling that shows Trump garnering about 49 percent of the White Non-Hispanic voters. That's far less than Mitt's 60 percent (and Mitt still lost). If all other things are equal from 2012 going into 2016 - which is unlikely as the Hispanic vote turnout is bound to go up and NOT for Trump - and if Trump stays around that 49 percent of White voters... we could be looking at the biggest popular vote blowouts since the 1920 election.

Granted, there are other factors - the possibility Hillary's turnout is lower than 2012's, the voter suppression efforts underway in 22 states that will hamper Blacks, Hispanics, and younger voters - that could still twist the results to favor Trump. But this is another good reason the Republicans are terrified of Trump: he's pretty much poison outside of the Hater base of the GOP.

And Infidel, either Driftglass or Rude Pundit - I lost track which of them - has taken to call them Trumpshirts (an obvious dig at brownshirts). I dunno if Trumpolines work: these aren't the happy bouncy type of people, after all. We need to poll which nickname for the Trumpaphiles makes the most sense: Trumpdums, Trumpshirts, or Ignorant Hater Bastards Of an Emotionally Stunted Demographic (bit wordy but apt).

Infidel753 said...

I came up with that name last year, when sober Republicans were confidently claiming that Trump's poll numbers weren't real and would eventually drop. It was because every time he did fall in the polls a bit, he always went back up soon after. The Trumpolines always give their man another bounce!

And I generally prefer an approach that emphasizes the enemy's absurdity rather than their evil. Fear, after all, is a kind of respect. Trumpism, like religion, is fundamentally absurd even when terrifying.