Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why Trump Is All the Fault of Republicans

Even with the 2016 Primary season starting up, the finger-pointing has already started among the pundit and GOP Establishment figures about how someone as toxic as Donald Trump became the front-runner for the Republicans.

We've seen the National Review crowd denounce Trump in toto, but that broadside did nothing to stop Trump's winning most of the early states. Driftglass has been documenting the likes of David Brooks trying and failing to understand what's happening here. Some of the more hard-core columnists like Robert Kagan are openly calling this situation for what it is - a massive failure by the Republican Party to stop its darker impulses - and openly denouncing Trump as a Frankenstein Monster of the GOP's making.

If there's been one constant in the Far Right pundits' stages of grief, it's been the denial that Trump's rise is due entirely to the mindset of the modern Republican/Conservative movement. Brooks can't seem to bring himself to use the R-word when describing the angry forces marshaling under Trump's banner, as though somebody else is responsible for the mess. Even Kagan, who at least owns up to where Trump is coming from, can't stop himself from bringing Obama into the argument by calling the President's administration a failure as though that could alleviate some of the guilt.

But no, if anyone's to blame for Donald Trump's rise to the top of the Republican Party ticket, it's the Republicans themselves. And I can point to four easy and unavoidable observations to justify this claim.

1. It's been the Republican Party that promotes the belief in the All-Mighty Businessman as Savior/Genius/Leader, and the party that argues "government should be run like a business" which gives the likes of Trump a chance to "run things" like they run their corporations.

I haven't seen too many people bring this up, but it's a valid argument to make. Which party lionizes the "self-made businessman," props itself up as the defender of the "small business owner" against harsh regulations and taxes? It's not so much that the GOP is firmly a pro-business political party - such origins reaching back to their Whig-Federalist roots - it's that they border on worshiping business leaders and CEOs as flawless, "job creator" heroes. So of course, the Republicans have no problem with these CEOs tossing their names into the Presidential campaign.

Back in 2012, the Republicans promoted Romney's record as a CEO and venture capitalist more than his tenure as a Governor. Dubya ran in 2000 as Governor of Texas, but his resume was mostly his career as a not-that-successful businessman. And Trump is not the first pure businessperson to run for the Presidency: Carly Fiorina got into the race before he did this year, and in 2012 they had Herman Cain, in 1996 and 2000 they had Steve Forbes, and in 1988 there was Pat Robertson (ostensibly a televangelist, but owner of a religious cable channel). I could go back further - Hoover! Wendell Wilkie! - but I place the modern Republican Party emerging from the rise of Reagan in 1980, so we'll stop there. Essentially, this is a political party that's ripe for Trump's kind of con game.

2. Building on that point, it's the Republican Party that looks to non-political people as "experts" and spokespersons. The GOP is the party that expresses disdain for elective or administrative expertise in government: Worse, it expresses hatred for a functional working government period. It's a party that makes it easy for novices like Trump and others to run for high office.

We're talking about a Republican Party where their own elected officials express that disdain for expertise on any issue. Scientists arguing about climate change? Mock them. Economists arguing against austerity to get a nation out of a crippling recession? Ignore them. Military experts warning about getting involved into too many overseas wars? Accuse them of hating America and send the troops anyway.

We're talking about a Republican Party that made heroes out of the likes of "Joe the Plumber" as much as they promoted the likes of Sarah Palin, a relatively minor elected official - she never even finished her term of office as Alaska's governor - who ended up as a Vice Presidential nominee and converted her error-prone ascension into a self-promotional never-ending book tour.

Political competency is NOT a requirement to run as a Republican. Granted, incompetent and even crazy people run as Democrats as well, but Republicans seem to thrive on incompetency...

We're talking about a Republican Party whose hatred for a well-regulated functioning government pushes them to elect people into office who will sabotage that functioning government from within, who once in office will slash budgets and cripple social services all in the name of "reform" and then sit back as people rail against the lack of any aid or support, content in proving themselves right. We're talking about a party whose unelected leaders like lobbyist Grover Norquist seek to "starve the beast" and shrink the federal government down to something that Grover can drown in his goddamn bathtub.

This is a Republican Party that would have no problem with someone like Trump - no elected experience, no experience working within a public sector administration, whose only interaction with government has been to wheedle into property leases and whine his way out of bankruptcy hearings - barging into the White House with zero political wisdom and even less understanding for how things in government really work.

3. It's been the Republican Party that opposes immigration reform the last twenty years, giving Trump an easy hate-driven agenda to rally voters to him.

This is the thing the Republicans and their apologists are going to have to answer for over the next twenty years.

It's easy to point out our current immigration system is broken, but next to impossible to agree on any rational solution. The last major reform effort in 1986 did little to stop illegal immigration as the legislation contained enough loopholes to make it toothless. Arguments to simplify or make it easier - to have guest workers and "paths to citizenship" for younger illegals able to attend secondary education systems - run into political opponents who bring up fears of criminal behavior among the illegals (which are overstated) as reasons to make immigration harder to achieve.

Support for immigration reform is there: overall, Americans know we're a nation of immigrants and so would support the means to make it legal for most of the people moving to the U.S. However, among voting groups - Dem, Indy, GOP - the Republicans are the ones who least support such reforms. Republicans are also the group that wants to change the definitions of citizenship to make it harder, and the ones most eager to build a giant wall between the United States and Mexico.

What's not mentioned in the statistics is the emotional impetus behind the Republican anti-immigrant bent: the fear of The Other - not just Mexicans and Hispanics, but also Muslims - that underlies a lot of the Republican political platform. It's been there for years, intermingled with the overall social conservative anger towards minorities, and only now exposed to daylight as Trump jumped onto that issue as his signature agenda.

And the reason why Trump opened up his campaign with a blatant anti-immigrant hater agenda is because his utter lack of a political resume gave him nothing else he could use to run. To his advantage, Trump is running with a clean slate uncluttered by questionable policy decisions that his opponents have to excuse or ignore: To everyone else's horror, he dumped a lot of trash onto that clean slate and still found a willing audience eating it up.

4. It's the Republican Party that let Donald Trump f-cking file to run as a candidate in the first f-cking place.

Well, yeah. Duh. If Trump were really a librul, he'd be running against Hillary and Bernie.

You'd think a political party would have a filter or review process for their candidates at the national level. I know the state party ranks do: they require filing fees and an interview/vouching process. It's what stopped Stephen Colbert from running as a Republican oooh no wait he tried filing as a Dem and they had a committee block him a few years back. So at least the Democrats have a review process in place. The Republicans were just too expensive to file a campaign with. Ah well.

So, there you have it. Four easy, solid reasons why Republicans are to blame for letting Donald Trump destroy the planet like a fully-realized Bond villain. Thanks, Republicans. Thanks a bunch.

(psst. Vote Democrat, everybody)

Update: Driftglass - ever vigilant for any "Both Sides-ism" coming from the conservative commentariat - spotted a feral Ross Douthat and documented the atrocity. When Douthat gets to this line "But Trumpism is also a creature of the late Obama era," you know Mr. Douthat is trying to blame others than himself. This was your party, Ross, this was your conservative movement, and YOU let the con artists scam you on multiple occasions. And you welcomed them in with your eyes open and with willing greetings arms. And now you don't want to pay your bills.

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