Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Republican Civil War-- As Seen Through Two Very Different Sets Of Eyes


And then there will be this to contend with...

Many Republicans are distraught that Trump has dragged their party back into the mud and slime of racism, bigotry and ugly communal hatred. This is what Reince Priebus' autopsy after the Romney debacle was supposed to prevent. Primitive hatemongers like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee could never have done it by themselves, but the celebrity and marketing power of Trump isn't something the Republican Establishment was banking on. He's redefining the Republican brand-- or sharpening the definition that the party elites have tried to gloss over and play down-- as a party steeped in negativity, xenophobia, Know-Nothingness and a natural and smooth kinship with the KKK and Nazi Party. Today's CNN/ORC poll shows Trump still in first place-- only more so. With Establishment candidates like Jeb (down 4 to 9%), Kasich (down 3 to 2%), Rubio (down 5 to 3%) and Walker (down 3 to 5%) disappearing as serious contenders, Trump surged from 24% August 16 to 32% today.

Some Democratic observers-- like Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast-- can hardly believe their good fortune and are sitting back ordering more buttered popcorn. And a Republican or two-- well, Canadian conservative David Frum-- see the opportunity for dragging the GOP into modernity. 

Let's start with Tomasky, who is enjoying the blood feud that's erupted between the distraught GOP elites and the sweaty Trumpians and other assorted white supremacists who attacked Jonah Goldberg for his doubts of the efficacy of the Trumpoid Apocalypse.
Commenters on the article were venomous: Go ahead, you RINO-quisling-sellout (or, occasionally, you dastardly Jew), who needs you anyway? This comment was representative, and even a little quasi-poetic: “So Blow and Rage, Jonah, Blow into the winter night, strut and fret your rabid slobber onto the stage, idiot-like until you are flattened by the Trump steamroller-- of course we will be forced to hear more of your shout and flabberting, but it won’t mean a thing. I hope the Republican Party collapses so we can get on with partnering with something that is not so diseased that its internal organs are melting into a pus-fulled [sic] syrup that is oozing out of every…whatever.”

...[F]or people like me, this is definitely pass-the-popcorn time. What better entertainment could there possibly be than watching American conservatism being wrecked by a bunch of white nationalists?

American conservatism has spent decades winking at these kinds of groups and voters-- denouncing them very occasionally when caught red-handed playing in the same sandbox, as when a white Southern Republican is forced to explain that gosh, he didn’t know the local citizens’ council was a white supremacist group; but for the most part courting these voters and stoking their anxieties through means sometimes subtle, sometimes not. So let them tear each other apart.

The amusing thing is, Goldberg actually makes some good points in his newsletter piece, mainly that Trump isn’t much of a conservative on a number of issues. About that, he is correct.

But if he can’t instantly grasp how modern conservatism made Trump-- and not only Trump, but even more importantly, the people who are now his rabid supporters-- then I doubt it can be explained at a level of remediation that will sink in. But it’s pretty simple. When Steve King jokes about people crossing the border with their cantaloupe-sized calves full of bags of weed, he’s creating Trump and Trump’s backers. And multiply that times 300 for every crazy-borderline racist comment in recent years by Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh and all the rest of them, and you get a party and a movement whose nudges at that kind of thing have done far more to create Trump and his supporters than the occasional faux-solemn and perfunctory denunciations have done to thwart them. So this problem of white nationalism bubbling uncomfortably close to the surface is one the Republican Party and the conservative movement have deserved to have for a long time now.

Mind you I don’t think liberals should be gloating too much about this yet. It’s way too hard to predict what all this will mean for the election. In all likelihood, Trump won’t have the votes to win the nomination, John Kasich or Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush will, and the Trump voters will mostly start getting themselves worked up about the looming menace of President Hillary and come out and vote for the sellout RINOs they’re now repudiating at #NRORevolt.

But let’s say that at some point, we do see a real civil war in the Republican Party over all this, and the time comes when GOP leaders need to own up to a Joe McCarthy kind of moment—that is, a moment when they are finally forced to step forward and say Donald, we don’t want you or your more extreme supporters. The National Review itself did a version of this, of course, back in the old days under Bill Buckley, when it said much the same to John Birch Society types.

But the Review was just a magazine. It lost some subscribers, I’m sure, but not the White House. For a political party the stakes are a little higher, and I don’t think today’s GOP would have the stones to do it. The party is stuck with Trump and his backers. It created them.
Don't pass any popcorn Frum's way; he's fretting, not gloating, although he does see a silver lining in the nightmare scenario Trump has unleashed on his party. He claims to feel the disappointment and frustration with the GOP Establishment that the great unwashed mass of racists, bigots and low-info paranoids are expressing with their support of Trumpy. "Donald Trump," he asserts (with dogged hope and a trace of trepidation), "was propelled into first place among Republicans in July 2015 much more by anger against the party’s existing leadership than by any attraction he exerted on his own." 

Proof? Hate Talk Radio icon Mark Levin:
Senator Mitch McConnell and Representatives John Boehner and Karl Rove and their ilk …. You’re sick of them. You’re sick of them not doing what you elected them to do. You’re sick of them lying to you. You’re sick of them attacking everybody who doesn’t agree with them through their surrogates. You’re sick of how they treat people who dare to challenge them in Republican primaries … You’re tired of so-called conservative commentators on TV and elsewhere who serve as their surrogates ... You don’t feel you have a home and you don’t feel that there’s a party that stands up for you. 
You go, girl! The hateful, hate-filled GOP rank and file eats this kind of stuff up.
Whatever happens to the Trump candidacy-- almost certainly nothing good-- the insurrectionary mood inside the Republican Party will not easily be quieted. More than 40 percent of Republicans want illegal immigrants deported. The party’s best-funded candidates are committed to some kind of pathway to citizenship. More than a fifth of Republicans believe the wealthy wield too much political power.

The forces that have worked to render the GOP a minority party remain at work:

The Radicalization of the Baby-Boom Generation as It Enters Its Sixties

Through most of their life cycle, the people born between 1945 and 1960 expressed more liberal views than people born between 1930 and 1945. That abruptly changed in 2007-2008, as the economy boomers aged, the economy crashed, and Barack Obama was elected president. The boomers, a cohort more than 70 percent white, face retirement at a time when there don’t seem sufficient public resources for everyone-- and under an administration that seems to regard non-poor retirees as a group to be redistributed from, not to.

The Assertiveness of the GOP’s Wealthy Donor Class

Limits on political giving have vanished as potential givers have amassed unprecedented wealth. Those givers differ on almost every issue from non-givers in their party on almost every imaginable issue. Unsurprisingly, the givers tend to get their way most of the time. Unsurprisingly, the non-givers resent it.

The Emergence of a Conservative Entertainment Complex

The entertainment complex appeals to a very small slice of the country--but it can make or break political careers within a larger Republican party. The only counterweight against it is the power of huge money from a narrow class of mega-donors.

After the Fox debate, I received an email from an old friend who advises one of the Republican Party’s very largest donors. I quote an extract with his permission:
This is the first time I've ever done anything but throw cold water on this idea, but I think the Republican Party is about to split.

The establishment's utter failure to even consider what Trump's rise means, much less how the Republican Party must accommodate Trump supporters rather than the other way around, means a split. And a good thing, too.

I have never voted anything other than straight-ticket Republican ticket in my life, nor ever considered doing so. But I think I'd be happy to cast one for Trump as a protest vote.
But, but, but … I wanted to say to my friend, you and your boss are the Republican establishment, or at least two of its very most important members! If we’ve reached the point where even the establishment hates the establishment, the mood is dangerous indeed.

More popcorn; more buttah! 

And if you missed Jonathan Chait's New York column yesterday, it's all about Jeb doubling down on much of what the base hates about the GOP. "George W. Bush," he wrote, "passed a sweeping across-the-board tax cut in 2001, promising his plan would promote faster economic growth while still allowing budget surpluses."
Instead, Bush’s plan brought back the structural deficits that had disappeared during the 1990s, along with a mediocre recovery that was itself inflated by a housing bubble, the popping of which culminated in the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. You might think that the brother of that guy would go out of his way to prove that he has different ideas for fiscal policy. Instead, Jeb Bush has unveiled his tax-cut plan, and it’s the same thing his brother did, only more extreme. 
As in extremely bad for working families... and, ultimately, of course, the economy and the nation. I doubt any of the esteemed writers quoted above will agree, but there really is only one logical response to this, one that will change the paradigm.

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At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The title picture shows Trump ripping up the pledge he reportedly took to support the GOP nominee if it is not himself.

Now his taking that pledge was an extremely disappointing blow to the high comedy of the "GOP civil war."

Has he actually now, as suggested by the picture, publicly "refudiated" his pledge?

John Puma

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, John, but do you think for a minute that someone who has wiggled out of bad business situations four times by declaring bankruptcy and say that everyone in business does it feels even a little bit bound by such a pledge if he feels like running?

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 9:55am


I agree. He is certainly capable of breaking the pledge and would enjoy it much more himself if he broke it at the moment he decided/had to run as an independent (but, at this point, it seems unlikely that he will have to bother with it).

John Puma


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