observations and opinion
What kind of party nominates Donald Trump?
When Donald Trump first descended the golden escalator to declare his candidacy, virtually every person with a glimmer of political insight and experience regarded him as a joke. Such a bilious carnival barker could never shout his way to a Presidential candidacy, everyone said. Like a dinner guest who keeps farting, Trump would be memorable only for why he was not invited back.
Mr Trump has proven every informed person wrong. He refuses to leave the party. But he still stinks.
For almost a year, many mainstream media analysts have circled the Trump phenomenon like raccoons trying to pry the lid off a garbage can: limited in their tools, ignorant of the contents but desperately drawn by the aroma.
And in fairness, almost everybody missed it. That discounting of Trump’s chances and the incredulity his triumph arouses, both are sourced in a basic denial about the unique conditions of 2016 America. Like some kind of terrible storm uprooting an Oklahoma town, Trumpism is a confluence of meteorological phenomena:
That third element – the peculiar dark magic of Trumpvemort, has attracted a lot of discussion and that’s natural: demagogues are about themselves and they suckle at the teat of fascination with themselves. Every news story with the word “Trump” in it shoves a few more morsels into the beast’s gaping maw.
The popular disaffection with globalization was been noted as source material for both Trump and his moral/political polar opposite, Bernie Sanders. The fact that globalization’ a winners don’t grasp how devastating it has been, or feels, is something this page has discussed on multiple occasions such as here, here and here.
But it’s that middle piece, the condition of the Republican Party in 2016, which has yet to be properly autopsied. Maybe once Donald the beast has stopped chomping on the remains, more people will look at what made it so easy to fell.
Personally, I think the frailties of the modern GOP are so obvious, that it’s a wonder more of us didn’t see how readily it would collapse under the pincer grip of Donald’s mighty jaws. If we examine the signature features of the Republican Party since the late 1980s, it’s spiral into debasement appears inevitable in retrospect:
Four years ago there were still enough business minded country club Republicans left to get Mitt Romney nominated. There might still be but in 2016 that electorate was fragmented across 16 prospective candidates. As a result, the not-so-sophisticated non-country club crowd aggregated around one bright shiny object: the Donald.
Which takes us to the last key piece of the GOP cultural puzzle that made Trump possible: the attributes of those 16 other candidates. To a man they shared these traits:
In fairness to the collection of bowling pins that “stood up” to the Donald strike ball, some of have qualities which might in another time, merit respect. John Kasich, despite his unfortunate policy hostility to women’s rights, seems like a genuinely well-intentioned man with a large heart and some personal decency. Jen Bush, talentless robot that he is, at least evinced disgust at Trump (and won’t fall in line behind him). Ben Carson used to be a brain surgeon, which is remarkable when you consider how little active brain matter he himself possesses. And that’s about it for the contenders.
All to say that a party which coughs up fur balls like those guys as its candidates for President, is clearly a sick, sick thing. It’s no wonder that when the plump ass of Donald Trump sat upon it, the rotted structure splintered and collapsed.
One should not be sanguine about the November election: Donald Trump, despite an apparently advancing mental disability, remains an unpredictable and dangerous comet. Up against a Democrat who can politely be described as “limited”, there is a possibility Trumpism could rack up a majority of electoral votes.
A possibility, but one thinks, a slim one, because in a general election one factor will differ from the GOP nomination fight in a massive and material respect: it won’t only happen among Republicans. Mr. Trump has the xenophobic white working class nailed down, enough to win him chunks of the South, maybe West Virginia. Where else does he win?
Really, nowhere. Fragments and shards of some states perhaps (Pennsylvania and New York have some rusty pockets) but in winner-take-all elections, which the Presidential Electoral College is, Mr. Trump is a remarkably weak and unpromising candidate. And that’s the case because America does not look very much like the people you see at Trump rallies.
Americans are, for the most part, decent. Some are pulled by religious sentiment towards some awful policies on abortion, homosexuality and transgenderism, but in that they aren’t much different from pro-Taliban villagers in Afghanistan. They’re ignorant (that’s a pretty arrogant liberal sentence, I know, but let’s face it – those kinds of bigotry really are sheer ignorance disguised as creed). Some will slurp up Donald’s xenophobic noise, but many will shun him for his horrific personal character.
And beyond those folks, there is the majority of Americans who are educated, humane, moderate and not as stupid as their politicians or their press. They will not vote for Trump, either.
In particular, most real Republicans won’t. There are still millions of moderately conservative, pro-enterprise, anti-tax quasi-libertarian middle of the road Republicans and Independents out there. They have voted for fools (Bush 43) and knaves (McCain and Romney) but they will draw the line at a fascist.
Republicans, in fact, are the Democrats’ secret weapon. On Election Day, millions of people who might once have voted for Reagan or even for George W. Bush, will slip quietly into the polling booth and, unwitnessed by anyone but their God, will pull the lever for Hillary Clinton.
The morning after, one hopes the GOP will flush itself clean of the Trump toxin. Maybe. But the basic moral and intellectual weakness of the Party will not be corrected in one day, or in one election season. Although gerrymandering and vote suppression may sustain their Congressional complement, how long can a hydra survive without a brain?