Trump, the GOP, and the Fall
Friday, October 14, 2016 - Filed in: General Interest
At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.
He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all.
But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake.
Well, surprise! Here’s Donald Trump. He is the actual and physical embodiment of every single thing the GOP has trained its base to want and to be over the last forty years — ignorant, bigoted and money-grubbing, disdainful of facts and frightened of everything because of it, an angry drunk buzzed off of wood-grain patriotism, threatening brown people and leering at women. He was planned. He was intended. He was expected. He was wanted.
But not, I think, in the exact form of Donald Trump. The GOP were busily genetically engineering the perfect host for their message, someone smooth and telegenic and possibly just ethnic enough to make people hesitant to point out the latent but real racism inherent in its social policies, while making the GOP’s white base feel like they were making a progressive choice, and with that person installed, further pursuing its agenda of slouching toward oligarchy, with just enough anti-abortion and pro-gun glitter tossed into the sky to distract the religious and the paranoid. Someone the GOP made. Someone they could control.
But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.
And this is why the GOP deserves the chaos that’s happening to it now, with its appalling and parasitic standard bearer, who will never be president, driving his GOP host body toward the cliff. If it accepts the parasite, it will be driven off the cliff. If it resists, the parasite Trump will rip himself from it, leaving bloody marks as it does so, and then shove the dazed and wounded GOP from the precipice. That there is a fall in the GOP’s future is inevitable; all that is left is which plunge to take.
I feel sorry for many of my individual friends who are Republicans and/or conservatives, who have to deal with the damage Trump is doing to their party and to their movement, even if I belong to neither. But I don’t feel sorry for the GOP at all. It deserves Trump. It fostered an environment of ignorance and fear and bigotry, assumed it could control the mob those elements created, and was utterly stunned when a huckster from outside claimed the mob as his own and forced the party along for the ride. It was hubris, plain and simple, and Trump is the GOP’s vulgar, orange nemesis.
Trump will do the GOP long and lasting damage, and moreover, Trump doesn’t care that he will do the GOP long and lasting damage. Trump was never about being a Republican; he was just looking to expand his brand. As it turns out, like apparently so many things Trump does, he’s done an awful job of it — the name Trump, formerly merely associated with garish ostentation and bankruptcy, is now synonymous with white nationalism, sexual battery and failure — but the point is on November 9th Trump is going to move on and leave the wreckage of the GOP in his wake, off to his next thing (everyone assumes “Trump TV,” in which Trump combines with Breitbart to make white pride propaganda for the kind of millennial racist who thinks a Pepe the Frog Twitter icon is the height of wit — and I hope he does, because the Trump touch will drive that enterprise into the ground, and little would warm my heart more than a bankrupt Breitbart).
Trump is the party guest who sets fire to your house, gropes your spouse and drives over your neighbor’s cat when he leaves; the GOP is left to deal with the police and the angry neighbors. It’s almost piteous, except when you scrub back to five hours earlier to hear the GOP say “What, Trump wants to come to the party? Well, he’s an asshole who drove Fred Jones’ car into the pool the other weekend, but he’s always good for a laugh, isn’t he? Surely it will be fine,” and then tells him to bring his bad boy self right on over.
There is no good way for the GOP or its members to extricate itself from this mess. Trump has doomed them for this election cycle. But there is a moral way, and they should take it. When a grifter and a con man has suckered you into a shitshow, you have two options: bail out early and admit you got shit all over yourself, or stick with the con and affirmatively choose to drown in the shit. No GOP politician should ever have endorsed him; the moral hazard he presented was obvious and clear and became clearer the further he went along. But if they were foolish enough to have endorsed him, it’s not too late to bail out. He’s going to lose either way and drag the GOP down with him; these politicians might as well come out of it with their souls, besmirched but still their own.
And obviously to me, no one with sense should cast a vote for Trump. He’s not just a candidate, he is an active repudiation of what we should expect from the United States and those who lead it. A candidate who can’t open his mouth without a lie falling out — a lie that everyone including him knows is a lie — doesn’t deserve to be president. A candidate who threatens millions because of their religion does not deserve to be president. A candidate who promises to extralegally throw his political opponent into jail does not deserve to be president. A candidate who fosters white nationalism, racism and anti-semitism does not deserve to be president. A candidate who brags about sexual assault and then tries to dismiss it as mere talk does not deserve to be president.
These are not merely Democratic or Republican issues. These are American issues, human issues and moral issues. You can’t vote for Donald Trump and say you don’t know what you’re voting for. You’re voting for hate, and chaos, and the deluge. Anything else that you think you get from voting for him will be washed away in the flood.
Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, but he’s there because the GOP spent decades making him possible, and its base, trained for decades to look for someone like him, made him its standard bearer. He needs to lose and the GOP needs to be punished for him. Conservatism and classical Republican ideas won’t go away, nor should they. But if the GOP can’t break itself from its addiction to the bigoted and the ignorant, then it certainly deserves to die. It’s brought the country to the edge. Shame is only the beginning of what it should feel for it.
Note: This a reprint of an article by John Scalzi.