“If you’re a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot, you’re going to have a hard time being president of the United States, and you’re going to do irreparable damage to the party.” -- Lindsay Graham, New York Times, 12/2/15Graham was referring, of course, to Donald J. Trump, but if you throw in misogynistic and homophobic, he just described all of the Republican's top-tier candidates, as well as a wide swath of their party's base.
I can't recall when I've enjoyed a New York Times article as much as the one in this morning's paper: Wary of Donald Trump, G.O.P. Leaders Are Caught in a Standoff. It describes the Republican establishment's panic over the possibility that Trump could actually win the party's nomination and their fear of the consequences if they try to take him down.
What is particularly amusing is that these stalwarts of the Grand Old Party seem remarkably unaware that Trump is their very own creation. They fail to understand that he is a natural outgrowth of their cynical manipulation of the frustration and anger of the mostly white Christian voters who they have relied on in election after election but who are no longer willing to follow their lead.
Charles Pierce has reminded us that it has been "one long, continuous plague of Republican extremism that began quietly when the party moved west and south in its orientation, and when Richard Nixon discovered that George Wallace was onto something that could be immensely useful to a shrewd and brilliant code-talker like Nixon himself." Or, as William Greider explains: "The GOP finds itself trapped in a marriage that has not only gone bad but is coming apart in full public view. After five decades of shrewd strategy, the Republican coalition Richard Nixon put together in 1968—welcoming the segregationist white South into the Party of Lincoln—is now devouring itself in ugly, spiteful recriminations."
Encouraged by a compliant media that is wed to principles of false equivalency and "both sides do it," and thus has refused to reckon with the fact that one of our two major parties is controlled by radical extremists spewing dangerous falsehoods, the GOP has thrived. They've done so by encouraging Tea Party nonsense and birther madness. More recently, they've gleefully stoked hysteria over Black Lives Matter and Syrian refugees and Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue program to tragic ends.
Trump, apparently, has gone too far. But, as many others have observed, how can a Party that put forward the bad joke that is Sarah Palin as the person to be a heartbeat away from the presidency have any credibility in now arguing that Donald Trump, on the contrary, is unqualified?
Indeed, Trump is simply a more vulgar version of the Republican Party's (slightly) more polished candidates. In terms of actual policy, there is little daylight between Trump and the rest of the field on climate change measures (against), Wall Street reform (against), immigration reform (against), women's reproductive rights (against), gun control (against), admitting Syrian refugees (against), torture (in favor), tax cuts for the wealthy (in favor), social program cuts (in favor), Obamacare repeal (in favor).
Nevertheless, as the Times reports, for the GOP, "irritation is giving way to panic as it becomes increasingly plausible that Mr. Trump could be the party’s standard-bearer and imperil the careers of other Republicans."
Many leading Republican officials, strategists and donors now say they fear that Mr. Trump’s nomination would lead to an electoral wipeout, a sweeping defeat that could undo some of the gains Republicans have made in recent congressional, state and local elections. But in a party that lacks a true leader or anything in the way of consensus — and with the combative Mr. Trump certain to scorch anyone who takes him on — a fierce dispute has arisen about what can be done to stop his candidacy and whether anyone should even tryHa. Ha. Ha.