The GOP claims to be above identity politics; but is that just a front for maintaining “racial integrity?” A look beyond just Trump’s offenses.
At one of the earliest Democratic debate, Secretary Clinton slammed Senator Sanders, her leftist and lone 2016 competitor, for suggesting she was part of “The Establishment.”
How could a woman running to be the first female president be part of some so-called “Establishment?”
And right there, Clinton had intoned what will surely be a go-to rallying cry for underwhelmed Dems:
A vote for me is a vote for something important. A vote for me makes you a part of history.
Republicans should be credited for (mostly) ignoring this type of identity politics. Though Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Marco Rubio were three of the top four finishers in Iowa, you did not hear them invoke their minority status from the debate stage or town hall podium. By their refusal to plead with voters to rally for them based on ethnic and cultural traits, these three exemplify the better angels of the GOP.
Come to us for our ideas, our principles. They are for everyone. And by the way, we don’t judge people based on ethnicity or gender or background.
Or so it used to be.
I’ve been wondering for a number of weeks now about Jeb Bush. Particularly, why otherwise intelligent people donated so hugely to his campaign. I’ve read about: the “family loyalty,” the “old hands,” the “donor interests.”
All this sounds typical of a political dynasty. And early on, pundits had reason to believe Jeb Bush might be a real player in this year’s race.
He was a successful conservative governor of Florida. He’s been in politics his entire life. He’s well connected.
And yet anyone with an ear to the ground and/or a modicum of common sense could have told you the likelihood of this Republican electorate nominating someone with the last name “Bush” was as likely as the Democrats giving Jim Webb the official nod.
It ain’t happening.
And even the most dutiful old family friend might be hesitant to keep writing mega checks if the nominee shows no signs of life. If I were one of those guys, and I wanted Jeb to win, yes, but also wanted a conservative in general, I would be likewise unhappy to see my donations spent on ad campaigns targeting Marco Rubio. Or more accurately: I would be unhappy after seeing these very expensive campaigns having zero impact on weakening Rubio, much less helping poor, beleaguered Jeb.
Because if you’re a Jeb Bush donor and you’re in it to win it…
Oh wait. That’s an oxymoron.
And that was my realization.
These guys were knowingly donating to a man who couldn’t win. Even if Bush somehow grabbed the Republican nomination, if Mitt Romney failed to rally people as an older, white, moderate, former governor, why on earth would Americans suddenly line up behind a Bush?
The only plausible answer, save a predilection for lighting top dollar bills on fire, is this:
They didn’t care about Jeb winning, so long as Rubio got knocked out.
Before you insist otherwise, notice how the hard-core right news outlet National Review – begun by none other than conservative superhero William F. Buckley Jr. – allowed Mark Krikorian to refer to Marco Rubio as a “cabana boy.”
The ethnic and sexual innuendo is inapplicable to a white candidate. For all practical purposes, this was an ethnic slur.
Recall also the all-out assault on Ted Cruz, with everyone from Bob Dole to Jimmy Carter to John McCain saying they’d gladly take Donald Trump before they could stomach Ted Cruz. Maybe Lindsey Graham has at last changed his mind, but…
It got me to thinking.
Look, I’m no Cruz fan. I’ve written extensively about that here.
But you’ve got a reality TV star, who has no actual conservative credentials, who regularly says offensive things that will be used against him in a general election with such ease and effortless editing that Trump might as well be a walking, talking advertisement against himself.
Or you have a smarmy senator who nevertheless seems to know how to pull out an election win here and there, and who espouses fidelity to conservative principles with an obnoxious regularity bordering on OCD.
It seems like a true Republican would hold his nose and prefer the latter. Should Ted Cruz win the Republican nomination, it may very well be due to his astute understanding of the racial politics within his party (Ted Cruz’s actual first name is Rafael, and the man has done an immaculate job of distancing himself from his Cuban background).
And the dearth of seriousness with which the media and Republicans at large treated Dr. Carson was in full evidence on conservative and mainstream media outlets. If you doubt me, go check ‘em. He’s nowhere to be found, back when he was a candidate.
He’s rather prevalent now that he’s out of the race and speaking (dear Lord, can it be?) on behalf of Donald Trump.
As a political Independent who watches both parties, I can assure you that if the Democrats had a Cruz, a Rubio, or a Carson in this election, they would have cleared the stage for them. A young, brilliant, articulate Cuban-American? A world-famous black neurosurgeon from Baltimore? Dems would be peeing their political pants with excitement.
A major reason Hillary Clinton has the audience she has is because she’s a woman. Yes, she’s held several high offices, and yes she’s qualified. But if any man brought the baggage she carries (a spouse with sexual scandals bordering – or more – on criminality, a senatorial vote for the Iraq war, a dead ambassador in Libya under his watch as Secretary of State, a disregard for common sense and governmental protocol in hosting classified government emails on a private account and server…) that hypothetical male Dem would not have come within fifteen miles of the presidential nomination.
Republicans like to fancy themselves the post-racial party. That all those PC lovers who insist on defining everyone according to gender, ethnicity, sexuality and class should stay over on the other side. Conservatives are above all that.
But tread carefully there, GOP. Because it’s starting to look like you ignore the symbolic meaning and message of your presidential nominees a little too much.
In fact, it’s starting to look like maybe you’re not really ignoring those factors at all.
As Shakespeare might put it, there’s something rotten (besides just Donald Trump) in the state of the GOP.
Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore