The Republican Party doesn’t get to pretend Donald Trump is something new.
There is great confusion among long time GOP voters, the media and some Republican elected officials as to why folks like Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz continue to support Donald Trump while he spews his message of bigotry and chaos. Republican leaders, the story goes, support Trump even as he proves himself to be a serial sexual abuser. Republican leaders, the story goes, don’t have the courage of their convictions to stand up to a man who has directly debased and humiliated them on national TV.
In recent weeks, we’ve learned Donald Trump won’t commit to accepting the outcome of the election. We’ve learned he’s a serial abuser of women.
And still Republican leaders won’t stand up to him. They failed, the story goes, to nominate Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush instead. Somehow, Donald Trump got the better of them. Donald Trump tricked them and took over the Republican Party. And now, he’s suddenly validating and empowering white nationalists and racists as a result. Donald Trump is some kind of crazy new Republican racist and nobody can stop him.
Welcome to the big lie.
Republicans have been using the same messages as Trump is now using for over thirty years. They’ve simply employed a thin veneer of coded language to hide behind.
For decades, the GOP has talked about “family values,” when what they really mean is that gay people should be brutalized.
For decades, the GOP has talked about others being weak on crime when they really mean that black people should be incarcerated en mass.
For decades, the GOP has attacked political correctness when what they really mean is that women should shut up and do what they’re told.
And, of course, when Republicans talk about the rest of us being weak on terrorism, what they really intend is that we should send our children to fight endless wars in foreign lands; wars that turn a tidy profit for the wealthiest here at home.
Trump has taken the GOP’s thirty years of coded messaging and evolved it to its next logical stage. You can’t foster coded bigotry for decades and not have it eventually come out of the shadows and into the light. What once was messaging designed to slowly and carefully tiptoe up to the nasty razor’s edge of racism and sexism, and then, at the last minute, duck back into plausible deniability, has now evolved to unfiltered hate speech.
No, the Republican Party doesn’t get to pretend this is all something new. And the press doesn’t get to reduce this to the GOP failing to sucessfully oppose Trump.
What Trump is saying openly has been the basis of the GOP’s coldly calculated political messaging for thirty years. The Republican Party, Roger Alles’ Fox News, the hate machines of the Tea Party and the evangelical right have grown their followers’ contempt for American institutions to such a degree that we now see calls for armed rebellion if Trump is not elected.
The GOP has long fostered contempt for our shared institutions of government, using this channeled contempt to win elections and pass legislation undercutting environmental and corporate regulation, destroying our social safety nets, and cutting taxes on the wealthy, thereby “starving the beast.” But their carefully fostered anti-government movement has boiled over into a raging hate movement and is turning on its own creators. Trump’s rage filled political movement is a direct threat to not only the GOP, but to all of us. This is the GOP’s legacy. It will be with us long after this election ends, continuing to undermine America’s collective institutions, national security, social cohesion and political stability.
This is a dangerous time for our democracy. The stuggle ahead is to help all Americans find opportunity and success. It will be a difficult task. Expecially if the GOP retains enough political power to continue their gridlock strategy in our Congress and State Houses.
And if they succeed in blocking progress, many more Donald Trump’s will arise.
But from the outset, lets be clear about the 2016 Presidential Election. The GOP leaders who failed to stand up to Trump? Ryan, Priebus, McCain, McConnell, Cruz and all the rest? They haven’t failed to stand up to Trump. They are Trump.
Photo by: Gage Skidmore