While Trump’s Presidential victory was the result of accidents, miscalculations and, perhaps, treason, he wasn’t nearly as much an outlier GOP candidate as he was portrayed at the time. In fact, he was the logical culmination of a decades-long race to the bottom.
As Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich had spent a couple of decades selling “Family Values” hogwash they never cared about to Republicans in order to get tax breaks for wealthy donors, Trump peddled himself as an avenging patriot for struggling Caucasians in order to enact the same. It was merely a franker, more vulgar version of the same bullshit. A message for the White Working Class (which is where I’m from): Whenever a politician urges you to blame black or brown people for your problems, rest assured a white person will soon have his or her hand in your wallet.
Trump, I’m certain, ends in utter disgrace, but all of America may be headed for the same. That’s because treachery is widespread. Mitch McConnell ran interference on the investigation of Kremlin tampering during the election and the Ryan Congress has done its best to scuttle a real probe of collusion between Trump and Putin. Perhaps the traitors and their abettors are routed or maybe we lose democracy or end up in Civil War 2.0. Everything is now on the table.
Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan Administration domestic policy adviser, welcomed Trump’s odious campaign, believing it would end in crushing defeat, forcing the GOP to move back to the center. Instead of the tonic he hoped for, however, he and all of us were served another drink of poison. In a smart, searing Politico Magazine essay about the fall of his party (morally and intellectually, if not yet practically) Bartlett calls the rise of Trump a “natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator.”
Almost two years ago, I wrote an article for Politico endorsing Donald Trump for president. It was a tongue-in-cheek effort—I “supported” Trump only because I thought he would lose to Hillary Clinton, disastrously, and that his defeat would cleanse the Republican Party of the extremism and nuttiness that drove me out of it. I had hoped that post-2016, what remained of the moderate wing of the GOP would reassert itself as it did after the Goldwater debacle in 1964, and exorcise the crazies.
Trump was a guaranteed loser, I thought. In the Virginia presidential primary, I even voted for him, hoping to hasten the party’s demise. In the weeks before the November election, I predicted a Clinton presidency would fix much of what ails our country. On November 8, I voted for Clinton and left the ballot booth reasonably sure she would win.
Needless to say, I was as dumbfounded by the election results as Max Bialystock was by the success of “Springtime for Hitler.” For two months after Trump won, I couldn’t read any news about the election, and considered abandoning political commentary permanently. It wasn’t just that Trump disgusted me; I was disgusted with myself for being so stupid. I no longer trusted my own powers of observation and analysis.
Almost everything that has happened since November 8 has been the inverse of what I’d imagined. Trump didn’t lose; he won. The Republican Party isn’t undergoing some sort of reckoning over what it believes; his branch of the Republican Party has taken control. Most troubling, perhaps, is that rather than reassert themselves, the moderate Republicans have almost all rolled over entirely.
Trump has turned out to be far, far worse than I imagined.•