Donald Trump’s increasingly outrageous statements that seem aimed at deliberately alienating, Mexicans, Hispanics, women, the disabled, Jews, Muslims, Asians, and god knows who else (it is hard to keep score), is now leading Republicans to increasingly distance themselves from him. The chorus of Republican condemnations of Trump is steadily increasing in volume. Mike Fernandez, a wealthy Miami patron of the Republican party and Jeb Bush supporter, has said that he would vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump and is running ads against him. Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, has said that there is not a chance that he will support Trump if he is the party’s nominee.
Things have got so bad that some Republicans are floating the idea that Trump is secretly a Democratic plant. This rumor started way back in July but is gaining steam now that Trump seems unstoppable. Even Jeb Bush is floating the idea that Trump may be a plant though that seems awkward given his statement that he will support the eventual Republican nominee whoever it is. Bush squares that circle by flatly declaring that Trump will not be the nominee, thus there will be no problem.
The idea of Trump and the Democratic party playing such a long and deep game is preposterous for two reasons. First, it is hard to imagine that a person like Trump, a well known egomaniac from long ago, would be willing to serve as a mere pawn in someone else’s chess game, to be sacrificed at a late stage to give Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party an easy win. Second, the idea of the Democratic party having the wit and skill to pull off a long con like this is risible. What the two parties are good at is presenting a united front to mask oligarchic control of the system and taking the nation into disastrous wars. They are not so good at petty Machiavellian maneuvering for partisan gain and keeping those actions secret, the unraveling of Watergate being a prime example..
With all the attention being paid to Trump’s actions, we should not forget that he is not the biggest problem facing the American body politic. He is not the cause of this situation, he is a symptom of a disease that has infected the country and is causing so much concern that people like Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, who are not normally prone to hyperbole, are extremely alarmed and drawing parallels to the period of political breakdown that occurred just before the Civil War and led to that conflict.
For reasons hard to fathom, the Republicans seem to have made up their minds: they will divide, degrade and secede from the Union.
Turn on your TV or computer, pick up a paper or magazine and you can see and hear them baying at the moon.
They will do so with bullying, lies and manipulation, a willingness to say anything, no matter how daft or wrong. They will do so by spending unheard of sums to buy elections with the happy assistance of big business and wealthy patrons for whom the joys of gross income inequality are a comfortable fact of life. By gerrymandering and denying the vote to as many of the poor, the elderly, struggling low-paid workers, and people of color as they can. And by appealing to the basest impulses of human nature: anger, fear and bigotry.
Turn on your TV or computer, pick up a paper or magazine and you can see and hear them baying at the moon. Donald Trump is just the most outrageous and bigmouthed of the frothing wolf pack of deniers and truth benders. As our friend and colleague Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch writes, “There’s nothing, no matter how jingoistic or xenophobic, extreme or warlike that can’t be expressed in public and with pride by a Republican presidential candidate.”
Just four-and-a-half years ago, Washington mainstays Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein shocked the inside-the-Beltway establishment (especially the press, with its silent pact to speak no evil of wrongdoers lest they deny you an interview) when they published their book, It’s Even Worse than It Looks. The two esteemed political scientists wrote, “The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
All of these sad examples are but symptoms of a deeper disease – the corruption and debasement of society, government and politics. It is a disease that eats away at the root and heart of what democracy is all about. Remember the opening phrase of the Preamble to the Constitution committing “We, the People” to the most remarkable compact of self-government ever – for the good of all? The Republicans are shredding that vision as they make a bonfire of the hopes that inspired it and, in the process, reduce the United States to a third-rate, sorry excuse for a nation.
Why? For an analogy and an answer we have to go back to the slave-holding Democrats of the 1840s and 50s who were prepared to destroy the Union if necessary to protect and expand the brutal system of human slavery on which their economy and way of life were built. The extremism and polarization engendered made it impossible for politics peacefully to resolve the moral dilemma facing our country. If the Republicans – and the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln — had not championed and fought to preserve the Union and its government, the United States would have been no more.
Now it is the Republicans who are willing to wreck the country to maintain the gross inequality that divides us – inequality which rewards the party leaders and their donors, just as slavery rewarded white supremacists. They would tear the Republic apart, rip to pieces its already fragile social compact, and reap the whirlwind of a failed experiment in self-government. [My emphasis-MS]
Are things really that bad? Even if we have not plumbed those depths yet, events are undoubtedly headed in that direction.