Immediately following the Indiana primary that saw a crushing defeat for Ted Cruz that led to him quitting the race and leaving Donald Trump as the Republican party nominee, the ever-readable Matt Taibbi looked at what this election says about the state of democracy in the US and the Republican party in particular. It is a long piece but well worth reading.
There were now two Republican Parties. One, led by Trump, was triumphant at the ballot, rapidly accruing party converts, and headed to Cleveland for what, knowing the candidate, was sure to be the yuugest most obscene, most joyfully tacky tribute to a single person ever seen in the television age. If the convention isn’t Liberace meets Stalin meets Vince McMahon, it’ll be a massive disappointment.
From there, this Republican Party would steam toward the White House, which, who knows, it might even win.
The other Republican Party was revealed in the end to be a surprisingly small collection of uptight lawyers, financiers and Beltway intellectuals who’d just seen their chosen candidate, the $100 million Jeb Bush, muster all of four delegates in the presidential race. Meanwhile, candidates whose talking points involved the beheading of this same party establishment were likely to win around 2,000.
Like French aristocrats after 1789, those Republicans may now head into something like foreign exile to plot their eventual return. But whether they will be guillotined or welcomed back is an open question.
This was all because they’d misplayed the most unpredictable and certainly most ridiculous presidential-campaign season Americans had ever seen.
Their expected endgame here was probably supposed to be the ascension of some far-right, anti-tax, anti-government radical like Scott Walker, or even Cruz.
Instead, this carefully cultivated “throw the bums out” vibe was gluttonously appropriated by Trump, who turned the anger against the entire Republican Party before surging to victory on a strongman’s platform of giant walls, mass deportation and extravagant job promises that made the moon landing or the Bernie Sanders agenda of free college look incrementalist in comparison.
If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word “American” by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut – the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.
He then took apart the analyses for this state of affairs by people like David Brooks, George Will, and Andrew Sullivan.
This avalanche of verbose disgust on the part of conservative intellectuals toward the Trump voter, who until very recently was the Republican voter, tells us everything we need to know about what actually happened in 2016.
There never was any real connection between the George Wills, Andrew Sullivans and David Brookses and the gun-toting, Jesus-loving ex-middle-class voters they claimed to embrace. All those intellectuals ever did for Middle America was cook up a sales pitch designed to get them to vote for politicians who would instantly betray them to business interests eager to ship their jobs off to China and India. The most successful trick was linking the corporate mantra of profit without responsibility to the concept of individual liberty.
Into the heartland were sent wave after wave of politicians, each more strident and freedom-y than the last. They arrived draped in the flag, spewed patriotic bromides about God, guns and small-town values, and pledged to give the liberals hell and bring the pride back.
Then they went off to Washington and year after year did absolutely squat for their constituents. They were excellent at securing corporate tax holidays and tax cuts for the rich, but they almost never returned to voter country with jobs in hand. Instead, they brought an ever-increasing list of villains responsible for the lack of work: communists, bra-burning feminists, black “race hustlers,” climate-change activists, Muslims, Hollywood, horned owls…
Taibbi warns the Democrats that they should not be too complacent and that their house barely survived the earthquake rumblings that brought down the Republican house. The writing is on the wall and they had better read its message carefully.
Democrats who might be tempted to gloat over all of this should check themselves. If the Hillary Clintons and Harry Reids and Gene Sperlings of the world don’t look at what just happened to the Republicans as a terrible object lesson in the perils of prioritizing billionaire funders over voters, then they too will soon enough be tossed in the trash like a tick.
It almost happened this year, when the supporters of Bernie Sanders nearly made it over the wall. Totally different politicians with completely different ideas about civility and democracy, Sanders and Trump nonetheless keyed in on the same widespread disgust over the greed and cynicism of the American political class.
From the Walter Mondale years on, Democrats have eaten from the same trough as Republicans. They’ve grown fat off cash from behemoths like Cisco, Pfizer, Exxon Mobil, Citigroup, Goldman and countless others, companies that moved jobs overseas, offshored profits, helped finance the construction of factories in rival states like China and India, and sometimes all of the above.
The basic critique of both the Trump and Sanders campaigns is that you can’t continually take that money and also be on the side of working people. Money is important in politics, but in democracy, people ultimately still count more.
The Democrats survived this time, but Republicans allowed their voters to see the numerical weakness of our major parties. It should take an awful lot to break up 60 million unified people. But a few hundred lawyers, a pile of money and a sales pitch can be replaced in a heartbeat, even by someone as dumb as Donald Trump.
He says that what we can expect from the Trump era is an adult version of the worst elements of high school.
Trump has turned the new Republican Party into high school. It will be cruel, clique-y and ruled by insult kings like himself and Ann Coulter, whose headline description of Cruz (“Tracy Flick With a Dick”) will always resonate with Trump voters more than a thousand George Will columns.
And anyone who crosses the leader from now on will be fair game for the kind of brutal fragging Cruz and his circle experienced in Indiana. Dissenters will be buried under a cannonade of abuse coming from everywhere: Trump, other politicians, reporters, Internet memers, 12-year-olds, everyone. Add tough economic times to the Internet, and this is what you get: Nationalist High.
It is an excellent read.