Requiem for the Republican party and a warning for the Democrats

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.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    The Democrats survived this time

    Yeah? Tell me again in December.

    someone as dumb as Donald Trump

    Yet another pundit, still calling Trump dumb after the most masterfully conducted and successful-against-the-odds primary campaign in living memory, and then having the gall to accuse him of being an “insult king”. Does the guy have NO self-awareness, or did he just bash out the first draft and send it off without checking it for glaring inconsistencies like that?

    I wish the leader of the opposition in the UK was “as dumb as Donald Trump”. We might have a chance of unseating our conservative government. As it is, he obviously thinks he’s way cleverer… and he’s unelectable. 🙁

  2. Nick Gotts says

    Every time he feels anyone has in any way undersestimated the godlike political supergenius that is Donald Trump, sonofrojblake rides fearlessly to his defence -- but don’t anyone dare say he is a Trump supporter because, you see, he doesn’t have a vote.

  3. busterggi says

    “If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame.”

    Then a shame it will be -- Republican is only a word with no principles behind it.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    He says that what we can expect from the Trump era is an adult version of the worst elements of high school.

    “Adult”? He’s being far too generous.

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I want to quote this for emphasis, because it’s so true that this lie was spread, and because it pisses me off so much because this lie is so harmful and bullshit:

    The most successful trick was linking the corporate mantra of profit without responsibility to the concept of individual liberty.

  6. says

    Trump has turned the new Republican Party into high school.

    That implies that it was ever something else?
    American politics has always been a shitshow. It just looks particularly bad because that’s what’s being rubbed in the people’s faces at this particular moment. Trump at his racist and imagined worst doesn’t hold a candle to Hayes or Jackson etc. As far as being a posturing popinjay, Trump probably dreams of being Rooseveltian. He doesn’t lie like Nixon. This is all “same shit different day.”

  7. moarscienceplz says

    The Democrats need to realize that they also had a hand in pouring the foundation for Trump. After unions were finally officially recognized and the New Deal took hold in the late 30s, any (white) person who managed to not fail high school, or else get through an army hitch without a dishonorable discharge, got their ticket to the middle class punched automatically. Not much effort was put into educating the working class in order to keep up with new technology. Sputnik scared the country into paying attention to STEM long enough for me to get through elementary school with an enthusiasm for science, but all that came to a crashing halt the minute Neal Armstrong made his first lunar footprint. Since 1969 we have returned to churning out legions of young people who think reading the cooking instructions on their frozen pizza boxes is too much of a chore, and we use H1B visas to fill our technology jobs from India and China. It’s no wonder the American middle class is evaporating.

  8. Sam N says

    What really pisses me off about H1B visas is that they’re supposed to be a measure of last resort. Of importing talent because none exists in the US. We’d be amazed at all the talented, unemployed minorities and women that would miraculously appear in the tech sector if H1B visas were suddenly denied. I’m no opposed to encouraging immigration of talented workers in our tech sector, just if we’re going to do so, I don’t want a company holding visa status over their heads as a bargaining chip to bring down salaries. If they’re good enough to work here, they’re good enough to be citizens, full stop.

  9. Holms says

    I get the impression that he is simply not aware of the fact that idiots can succeed in politics (see: W. Bush), and is instead assuming that success implies the person was smart all along.

  10. moarscienceplz says

    Sam N #10:

    We’d be amazed at all the talented, unemployed minorities and women that would miraculously appear in the tech sector if H1B visas were suddenly denied.

    Yep. Also, why can’t those companies retrain some of their existing employees to fill the new positions?

  11. sonofrojblake says

    I’m perfectly aware that idiots can succeed in politics, if there are a cohort of suitably smart and influential people behind them pulling the strings and they’re in possession of the right face and name (see: W. Bush). Is there anyone with an IQ over 50 who believes Dubya was actually in charge?

    Tell me: which influential behind-the-scenes members of the Republican party do you believe have been behind the scenes since last July running Trump’s campaign for him?

  12. sonofrojblake says

    Also: yes, I don’t get a vote, so I’m actually physically prevented from supporting anyone. If I was unlucky enough to be in a position to vote, I’d want Sanders. As far as I can see, he is the only chance the Democrats have against Trump. Unfortunately, precisely the kind of shady backroom shit that Trump has set himself up against is going to do for Sanders regardless of what happens in the remaining primaries, and regardless of whether Clinton is indicted before the election. It really stinks.

  13. Holms says

    What makes you think Trump doesn’t have a cohort of savvy people behind him? And note that you are arguing that Bush had, among other things, the right name for the job. How well did that go for Jeb?

    But more importantly, the current Republican primary race has been characterised not so much by intellect, but by having a voting base saturated with barely coherent anger by the right wing media machine over the last 20+ years. Couple this with the fact that conservative policies directly lead to screwing over its own voting base, and you have a large number of people angry at politicians. The stage was set for someone, anyone, provided they were a huge enough arsehole.

    Trump is that arsehole. His success was laid out for him by FOX years ago, and it doesn’t take a genius to notice the anger when that anger was deliberately stoked.

    P.S. Your fawning over him is just… weird.

  14. sonofrojblake says

    Possibly you missed the question, so here it is once again: which influential members of the Republican party do you believe have been behind the scenes since last July running Trump’s campaign for him?

    Having the name “Bush” didn’t go well for Jeb for two reasons:
    1. he was up against Trump. W was up against… who, again?
    2. the rest of your post 15 -- you answered it yourself, and nailed it.

    I’m not fawning over him. Trump is indeed that arsehole, but if you want behaviour that’s just weird, look at all the pundits still pontificating that he’s got where he is on luck, that’s he’s dumb and has no chance whatever of winning the presidency. Until really very recently indeed there were still apparently serious columnists entertaining the concept that he didn’t really want to be president and would pull out of the race, as though it’s some sort of huge expensive practical joke. That is just weird. As well as dangerous -- our Prime Minister in the UK underestimated him last year with his “stupid, divisive and wrong” speech, and unfortunately we’ll probably all pay the price when Trump is president, because one thing I do trust him to do is not forget an insult.

  15. Holms says

    I didn’t miss the question, I ignored it and went on with pointing out why your insistence that Trump is some sort of political genius is a load of balls. Also, weird.

  16. moarscienceplz says

    Another example of lower- and middle-class people being hurt by Republican policies:
    Pensions may be cut to ‘virtually nothing’ for 407,000 people

    The Central States Pension Fund covers workers and retirees from more than 1,500 companies across a range of industries, but most of its retirees were truck drivers.
    A lot of the fund’s companies went bankrupt after the trucking industry was deregulated in the 1980s. That’s part of the reason the fund is in trouble now. It’s currently paying out $3 for every $1 it takes in.

    (emphasis mine)

    How many of those retired truck drivers voted for Saint Ronald Reagan, I wonder?

  17. John Smith says

    @13 The answer to your question is Roger Stone. Roger Stone is extremely erratic, evil and a skilled political hitman. Trump was in the right place at the right time, not some political genius -- though I wouldn’t call him an idiot either. Trump has always been a Clinton ally and Bill Clinton recently as late last year called him a friend. Trump genuinely likes the Clintons -- and they like him back. If Bernie wins the nomination without indictment a Trump/Clinton ticket was a likely possibility. If Trump wins, expect Clinton in his cabinet.

  18. Dunc says

    I’ve got to say, I find it odd that sonofrojblake is being denounced as “fawning over” Trump simply for failing to criticise him in precisely the correct terms.

    I’m entirely on board with the fact that Trump is a terrible person with all sorts of ghastly ideas, but I can no longer sustain the notion that he’s stupid. I also can’t believe that he’s simply a puppet of shadowy forces, or that he’s got this far by sheer dumb luck. He’s certainly been fortunate to find himself in a political context which is perfectly suited to his particular talents (such as they are), but you could say that of many successful politicians. He has exploited the situation remarkably effectively. I don’t think he’s a “godlike political supergenius” either, but he’s spotted a gap in the market and moved to fill it.

  19. sonofrojblake says

    I don’t think he’s a “godlike political supergenius” either

    Neither do I. As a politician, by any normal definition of the word, he sucks. But that’s not a bug, that’s a feature. A large part of his schtick from day one was that he’s not like the Washington insiders, the senators and governors and other shysters who are all bought and paid for by corporate interests. As a corporate interest unto himself, he can’t be bought. He’s the wildcard -- that’s what he’s selling. And that’s what people are buying, and it’s both entertaining and frustrating to see people who clearly consider themselves smart failing to get it, even now.

    Also: Hillary Clinton has a campaign slogan that makes me (and Google, as of now) think of a deadly disease that almost exclusively affects women. Well done her. Isn’t there any way Sanders can win? Please?

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