There is a belief pushed by the mainstream media that there was a GOP before serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) took over the party and a very different GOP after SSAT. In this view, before SSAT, the GOP had a mix of so-called moderates and extremists but the extremists were a minority and the party establishment consisted of moderates who could keep them in check and fob them off with small favors. But that is simply not true.
To find that old GOP, one has to go way back, as far back as the Eisenhower days and even then we had the anti-Communist hysteria led by Joe McCarthy loonies who had considerable influence. But it was with Richard Nixon that the GOP started its rapid slide to the far right and in its racist attacks on the poor and minorities, disguised as the war on crime. Over time, that mask of moderate dominance began to peel away steadily with people like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and the Tea Party becoming ascendant and the demonizing of government going into full swing. Sarah Palin’s ascendancy to becoming the vice-presidential nominee and her appeals to the ugliest sentiments of the electorate revealed the true face of the party. SSAT is the person who has finally and openly gloried in what the party has become. He is the word become flesh, to use a biblical metaphor.
Luke Savage says that the last GOP primary debate showed the lunacy of the current GOP even without SSAT.
The primary contest has also underscored the absurdity of thinking that the mainstream Republican Party would somehow be saner or less terrifying without Donald Trump. At last night’s debate in Miami, the five qualifying candidates spent the better part of two hours trying to one-up each other’s reactionary rhetoric and zealous commitment to militarism. Though peppered with the usual conservative boilerplate — Nikki Haley thinks America needs “an accountant in the White House”; Tim Scott is a big fan of Ronald Reagan; Ron DeSantis is worried about America’s national debt — much of the evening was focused on foreign policy and saw the candidates dial up “war on terror”–style jingoism to eleven.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, all five candidates were evangelical in their support for Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza — the word “Palestine” not being uttered once over the entire debate. But what was most striking was the way the likes of Haley and Scott basically free-associated whenever they invoked a perceived adversary. Calling Israel “the tip of the spear when it comes to Islamic terrorism,” Haley proceeded to link Hamas with Iran and Iran with China and Russia. Not to be outdone, Scott pledged to “cut the head off the snake” and launch a direct strike against Iran, later insisting that America is currently home to “thousands of terrorist sleeper cells.” At one point, Christie seemed to improvise a new Axis of Evil on the spot, linking Russia (led by a “communist KGB dictator”), China, Iran, and North Korea as if they represented a unitary geopolitical adversary.
With the sole exception of Vivek Ramaswamy, who attacked neoconservatism while also spouting plenty of his own insanity, the vision of the world projected by the Republican presidential hopefuls was one where the United States should consider itself under existential threat at all times — facing a nonstop invasion on its southern border, sleeper cells consisting of Chinese agents and jihadists who are poised to strike at any moment, and an alliance of foreign powers so menacing that no amount of military spending should ever be considered enough.
Given Trump’s iron grip on the GOP, last night’s debate will mean very little and will soon be forgotten by the few who remember it at all. Nevertheless, it stands as a useful reminder of how completely insane the Republican Party is capable of being in his absence — and the absurdity of liberal fairy tales about a righteous conservatism in exile.
By the way, Tim Scott, another contender for the nomination, has withdrawn from the race. Since he never made any impact at all, his withdrawal will not cause any ripples either.
Stephen Colbert discusses Scott and the ever-escalating unhinged rhetoric of SSAT, who is now straight-up appropriating the imagery of Hitler and Mussolini in his efforts to demonize opponents.