Donald Trump represents the eminently foreseeable outcome of Reagan’s Republican bargain: welding together a coalition of racists and religious fanatics with the finance sector and its lobbyists, making two groups who had spent a century cordially loathing each other into one.
Welding big money to big racism was a winning strategy, at first. The finance sector supplied the cash to run campaigns and the megachurches supplied the warm bodies for the polling places. Wall Street’s most efficacious complex derivative, the Republican Party, was able to promulgate policies that made the rich even richer, at the expense of all those turkeys who turned out over and over to vote for Christmas, only asking in return that women be punished extravagantly for seeking abortions, as though the Jesus Christ’s central concern was the Day After pill.
But it was obvious that this situation would rupture some day. Some day, the “base” would notice that though they were being told that lazy, criminal brown people were the cause of all their problems, the actual men in nice suits in DC were doing awfully well, and consistently enacting policies that made their lives worse.
All it would take would be for a candidate to emerge whose only real campaign promise was, “Vote for me and I will make the comfortable elites of this country as miserable as you are.” Donald Trump’s many extravagant and foolish campaign promises — walls, Obamacare, trade, etc — were all obvious lies on their face, but their subtext was something 100 percent truthful: “I, Donald Trump, will be such an unpredictable, vicious, bullying loose cannon on deck that it will make life terrible for everyone: brown people (especially poor ones), ‘liberals,’ and, of course, every asshole in a nice suit who took your votes and gave you nothing in return.”
Just like his Republican predecessors, Trump was asking the turkeys to vote for Christmas. He was always going to give hereditary mediocre millionaires like himself giant tax breaks. But the GOP was the turkeys-for-Christmas party already, and at least Trump promised to pants the farmers before he sharpened the axe.
Trump is delivering on that promise today.
Today, the Republican Party is the party whose leader and president has refused to condemn actual Naziism in America. It’s the party whose brand is now drawing an equivalence between people who oppose Nazis and people who embrace eugenic pseudoscience and genocidal violence.
Donald Trump has canceled all press events today. Yesterday, he ran from reporters who asked him to call terrorism “terrorism.” Donald Trump, the “alpha” whose campaign dared Democrats to condemn “radical Islamic terrorism,” who finds it easy to condemn department stores and TV networks and Hollywood actresses in intemperate language, that man cannot find it in himself to risk the ire of his base by calling white supremacist terror “white supremacist terror.”
Donald Trump’s cowardice has made the Republican Party into the murderers’ party, the lynchers’ party, the party that stands idly by while their supporters murder anti-racists. The party that is, just maybe, a little happy to see it happen.
The 2018 elections are 14 months away. Every would-be Republican candidate in America is waking up this morning and asking themselves how they’ll sweep this under the rug. Donald Trump just gave everyone in America who deplores murder, racism and terrorism a reason to go to the polls and vote “anything-but-R.”
America’s elections are consistently won by “none of the above.” The safest gerrymandered districts are only safe so long as tens of millions of voters refuse to hold their nose and mark the ballot for either of the parties. Winning an election in America is a combination of:
1. Convincing your party’s base that they should hold their nose and vote for you, despite your manifest defects;
2. Convincing your party’s base that they should hold their nose and vote against the other candidate, because of their manifest defects; and
3. Convincing the other party’s base that their own candidate is so defective that they shouldn’t hold their nose and vote, but rather stay home and send a message to the party establishment that you’re sick of being asked to vote for damaged goods.
For the super-rich campaign funders, the optimal game-theoretical outcome of this is to field a candidate who is nearly enough of a greedy, corrupt defective as to demoralize your base, but not quite; the race to the bottom between Democratic and Republican power-brokers has each party on an endless hunt for people who are a little less obviously corrupt than the other side’s pick, but still corrupt enough to bail out banks, pad big pharma’s profits, slash taxes on the rich, and spy on everyone in order to neutralize any real political change.
Trump’s campaign won the race to the bottom. There’s a real risk that establishment Democrats will treat Trump’s rebranding of the Republicans as the American Nazi Party as an opportunity to sell out even more. Imagine the campaign funds — and industry jobs — that the Dems could vacuum up by promising to be the party of “big money and covert racism” instead of “big money and murderous racism in the streets.”
But the domestic terrorists who marched in Charlottesville last night — and the brave people who stood up to them — show us that we can’t afford more of the same. We don’t need a party that condemns racism in theory, but still refuses to take a stand for workers, for health care, for a social safety net, and all the other systems that civilized societies put in place to make life good for everyone, not just the tiny minority of (generally white) rich people at the very top.
Donald Trump is giving Republican voters a good reason to stay home in 2018. If the Democratic Party wants to seize this moment, it will be bold, and give voters a good reason to come out in 2018: an agenda that includes universal health care, universal access to college education, a $15 national minimum wage, universal access to abortion on demand, action on climate change, and an end to monopolism and too-big-to-fail corruption.
The super-rich will never be numerous enough to elect their candidates on their own: by definition, there just aren’t that many 1%ers and even fewer 0.1%ers. They can only maintain power by appealing to spite: vote for us and we’ll make life worse for anyone who’s not rich, and the most-not-rich Americans are brown, so you’ll punish them more than anyone. (That’s actually not the only way to maintain power: they can also cheat by engaging in voter suppression, which is why it’s vital to fund nonprofit impact litigators who are suing over unconstitutional poll taxes and other tactics to take away votes from brown people).
The people who turned out to fight Naziism yesterday set a high bar for bravery, putting their bodies in front of violent bigots who understood that the cops would not stop them, who understood that the president would not condemn them if they committed brazen murder.
The Republican Party only has itself to blame for this situation. They will reap what they sowed.
But the Democratic Party owes it to the brave and the dead to meet their bravery and honor their sacrifice, to stand up for people and principal, not convenience and comfort.
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