Burning Down the House…and the Senate Too

At the end of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein ordered the oil wells of Kuwait set on fire; now as the Presidential election campaign draws to a close, Donald Trump has chosen to do everything he can to follow a similar scorched earth policy with the Republican Party, by implying that if he loses the election (almost a certainty at this point), that it’s only because the election is “rigged.”

While his running mate and other apologists for Trump attempted to spin his comments as only referring to media bias against him, he made it clear that no, his feelings go beyond that, he is referring to actual fraud at the polls. Such a claim is extremely dangerous, because it strikes at the foundation of our country’s two hundred plus year old democracy. Implications of election fraud belong in third world countries, not in the United States. As with many things that Trump says, it is completely baseless in reality. Donald Trump will lose the election because he has offended many, if not most, of the groups that he needed to bring on board; he will lose because he has no experience, few qualifications and and an unwavering lack of preparation.

For years the Republican Party has been allowing the lunatic fringe of the party to grow, until the lunatic fringe got its own nominee for President, who–not surprisingly–is a lunatic. At this point it’s quite clear that Donald Trump is the worst presidential candidate ever put forth by either party, and the most dangerous. There have been disputed presidential elections before without these sorts of allegations. Trump has set a new precedent by making them in advance, as it becomes clear how dismally his campaign is going.

One of the things that truly sets the U.S. apart from other countries is a smooth transition of power from one presidential administration to another, this has been a tradition even when large differences existed between the two sides. Although reviled by many Republicans, nevertheless Al Gore must be credited with graciously accepting the Supreme Court decision that handed the presidency to George Bush, even though Gore could have made a strong case that the process was tainted. It appears that Trump will not follow Gore’s lead.

With Trump’s hint that he will claim illegitimacy of the election, he will leave the Republican Party in a very bad position. If the invertebrate Republican leadership miraculously grew spines, they should use them to run as fast and as far from Trump as possible, even if it means telling their constituents to vote for Hillary. There is no room for Donald Trump in a relevant Republican Party, even if it means losing the whack-a-doodles that nominated him. Republican leadership needs to come out quickly and strongly against Trump impugning the election process, but we won’t expect to see anything like that out of Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, they’re much too worried about their own base to worry about the future of the Republican Party, and of the nation in general.

The Republicans ARE Trump

You’ll hear a lot of talk these days that Donald Trump is not a real Republican and doesn’t reflect the true values of Republicans.  Even if you neglect his admission (and the testimony of many women) that he is a sexual predator, long-term Republicans like to disavow Trump because he has shown himself to be a bigot, a racist,  a misogynist who is not only uninformed on both international and domestic policy, but apparently he has no interest in learning anything about it. His only concrete ideas seem to be build a wall (and somehow get Mexico to pay for it) and deport all the undocumented aliens,  and to go after Hillary Clinton, to “lock her up.” The rest of Trump’s platform seems to consist of telling everyone how bad things are and how much better he is going to make them, but he provides no convincing evidence for either assertion.

The core ideas seem to consist of jingoist demagoguery designed to stir up anger and hate among his followers. The Republican establishment wrings their hands at Donald Trump and tries to sell the story that he is not really even a real Republican, and doesn’t reflect Republican values, unfortunately for the Republican Party, Donald Trump not only does accurately represent the values of today’s Republican Party, which is why they’re doomed to lose Presidential elections–and eventually state houses and Congress, until they turn the ship around.

In the decades preceding Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican Party, what has been going on in the party? Well, for one thing, moderate Republicans were first called RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only), then systematically forced out of the party by the extremist wing of the party. This caused a shift to the right for many of the Republican congressional caucus, because they feared that if they didn’t toe the extremist line they would be challenged in the primaries.

Along with the RINO name-calling, the party dog-whistled to racists and homophobes, who were more than happy to find a haven the Republican base. The party became older, whiter and more male. It was the party that longed for those halcyon days when “Mad Men” accurately reflected what Americans aspired for…well, at least if you were white and male.

Meanwhile, during Obama’s tenure, the mostly Republican congress managed to do almost nothing but hold hearings and practice meaningless brinkmanship with the debt limit. Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare innumerable times.  Everyone knew that Obamacare was flawed, which wasn’t too surprising since the Republicans in Congress stayed out of its design and Republican governors fought its implementation–even when it hurt the citizens of their own states.

Republicans have put forth very little in the way of concrete proposals on any subject. Ok, Obamacare is flawed, fine, but do you really want to just repeal a law that has brought health to millions of Americans that didn’t have it before? Almost everyone agrees that in a country as rich as the USA that no one should go without health coverage, so saying “Repeal Obamacare!” without providing some alternative is hardly going to work.

Immigration is a problem that has similarly been used for demagoguery, but without real solutions being advanced.  The idea that more than 10 million people would be shipped off (possibly to countries they were to young to remember) is a non-starter, no matter how appealing it is to the Trump base. There is also a need to acknowledge that illegal immigrants do fill a real economic need in this country, so if the borders are closed further there would still need to be a way to allow foreign workers to fill those jobs…or make them attractive enough that Americans would fill them.

The list goes on with issues that are hot-button issues for Trump supporters, and for much of the Republican Party these days, but have not been addressed in any meaningful way by the Republican “establishment”. It is therefore not surprising that Trump ups the rhetoric and promises to fix everything, and when he stops dog-whistling and starts calling the racists to come home to his campaign out loud, that he gathers a substantial following. He is filling the vacuum of practical ideas with even more bloviating rhetoric.

If Republicans want to disavow Trump they need to provide an alternative, he’s just saying and doing the same things they say and do in a more open way, without the need for the dog whistles.