Republicans break the bottom of the barrel

Submitted by Matthew on 11 May, 2016 - 12:42 Author: Danny Katch

It's big psychic shock coming to terms with the reality that Trump a bigoted, buffoonish blowhard, loathed by 70 per cent of the population will have his name on the ballot in November as the presidential candidate of one of the two political parties that run the most powerful nation in the world.

Of course, Trump's victory didn't come out of nowhere. For years, the Republican Party has cultivated white middle-class fear and rage the meat and potatoes of the Trump campaign to build a rabidly right-wing voting base in support of its traditional ruling-class agenda of promoting corporate power and American empire. But in this election, the [traditional] base has refused to heel despite increasingly desperate pleas from prominent, though not exactly beloved, Republican leaders such as Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham.

In early April, it looked like Republican insiders might finally have hit on a strategy for their NeverTrump campaign. Ted Cruz rode a mobilisation of the religious right to several good showings, while political operatives working for him and others used the Republicans arcane party rules to get convention delegates selected who would abandon Trump at a contested convention. At the top levels of the Republican Party, Cruz is widely detested- but at least he wasn't Trump. But Republican voters rebelled against these underhanded manoeuvrers. An April opinion poll [showed] that while only 40 per cent of Republican voters had Trump as their first choice, 62 per cent thought the nomination should go to the candidate with the most votes. Before the April 19 New York primary, Trump had never won more than 50 per cent of the total vote. In New York and after, he did, making him the runaway popular favourite. ...But while Trump is an outsider who won the presidential nomination over the opposition of most, if not all, top party leaders, he's hardly the anti-establishment candidate.

Trump is often compared to Bernie Sanders, but Sanders campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has been based on concrete proposals that would make both the Democratic Party and the country as a whole more just and democratic. Trump, by contrast, is a billionaire real estate tycoon funding his own campaign and getting billions of dollars in free advertising from a news media desperate to fill airtime with his carnival show. While there has been much talk in the media about Trump's support among white working-class voters, the median annual household income of his supporters is $72,000. That's lower than many of his former rivals for the nomination, but well above the national median of $56,000.

The biggest weakness with the Republicans NeverTrump strategy was the part where voters were expected to vote for one of the other guys. Ted Cruz actually managed to match Trump in hatefulness his main strategy in the Indiana campaign was to accuse Trump of not being bigoted enough against transgender people on the question of what bathroom they use. But he coated it with a level of holier-than-thou creepiness that made him, unbelievably enough, more repulsive than Trump.

Kasich, meanwhile, campaigned as an old-fashioned Republican--ready to bust unions and ban abortions with a contented smile. The party is able to dominate many states in the South, Midwest and West by combining hard-right social policies with mammoth tax breaks for locally based corporations. But it has no coherent message for national elections because its three central tenets have been severely weakened over the past decade. For one, the ongoing disastrous consequences of the Iraq War, supported by most Democrats but infamously and incompetently led by George W Bush, has weakened the Republicans reputation as the party of national security. Second, the global financial crisis and bailout of the banks that caused it has undermined the dogmas of the free market and capitalism also shared by most Democrats, but traditionally most associated with the Republicans. Lastly, the historic victories of the movement for LGBTQ equality, both legally and culturally, while incomplete, have deprived the Republicans of their favourite of the culture wars on anything beyond a regional level.

The Republican Party establishment has a complicated relationship with Donald Trump. They hate him because he isn't one of them, and they hate him because, in a lot of ways, he actually is. Trump does challenge Republican orthodoxies on issues such as trade and national defence. Trump has long opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement The Mexicans want it, and that doesn't sound good to me, he said back in 1993 (in case you were wondering whether he was always such an ass). And while Trump is lying when he says he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq before it happened, he did turn against the war within a year.

But in a lot of other ways, Trump is a quintessential 21st century Republican, both in policy and style. He's a nativist Islamophobe who wants to cut taxes for the wealthy at a time of the greatest wealth inequality in almost a century. He combines the bullyboy persona of Chris Christie, the billionaire arrogance of Michael Bloomberg and the endless conspiracy theorizing of Glenn Beck. Trump is a mirror that proper Republican Party leaders hate to look at because it reminds them of what a national joke they have been for a good long while.

Corporate America has historically preferred the Republican Party to represent its interests within the US two-party system, and one part of the shock at Trump's victories is that business interests haven't done more to prevent it. Preliminary opinion polls show Trump trailing far behind Clinton in the November election. But that doesn't mean that he isn't a threat. It might seem impossible for Trump to overcome his unpopularity, but he's already proven that he knows how to take advantage of the corporate media's hunger to put him on camera. He will appeal to both the vile sexism and well-founded hostility that have given Clinton a likewise high unfavorability rating of 55 per cent. And there's the threat of the unknown--a sharp downturn in an economy that is already weakening or a large-scale terrorist attack.

Whatever the case, though, there will be six more months of Donald Trump spreading his racism, sexism and Islamophobia across the airways, legitimizing those politics and creating a more hateful and potentially violent country for years to come. The millions of people who despise Trump and everything he stands will be right to challenge him wherever and however they can while also recognising that they can't trust the lesser evil to stop the greater evil.

* Abridged. Originally published by Socialist Worker (US)

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