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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Republican Party is trying to hold itself together in the midst of a long-predicted implosion.

Political scientists will warn you that polls taken in the August before a presidential election year are as pointless as 9-year-old’s career plan. Should I be a veterinarian, President Giuliani, or Hermione Granger first? But there’s no doubt that the inkblots we’re seeing in the current poll numbers that suggest that the GOP establishment’s considerable powers to shape the public debate have been useless against Donald Trump.

Our Joe Conason and The Week‘s Ryan Cooper both see shades of fascism in Trump’s campaign. Where other candidates who need to make a living after their campaigns are over fear the disdain of the press and the elite, the undeniably rich 69-year-old Trump can dabble in demagoguery beyond that of a pro-wrestling villain… with near immunity.

Cooper quotes Robert Paxton’s definition of political fascism, which begins, “A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood…”

There we find the core of Trump’s appeal: humiliation.

For almost a decade, the right has been humiliated: humiliated by the failures of George W. Bush, humiliated by the victories of Barack Obama, humiliated by Republicans in Washington who are limited in their incessant obstruction by the need to keep the government open.

A big chunk of the right loves Trump because all he does is humiliate his foes and refuse to act humiliated himself. He picks the perfect enemies — his opponents, anyone on the left, and anyone who challenges him in public — and he can’t lose because he has no shame, boundaries or compunction. His campaign slogan might as well be “I Will Bend You Over.”

Republicans know that to win in 2016, they either need to do as well with white voters as they did in the ’80s or they need to do better with minorities than they have since 2004. Trump is giving them a first-hand look at the horrors of a campaign built to appeal almost exclusively to white voters. It doesn’t just require a promise to deport 11 million people like so much cattle. It requires you to pretend that there are 30 million undocumented immigrants in America whom we can round up and deliver to… somewhere. This untethered, unsubtle xenophobia is a turn-on for David Duke and other white nationalists. And it feels like the “truth” to a movement built on sly dogwhistles.

But winning white voters also means abandoning the party’s orthodoxy on opposing tax increases for the rich and “phasing out” Social Security and Medicare. This disloyalty baffles his opponents and exposes the GOP’s approval of policies that benefit the few explicitly at the expense of the masses of voters who put them in power. (This isn’t to say Trump is fiscally progressive in any way. Beneath his rhetoric is a standard right wing support of huge wage cuts for workers and cutting anything the government does that doesn’t help old white people.)

Republicans want to argue that Trump is an aberration who exists despite conservatism. But what’s more true is that Trump is the perfected vision of the Christian Libertarianism that the right embraced to oppose the New Deal. This religious vision, as described in Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God, sees wealth as the ultimate proof of God’s will. If you’re poor, you’ve earned that humiliation from the ultimate humiliator because you displeased him.

When Trump says, “I am very, very rich,” he’s pretty much saying, “I’m very, very blessed,” even if he doesn’t go to church and can’t name a Bible verse. That’s all the religion or policy many on the right need.

Trump will glom on to whatever’s popular or necessary because he isn’t here to discuss policy. He’s here to stomp on the people you oppose—on your behalf. And stomp he does.

Here are the 5 GOP candidates who have suffered the most in Trump’s wake. In his parlance, they are “losers.” And we’ll just skip Muppet Babies Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham, who most people wouldn’t even know are running if Trump didn’t occasionally abuse them.

5. Rick Perry.
The longest-serving governor of Texas decided to be serious this time around, after blowing a clear path to the nomination in 2012 by talking. He decided to take on Trump early, slamming the billionaire for using rhetorical themes Perry has relied on for years, but in much more vivid, catchy ways. He ended up seeming dimwitted, slow, and hypocritical. He’s lost his top Iowa advisor to Trump. It’s unclear whether he still has a paid campaign staff at all, and he’s likely to be the first candidate to drop out of the race. But he may be remembered for being the candidate willing to say Trump was a “cancer” who threatened the existence of the Republican Party.

4. Chris Christie.
Historians will have to figure out what doomed Chris Christie’s presidential campaign before it started. Was it Bridgegate or the realization that he’s a failure as a governor; one whose greatest legacy will be rejecting a tunnel to New York City that New Jersey desperately needed. Christie and Trump are pals who swim in the same swamps and The Donald hasn’t bashed him significantly. While the press imagines he’s the perfect candidate to engineer a surge in New Hampshire, a SuperPAC designed to stop Christie is folding because the candidate already did the job himself.

3. Scott Walker.
How many times does Scott Walker have to insist that he’s unintimidated before you’re sure the opposite is true? Next to Trump, the governor of Wisconsin looks like a sad hound rolled over on his belly. Walker did well in off-years in a state where outside money let him issue his own jobs numbers that disguised his ineptitude. But on the trail, he can’t answer basic questions, shifts positions passionlessly and tires with his affect of stolid self-contentment. He’s still the Koch brothers’ favorite and the party’s best hope for a generic conservative to take on Trump and Bush. But for a guy who once was praised as sitting on a throne made of his enemies’ skulls, he’s coming off as an afterthought.

2. Jeb Bush.
Even if Jeb Bush were good at running for president, it would still be tough for him to compete against his brother showing up at the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, or Dick Cheney inveighing against the Iran deal with almost the exact same message he used to sell the Iraq War. Bush is the personification of the GOP establishment’s failures. His inability to condescend to a base that still loves his brother reveals his own condescension and arrogance. Ironically, Trump is thriving on those exact qualities because he refuses to hide them. This weekend, he lost two key fundraisers over “personality conflicts,” which probably means that in contrast to Bush, they have a personality. I still think Jeb is the most likely GOP nominee. But he could win enough delegates while still trailing in the polls, which is the recipe for a full-on crack-up.

1. Mitt Romney.
Have no doubt that Mitt Romney was a candidate for the presidency in 2016. And he’s the only candidate who was spooked out of a run by Jeb Bush. Nearly every Republican over 35 briefly led Romney during the 2012 primary, but Mitt’s support never dipped below 15 or so percent. Jeb, who is the Mitt of this race, is lingering around half of that. If Romney could have maintained that support and built on it from the goodwill of Republicans who backed him in 2012, he could be consolidating the establishment’s power and seriously challenging Trump. But it’s more likely he’s glad to be sunning himself in La Jolla, avoiding Trump’s rhetorical Molotov cocktails and laughing at Jeb.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering who is a winner in the GOP primary, besides Trump.

The answer is: Ted Cruz.

Marco Rubio and John Kasich have done well by largely avoiding Trump’s gaze, but Cruz has actively pursued the beast like the little dog in the cartoon who ferociously yaps at the big bully. Trump benefits from getting the stink of conservative “legitimacy” on him. That’s why he’s appearing with Cruz at an anti-Iran rally being organized by anti-Muslim extremists who previously had only been welcomed on Capitol Hill by rodeo clowns like Michele Bachmann and Steve King. And Cruz gets to neutralize America’s top birther while making a play for Trump’s voters.

While Trump’s rise promises real dangers, the American public can benefit by seeing the depths of Trump and the GOP’s extremism, which the party did so well to hide in 2014 and hoped to squelch completely in 2016. Unfortunately for them, the path to this implosion was set in 2012 when Romney stood on stage with Trump and the party’s worst instincts for self-humiliation were sanctified.

Photo: Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump answers a question as fellow candidate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (L) listens at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    The best thing the candidates of BOTH parties who have not managed to get any traction, and are polling in the 1% to 5% range, can do is quit. They are not even candidates for the Nr. 2 spot.

    • paulyz

      I believe they will be dropping out after the next debate.

  • ‘Tis Moi

    Bernie Sanders. Take your fingers out of your ears, stop burying your head, & vote for a guy who is as sick to death of this sh*t as you are!

    Hillary is an easy mark- he will NOT be pulled down by the press to smear.

    Bernie is the “real deal”- he is. This, coming from an old south FL family. I’m sick to death of the press using candidates times with the constituency to try to stir. F-off.

    Every, single other candidate is beholden to someone, somewhere. Bernie is beholden – to YOU.

    Just forget that tired, old “socialist” routine. It’s a smear. “Social Security”- is socialist. Any “for all” endeavor is “socialist”.

    Save the USA- vote Sanders. No doubt.

  • greenlantern1

    Ever read the SPOT RESOLUTIONS by President Abraham Lincoln?
    The memoirs of President US Grant?
    What did they say about Mexico?
    About President Polk?
    Were they “losers”?

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    You guys need a lesson in Republicana….I was a Republican for more than 3 decades. I posted last year that the GOP would not spotlight its intended candidate until the ultimate last moment. The reason? According to the GOP back room, that’s the way you buffalo the public best and you get to keep all candidates Dem and GOP on the ropes making fools of themselves.

    Here is how you figure out who the last minute GOP candidate will be…Who is the anti-Trump? Who is the anti-Cruz? Who is the anti-Walker? Who is the anti-JEB?

    The GOP’s real candidate will have a brand name, ties to billionaires and big oil, and have CEO mastery in his resume. He will also be totally malleable. So..who do you think fits this description best?

    • 1standlastword

      ….ummmm….rhymes with Mitt and smells like $hit… Rommney!? LOL!!!

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        Bingo! Romney! He has the brand name, was a big time CEO of several businesses, some of which went bankrupt, has the pedigree of religiosity and is so malleable you’d mistake him for an acrobatic contortionist.

        The GOP is notoriously shameless and vengeful. When Bush ’41 didn’t get his 2nd term, they finagled not one but 2 elections with his son to EVEN the score. And boy are we all sorry for that now. The champagne and caviar price of a GOP president is more than the middle class can afford on beer pocketbooks.

        But, the GOP will hang loose until the ultimate last moment in 2016 and then? Boiiiiiinggggg! Out comes their prize possession CEO Romney in all his glory.

        By then the GOP boys figure Romney’s competitors will have made super jerks of themselves battling each other and there will be their Great White Hope…Romney waiting patiently for his center stage spotlight.

        You want to beat the GOP at their own games? Think like CEOs. Reckless, irresponsible, slash and burn, take no prisoners tactics do down and dirty even Satan is proud.

        • paulyz

          Romney won’t go anywhere, just like Jeb Bush, just look at all the top candidates in the Republican Party, ALL non-RINOS, ALL non-politicians. Conservative voters are for them, not Bush or Romney. The Democrat Party as well as the Establishment RINOS, are for Big Federal Government control, they are not for average Americans, real Conservatives are.

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            You know that and I know that. But the GOP? Think about what’s at stake if they don’t win the White House in 2016. Remember what was at stake for them in 2000?

            They have huge huge huge debts owed to billionaires that need payback.

            I don’t agree with any Conservative these days. If you are talking about the conservatism of Eisenhower and Stevenson, then yes. I agree. I do not agree that keeping the US in an endless, mindless austerity while every dollar we pay in taxes makes more billionaires at the top by conserving OUR money so they don’t have to spend a dime of theirs.

            The GOP stiffed the VA. Now, we are expected to donate to charities after our taxes pay for the VA? The GOP can never explain just where the hell all the money they have “saved” the US has gone. According to them, we are dead broke. Sure we are. Endless wars, for profit prisons, Big Oil tax subsidies all paid for by our taxes.

          • paulyz

            BOTH the Democrats & the GOP Etablishment sell their souls to Big Special Interests, why Trump is unaffected by their influence & is doing so well with average American voters.

        • Jack Spratt

          this is something that never occurred to me, but it makes a lot of sense!

  • Bosda

    Astro-Monkeys, one & all of them.

  • pmbalele

    I was praying all night for GOPers and TPs for
    their bad luck they have Trump as their savior. Trump has been feeding Repubs
    and TPs lies he cannot account or prove. First, Repubs and TPs should question
    how many illegals work for Trump. Thousands. But the same Trump is lying to
    them he hates to see illegals in this country. Without illegal Trump hotels
    will be dirty –nobody to service them. On the hand, please come to Wisconsin
    and see who is milking cows, picking apples, strawberries, blue berries,
    working in hotels and restaurants etc-the so called illegals. Walker sides with
    Trump – he will get rid of illegals – for real! By-other-way- where are the
    citizens; and what are they doing? They are at beaches in Florida, California
    or doing illegal drugs and drinking to their deaths. They are sons and daughters of TPs and Repubs
    -do not want to work. Now Trumps is lying-he will ship them to Mexico. May
    Trump should first ship Ted Cruz the anchor-baby of TPs.

  • Böcker

    The GOP will lose the WH again in 2016, you cannot win with just the white vote and they fail to realize that, Trump most of all.

    • RED

      Of course the GOP will lose the WH again. But that’s not enough! There is something wrong in a country and party that worships ignorance, lies, & stupidity. It’s kinda frigging scary to think how closely the Cons mirror the National Socialists of Germany, who’s big push was nationalism and “take the country back” from the “others”! But mostly being a Con is just a terrible sickness, it destroys the brain and rots any remnants of a soul these Cons might have at one time possessed.

      • Steve Batchelor

        I believe it all falls back to when Ronald Reagan did the only acting he ever succeeded at in the 80’s. They all want to be just like him. If you put RR in a line up with all of the clowns in the newest clown car they all look eerily alike. With any lucidity I’m hoping the 99% wake up and see them for what they are…part of Trumps extended Baboon family.

        • holycalamity

          Except Reagan was always a pragmatist. For all the lip service he paid to small government, he raised taxes and spent his way out of a recession.

          Today’s Republicans are handcuffed by dogma and/or the fear of getting primaried.

    • Dominick Vila

      I wonder how the pampered, arrogant, narcissistic, twit will react when he hears the latest Iowa poll, that shows him and Dr. Carson tied at 23%, and Carly Fiorina a close third.

      • paulyz

        I believe Fiorina has less than half the percentages of Carson & Trump, not really a close 3rd.

    • paulyz

      Trump has a lot of LEGAL Hispanic supporters as well as Whites, try staying off race for once.

      • Böcker

        Wrong, and the republicans will lose the WH yet again in 2016 because of racism

  • tomtype

    A lot of people express the thought that they like Trump’s honesty, or they like that he is not a politician just saying stuff to get elected.
    Except, if Trump has any experience, he knows a lot of the stuff he spouts is not true. If he has all those Mexicans working as menials he knows they do work hard, are not all murders and rapists. So, he is being a politicians trying to get elected and lying to do so. He is just a bolder and better bully. Note how he reacts to any attempt to investigate his true feelings. He stays on script fare better than most. But honest, and non-political, NOT.

  • Steve Batchelor

    IMHO the best thing that can happen is for the uber-RWNJ’s to all implode in their own excrement. Then maybe we will see some progressive ideas sustain some traction in this country and that will happen after the citizens actually get of listening to the BS the RWNJ’s keep throwing at each other. Hopefully!

  • @HawaiianTater

    Every day I become more convinced that Trump is doing this as a favor to Hillary and Bill to get her elected and destroy the entire Republican party.

    • paulyz

      Tell us why?

      • @HawaiianTater

        Trump is old friends with the Clintons. They were at his wedding. He had a phone chat with Bill just a couple of weeks before he announced his run for POTUS. He’s historically held liberal views on issues such as universal healthcare and abortion rights. He’s actually changed quite a lot of his views from liberal to conservative during this run. He’s attacking and tearing down all of the other GOP frontrunners (especially Jeb!, who most insiders think will eventually get the GOP nom). He is attacking and tearing down the GOP establishment. He has started a civil war with Fox News, which is THE conservative propaganda machine. Not only that, he has turned many in the base against Fox. His extreme rhetoric on immigrants is bringing out the worst racism the conservative base has to offer and is exposing them to the world for who they truly are. Everything he does makes the Republicans look worse by the day AND he has basically started a civil war in the conservative ranks between the establishment and the extreme right wing Tea Partiers. What you are seeing is the complete and utter destruction of the Republicans party as viable candidates for the WH. If he’s not doing it on purpose, he is the most oblivious man in the history of the world.

        • paulyz

          Thanks. Many Conservatives have been fed up with the Establishment Republicans for some time, why Millions less voted for McCain, then Romney. They understand that the Establishment, (& Democrats), will continue business as usual while growing the Federal Government even more thus being less responsive to the People. Many people believe this to be why non-politicians are popular. Many are also upset with FOX for going along somewhat with the Establishment, promoting Jeb Bush. I believe Trump to be sincere in fixing this Country because all the regular politicians just talk. I don’t think Trump would spend perhaps a $1Billion for Hillary who might have to cancel her campaign due to illegal activity. Trump gains in the polls more when dealing with Illegals by focusing on real problems caused by them. Trump isn’t racist, he’s talking about ILLEGALS of any race or etnicity, especially criminals, & praises the LEGAL ones who he hires. Apparently most Americans & Legal Immigrants agree with him on this judging from the polls. I personally know several 2 time Obama voters that like Trump.
          If you are right about Trump helping Hillary, I will admit it on here, but if true, our Country is beyond The People mattering any more, & would cause ALL of us to lose our Liberty with an all-powerful, Fed. Gov.

          • @HawaiianTater

            I agree with you about the establishment on both sides being bad for the country. I can tell you right now with confidence that there is no chance in hell of Trump winning the general election. That’s why I want him to get the GOP nom is to keep Republicans out the WH. Hillary isn’t a good option either. The only good option in the field on both sides is Bernie Sanders. Every other option is just different degrees of a bad option.

            Even if Trump doesn’t get the nom, the GOP has been damaged so much by him that they have no real chance at the WH. Whoever wins the Dem primaries will be the next POTUS. You can bank on it.

          • paulyz

            At least you state that Hillary isn’t a good option, but I have a suspicion that that is because she is in serious trouble with her many problems thus unelectable. But Bernie Sanders? He may buck the Democrats but he is very much Establishment as well, having spent 25 years in Congress. Besides that, he is a pure Socialist, which goes contrary to the large majority of Americans. I can’t see Bernie as winning the Presidency, more likely Trump or Carson.

          • @HawaiianTater

            Pauly, you seem to be willing to have a civil conversation, so I’m going to try to give you a civil response. Buckle up, this is going to be a long response. Quite frankly, you have no idea WTF you are talking about if you think Bernie is a pure Socialist and very much Establishment. You really could not be more wrong about this. I’ll start with Hillary though.

            No, I didn’t say Hillary is a bad option because she is in serious trouble and unelectable. All this email and Benghazi stuff is made up scandal nonsense and won’t stop her from winning the election. Whoever it is that gets the Dem nom, either her or Sanders, will be the next POTUS. You can bank on that. Speaking of banks, that’s largely why I say Hillary is a bad option. She has too many ties to the big banks. If elected, Hillary will do very little to break up the hold that the billionaires have over our country. She would be a lot like Obama. Establishment Dem. Not good but not a disaster either. Might improve things very slightly but won’t do nearly enough and won’t go nearly as far as she needs to go to rebuild our middle class. Hillary might not be a good option but she is still a helluva lot better than letting a conservative crash the economy with more failed trickle down economics.

            Here is an economics 101 lesson. For the economy to work, people need to have spending power. If people don’t have disposable income to put into the economy, the economy does not work. Trickle down economics is the great lie of the modern day economy. Rich people do not create jobs because they get tax breaks. They get the money and keep the money. In reality, it’s the middle class that creates jobs. They have money, they spend money, business booms, employers hire more employees to keep up with business. It’s a really simple concept but so many fail to grasp it that it has led to the worst income inequality levels since the 1920s. You know what happened after the 20s? The Great Depression. When all the money goes to the top, the entire system collapses onto itself. It almost happened the last time a conservative was in charge but then Obama came along and kept us from a full blown depression. The problem with Obama and the same problem with Hillary is that although they prevent a full blown depression, all they do is maintain the status quo but don’t actually rebuild the middle class. That’s better than crashing the economy but it’s still not a good option.

            That’s why we need Bernie Sanders. It was FDR and the New Deal that saved our country from the Great Depression and built the strongest middle class our country has ever had. Bernie has a lot of policies very similar to FDR’s and yes, a majority of Americans support those policies. It was democratic socialism back then too, they just didn’t call it that because the word socialism was tied to communism and America was terrified of the Russian Communists. What you need to understand is the difference between democratic socialism and socialism, because they are two very different things. Bernie is not suggesting the federal government take over and own everything. That would be communist socialism and that would be bad. Democratic socialism, on the other hand, is still very much capitalist; it’s just designing the system so it works for everybody and not just the elite few. The word socialism doesn’t frighten the voting public the way it used to and people are starting to understand what it means. Social Security. Infrastructure. Public libraries. The Fire Department. Medicare. These are all democratic socialism policies that we already implement and the public favors very much.

            To say Bernie is establishment just means you don’t know Bernie. First of all, he’s an Independent, not a Democrat. The only reason he is running for the Dem nom is because of how the two party system is set up. Bernie does not take donations from the billionaire class, so he is not beholden to people like the Koch Bros. Literally, all of his policies are designed to benefit the working man. The amount of time he has spent in Congress does not make him establishment. What it does mean is that to the people of Vermont who know him, they love his democratic socialist policies and keep electing him. The reason why he draws such huge crowds nationwide is because the more people find out about him and his policies, the more people love him. People are sick of the elite owning everything and Bernie’s support is surging because of it. His campaign really is a campaign of the people. He’s the only truly good option from either side.

            I’ll leave you with this graphic that will help explain the differences between Bernie and Hillary. Hopefully, you have learned something today. I sincerely mean that.

    • Joan

      That might explain Trump, himself, but it fails to address why he currently has a 60% approval rating among registered GOP voters. It has not been measured but I doubt his approval rating among dems., independents and progressives is in the double digits.
      What does explain it is the belief among a majority of the GOP that President Obama was not born in this country and is a Muslim too. They do not even realize that Cruz actually was not born in the good old USA. Ya can’t fix stupid.

  • paulyz

    This National Memo post somehow left out one of the best choices besides Trump, Dr. Carson. They are both very successful, non-politicians that buck the Washington
    Establishment that most Americans are extremely disgusted with. As for the Democrat-Socialist-Establishment, there aren’t any good choices. Trump, Carson, Cruz, or Walker!

  • Joan

    The biggest loser in the Trump ascendancy is the American public. Trump leads nearly every newscast despite the fact that he does not have a plan, beyond the one written on his ball cap. He spreads lies thicker than an Iowa farmer in the springtime. The GOP will require several election cycles and more leadership than they are currently capable of to repair to rift with Latino’s, women and minorities. In the meantime they are counting on gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement to hold on to Congress.