Predicting doom for Democrats and taking Republican-inflated scandals seriously is a job description for much of the media. And while in full pearl-clutching mode over the Democratic frontrunner, as they usually are, they’re missing the real story: The Republican Party, after eight years of plotting the demise of Barack Obama, is in far worse shape than it was the last time it lost the presidency.
What is supposed to be “the best field of Republican candidates in a generation” is being trounced by a birther, a fetal-tissue-experimenting doctor, a disgraced, anti-vaxxer CEO, and the guy who is only known for shutting down the government.
Oh, yeah, the birther is also an anti-vaxxer.
It’s only August, but the Republican right is on the verge of duplicating or tripling down on every mistake its leaders told themselves not to make after they lost last time, while inventing new flubs beyond the imagination of mortal satirists. Sure, the Koch network has doubled its spending commitment from 2012 to close to a billion dollars and it’s difficult for any party to hold the White House for three straight terms. But conservatives are at war with themselves, while their candidates are spouting nonsense and purposely alienating precisely the same voters they need to be winning over.
Why aren’t the media pointing this out?
“I know that it’s disturbing to read columns that portray the entire field as a bunch of cranks,” The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman wrote. “But it would be a dereliction of duty, basically an act of dishonest reporting, to pretend that they aren’t.”
So let’s do our duty and point out why this August is even worse for Republicans than the summer of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain.
1. Donald Trump is the most anti-immigrant frontrunner of a major party imaginable.
Birtherism made him a conservative hero. Xenophobic rants where he simultaneously promises to bring back jobs from China and cut wages in America speak to a real angst among the white working class that has been battered by conservative and neoliberal policies. But it’s Trump’s promise to deport 11 million immigrants that is most corrosive to the Republican brand. His newly released immigration plan would have denied citizenship to a couple of his competitors and wives. To even have a chance of winning Florida, the GOP needs to do at least as well with minorities as it did in 2004 — pre-Katrina, before the conservative backlash on immigration.
Immigration isn’t the only issue Latinos and Asian-Americans care about, but even Mitt Romney’s embrace of “self-deportation” conjured up images of broken families. Trump seems to be vowing to deport even U.S. citizens who had undocumented parents. The idea of mass deportations may appeal to a large segment of GOP primary voters, but we rarely discuss how suggesting people be jammed into buses and trains damages a party that’s spent decades relying on the frame of smaller government. Promoting a police state powerful enough to turn humans into cargo marked for destinations unknown, combined with promises to close marijuana shops in Colorado and Washington, while seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade so miscarriages can be investigated as murders — these eccentric ideas may well combine to taint the party’s image, possibly beyond repair.
2. Real conservatives know Trump is their worst nightmare.
Simply put: 2016 is the most important election of our lifetime, especially if you’re a GOP donor who sees the chance of building a solid majority of seven conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Many of these high-powered donors and establishment figures see Trump for what he is: a thin-skinned megalomaniac who holds few if any conservative beliefs beyond the basic impulse to make himself richer. Even scarier to them is seeing a guy who can go to war with hives of villainy like Fox News and RedState — and win.
When establishment conservatives face off against Trump supporters, it’s like turning over a rock and releasing the hate-infested, bigoted microbes that grew in the dank, moldy environment of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Understandably, they’re disgusted by what they’ve created, and some sense of justice deep in their collective conscience likely fears that they deserve to be consumed by it.
Watching as Trump validates every Democratic argument against Scott Walker’s jobs record or Carly Fiorina’s lack of business acumen must feel like a repeat of Newt Gingrich’s highly successful assault on Romney’s business record at Bain Capital. But the difference is that Trump isn’t playing with Adelson’s money, and he isn’t dependent on Republican benefactors to keep him in the .01 percent.
Trump has little to no chance of winning the GOP nomination, but he has a decent chance of leading the polls even as the establishment candidate racks up the delegates necessary to win. The damage that would do to the party is as impossible to imagine as Trump’s ridiculous campaign itself.