Some would like to pretend that the Republican party is just an innocent victim that had an alien named Donald Trump suddenly crawl out of its stomach.
How could a party that gave us a sensible, sober-minded guy who looks like he escaped from a four-blade razor commercial be blamed for the sudden rise and imminent fall (to be followed, possibly, by another rise) of a brutally bombastic bigot?
Well, let’s recap how the Republican Party destroyed its immune system to make itself the perfect host for infection by a man who inherited his career and spent his life grifting off the grace and sweat of workers — a man with no public service, a genius for scapegoating, and a generosity that he only extends to his potential heirs.
For the sake of brevity, we’ll skip the part where conservatives decided to, as Nixon aide Pat Buchanan advised in 1971, “cut the Democratic Party and country in half” using “dog whistle politics” with the goal of ending up “the larger half.” Instead, we’ll start with the GOP’s decision to reject the legitimacy of the first black president on the night of his inauguration as America was in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis since the last time laissez-faire conservative economics led us into a depression.
As our Joe Conason wrote,”The billionaire bully and his angry mob are their own shrieking chickens, finally coming home to roost.”
Here are five reasons the GOP needs to be rebuked up and down the ballot for giving us Donald Trump.
- Abandoning judicial norms.
Republicans are closing out President Obama’s second term with an unprecedented act of obstruction — refusing to even consider his final appointment to the Supreme Court, leaving a seat open for a record length of time, hoping it will be filled by Donald Trump. Slate‘s Dalia Lithwick explains that this egregious act is the culmination of decades of GOP hyper- focus on the courts. In 2009, Obama’s Seventh Circuit Court nominee David Hamilton, “a well-regarded judge, recommended by a senior Republican senator [Dick Lugar of Indiana], was blocked for no reason other that Obama had named him.” This persistent stonewalling has led to a vacancy crisis on the federal courts that would surely be worse if Senate Democrats hadn’t sharply limited the filibuster. John McCain, now locked in a battle to keep his Senate seat, even vowed to block any nominee sent up by President Hillary Clinton. “We are now hearing arguments that posit the choice between electing the most lawless president Americans have ever encountered, or indulging serious arguments about the necessity to blow up the court, the executive branch, and the Senate itself, in order to preserve the Constitution,” Lithwick explained. This is the natural consequence of a party that values its power to make law through the courts above everything — even basic decency.
- Abandoning legislative norms.
Republicans have spent seven years reminding America that not one Republican voted for Obamacare. The strategy of absolute obstruction was their plan from the beginning. But this narrative leaves out how Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee purposely spent months slowing down the process, to make a plan based on conservative reforms implemented by Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts even more business friendly. Today Obamacare is an extraordinary success that has insured over 20 million. “In fact, for the majority of Americans with employer-based coverage, the average annual premium increase since Obamacare became law in 2010 has declined 40 percent compared to the increases of the previous decade, saving the average family nearly $3,600 a year,” Politico Magazine‘s Mike Grunwald explains.” And Obamacare’s cost savings have extended the solvency of Medicare by 11 years. But there is a serious problem of escalating premiums for Americans who earn too much for subsidies and get insurance through the new exchanges — about three percent of Americans, Grunwald estimates — and the GOP’s solution is to let those people suffer while pursuing repeal. After six years of promises, the party has no plan for replacing the law that can be scored in any reasonable fashion. Meanwhile Republican states have blocked Medicaid expansion for more than four million of the poorest yet hardest working American families. And then there’s the filibuster. “Republicans went into full-bore filibuster mode the day he took office, and they’ve kept it up ever since,” Mother Jones Kevin Drum and Jaeah Lee explained. “For all practical purposes, anything more controversial than renaming a post office has required 60 votes during the entire Obama presidency.” And let’s not forget how the House GOP refused to even vote on a Senate immigration bill despite warnings from inside and outside the party that refusing to embrace reform could end up costing the party the vast majority of Latino support in perpetuity. A gerrymandered majority that relies almost entirely upon white votes, manically obstructing a historic presidency, while doing nothing to reach out to minorities — including fixing the Voting Rights Act — turns out to be a perfect invitation for the rise of a white nationalist demagogue.
- Nurturing conspiracism.
How do you end up with a birther as your party’s nominee? You refuse a full-throated condemnation of such racist conspiracy theories and instead, you stand on stage and accept the endorsement of a birther. You also make delegitimizing the president a key part of your legislative agenda by defunding ACORN — a group that has not existed since 2010 — over and over and over and over and over because you know your base believes that group helped steal the 2008 election, which President Obama won in a yuuuge landslide.
- Threatening to wreck the economy to implement a radical conservative agenda.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan loves to play the good soldier, forced to rescue a party torn between those who think Donald Trump is a terrible racist and those who think he’s a wonderful racist. But Ryan was the key player in using the crisis President Obama inherited as an opportunity to punish the poor and retirees. Republicans nearly sparked a global economic catastrophe by refusing to raise the debt limit to pay for funding Congress had already approved. The president was ready to cede to the right’s demands somewhat if Republicans would ask the rich to pay slightly higher taxes. Ryan and the GOP decided to relent but only after securing promises to starve the government as America tried to recover from the recession. Their hope then is still their hope now — securing bigger cuts and huge tax breaks for the rich. How does the GOP end up with a self-proclaimed billionaire who is proud he doesn’t pay taxes? You spend decades convincing America that the fortunes of the nation depend on coddling the rich, and then you try to make the poor pay for a crisis that wealthy investors inflicted on the world.
- Aiding and abetting Trump. Not long before Donald Trump beat him in his home state’s presidential primary, Marco Rubio delivered a teary-eyed speech explaining why Donald Trump must not allowed to become president. He’d previously called Trump “a lunatic trying to get a hold of nuclear weapons in America.” And he’s still endorsing him for president.
The Republican Party is largely silent as its nominee — whom it forced to sign a pledge to remain in the party — is actively trying to wreck our democracy by calling our elections “rigged” with no evidence to back up his accusation.
“One moment crystallized precisely what the 2016 election is about. When asked whether he would respect the election results, Trump shrugged. ‘I will look at it at the time,’ he told moderator, Chris Wallace. ‘I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?’ No, not OK. Not at all. This isn’t the build-up to the season finale of a reality show. This is the basis of our representative democracy,” Nicole Hemmer, assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, told Politico Magazine. “Americans are not supposed to be waiting to hear Trump’s verdict on election night; he is supposed to be waiting to hear ours.”
America needs to render a verdict on the Republican Party that welcomed and enabled this man. And it must be harsh.