First Donald Trump came for President Obama’s birth certificate.
And most Republicans said nothing because they knew much of the GOP base had been waiting for a famous guy to demand papers from the first black president.
Sure, “mainstream” Republicans didn’t embrace his birtherism explicitly. But they stood on stage with him, accepted his endorsements and his foundation’s cash, even when they were supposed to be investigating him for fraud.
Then Trump came for the immigrants, the Muslim-Americans, the refugees, Ted Cruz’s birth certificate, Ted Cruz’s family, Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Khan family, Alicia Machado…
Along the way he shook off his history of dehumanizing women — to the glee of the crowd at the first GOP debate — and inspired a flood of online racism, anti-semitism, and hate from his supporters that the candidate did just about nothing to contain.
It’s obvious that Trump deserves the impending electoral drubbing he’d already earned even before a leaked tape exposed the GOP nominee bragging about how his fame let him “do anything” to women. He was already headed to the bad end of an electoral college landslide, punctuated by what will likely be the worst performance with minority voters for any Republican since 1964.
But just as Trump deserves to be scarred with the filth of his words and conduct forever, the GOP deserves any damage the Trump does to its stature.
Just last week Paul Ryan promised he would use a Trump victory to “steamroll” huge tax breaks for the rich while revoking the health insurance of 20 million Americans before winter’s end.
As Trump goes up in flames, so does that dream of transferring trillions in dollars in wealth to the richest, who have never been richer. With it goes a once-in-a-generation chance to dominate all three branches of the government.
In exchange, the GOP gets two new swing states to defend — Arizona and Georgia — with the possibility of a third, Texas, which if and when it turns blue could end the GOP’s hopes of ever winning the White House again.
Yes, Texas is likely safe for the GOP, for now and the next decade. And the reason for this reveals why the GOP deserves Trump even more than the Trump deserves the GOP.
Today — in 2016 — it is more difficult to register voters in Texas than it was in Mississippi during 1964’s historic Freedom Summer.
“Texas treats voter registration like a criminal offense and makes it as difficult as possible to do,” writes The Nation‘s Ari Berman.
The state’s laws make it costly and risky to launch the kind of voter registration drive necessary to get 2.2 million unregistered Latinos and 750,000 unregistered African-Americans on the voting rolls. And you can see why: Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 by about 1.3 million votes.
Texas’ investment in keeping likely Democratic voters away from ballots is decades old, but the GOP’s decision to make an assault on voting rights a national priority is more recent.
In 2000, the Bush Administration — which had lost the popular vote and only won the state of Florida thanks the Supreme Court and a voter purge that took place under Governor Jeb Bush — launched “a dramatic effort to restrict voting rights,” Berman reports.
A five-year effort found no significant evidence of voting fraud. But the real fraud was the idea that they were troubled by voting fraud. The plague the GOP was obviously determined to root out was the “wrong people” voting.
To stop “them,” the administration approved the first voter-ID law, an unnecessary burden meant to address a problem that doesn’t exist. Only 31 cases of voting impersonation were identified in over a billion votes while countless thousands, or maybe even millions by now, have been barred from the polls by laws designed to shrink the electorate.
The notion that black Americans voting is implicitly fraudulent is as old as black Americans voting. And the GOP hyped that trope up to eleven after President Obama was elected, laying the groundwork for a flurry of restrictions on voting in red states unlike anything we’d seen since the 1960s.
Most of the worst of these egregious attacks on voting were blocked in time for the 2012 election. Still, despite evidence we were in the midst of a coordinated effort to deny the vote to Americans who’d suffered historical discrimination, a conservative Congressional majority fulfilled a conservative dream of gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
What followed was an explosion of new laws that barely bothered to hide their real purpose. North Carolina’s “monster” anti-voting law targeted black voters with “almost surgical precision,” a federal judge found.
Legislatively, the GOP’s assault on President Obama’s legitimacy was unlike anything America had ever seen before.
From the night of his inauguration, conservatives vowed to block anything he was for, even though the country was at the nadir of recession that the GOP had led us into and Obama made a historic effort to embrace Republican ideas, including Mitt Romney’s framework for health care reform.
Even before they’d built a historically large House majority out of districts that were 95 percent majority-white, Republican opposition was relentless. It nearly led us into debt default that would have crashed the global economy. And it actually led us into a government shutdown based on the premise that Obama, who had just been reelected, should give up the signature accomplishment of his first term.
By 2016, the contempt for Obama had become institutionalized as the GOP refused consider a president’s budget and the GOP would not even grant a hearing for the president’s appointment to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, leaving the seat open for the longest period of time in American history to be filled by… Donald Trump.
While the GOP toyed with ways of stopping Trump, the collective action problem of the primary became a full-on embrace of the nominee by fall, with RNC chairman Reince Priebus threatening to punish any Republican who didn’t back Trump.
Then came the “grab them by the p**sy” tape and Republicans were finally threatened with the loss of something they valued — the votes of white women voters.
Rats began to flee the sinking Trump ship, but the deck was already mostly underwater.
Evidence suggests that thanks to the party’s co-dependent relationship with Donald Trump, the GOP may be on the verge of permanently losing two of the fastest growing groups of new voters — Latinos and Asian-Americans. Support from these two groups is dipping toward a percentage in the single digits, suggesting that the GOP could lose their support in the way they’ve lost the African-American vote since the 1964 election, the point that marked the GOP’s surrender to — or willing embrace of — its fate as the party of white America.
In 1968, the GOP’s pivot to the white was incredibly well timed. Fueled by a historic corporate investment in moving the country to the right, Republicans rode a demographic wave to a conservative revolution that undermined many of the policies that built the middle class.
In 2016, betting on white may help you keep an immaculately gerrymandered House of Representatives.It’s a recipe for electoral disaster that may be buffered by a heartless restriction of voting rights as well shameless obstruction — but not for long.
IMAGE: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the Republican National Convention winter meetings in San Diego, California January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake