GOP’s tribal loyalty will be its downfall
Many years from now, Americans are going to look back on the election of the 45th President Donald J. Trump with a mixture of fascination and horror. I think 2016 will be remembered as the year that the Democrats found a way to lose an election that nobody thought they could lose, and the Republicans nominated a man that nobody thought could win, a man who had only one point of intersection with the party — the celebration of centralized wealth.
Since the early 1980s, the GOP has branded itself as the party of “family values,” the party of patriotism, and the party of conservative government and low taxes. The rise of Trump has resulted not in a “broadening” of the definition of these basic Republican planks, but a systematic dismantling of them. While it is true that some notable Republicans have walked away from Trump, including conservative media stalwarts such as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Sullivan, and David Brooks, the polls continue to show that most of his core has remained steady in its support. But at what price to the integrity of the party?
How, for example, can the party of family values possibly justify supporting Roy Moore in his bid for a senate seat in Alabama? Perhaps because the party chose to look the other way when Trump himself was accused by multiple women of sexual assault during his campaign, and look the other way again when he admitted grabbing women “by the pussy” on videotape. First he dismissed his words as “locker room,” talk, and recently he suggested the tape was a fake, perhaps his favorite word, one he uses frequently as an all-purpose adjective for anything he finds disagreeable.
Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, both Democrats, have recently announced their resignations after being accused of sexual misconduct, but so far the GOP has given Trump and Moore a pass, even though both have been accused by multiple women of far worse behavior, especially in Moore’s case. Moore is alleged to have had a series of sexual relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
The same party that obsessed for years over the sex lives of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton just can’t seem to work up any interest at all in the sex lives of Donald Trump, Roy Moore, New Gingrich, or anyone else that bears the Republican brand. Apparently, even a candidate accused of having sex with underage school girls is tolerable if he will vote for those tax cuts.
Now, about those tax cuts. During President Obama’s administration, Republicans were utterly obsessed with the national deficit. They insisted that the deficit was the single biggest problem facing America today, and that serious spending cuts and sacrifices were absolutely necessary in order to cut the deficit. This was one of the major talking points in any Republican campaign from coast to coast during the Obama administration. The scourge of an out of control deficit must be stopped!
Now, of course, Trump is on the verge of his first major legislative victory during his first year in office, the narrow passage of his tax plan which would tack on anywhere from $500 billion to $1.5 trillion to the deficit, according to a number of nonpartisan estimates. Think about it: since the election of Trump, when have you heard a Republican talking about the deficit? Their obsession seems to be under control now, even though the actual deficit is going to get much, much worse. And who are the primary beneficiaries of the tax plan? The wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest corporations, and by a long shot.
Since the Reagan administration, Republicans have used the mythology of trickle down economics to redistribute the wealth in America. The biggest farce you will ever hear is when right-wingers claim that Barack Obama divided this country. The real division in this country is not racial, but economic, as the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider every time a Republican is in the White House and has an enabling House and Senate. Huge tax cuts go to the wealthy, a few crumbs to the middle class, and nothing at all for the poor. The divide widens, and then Republicans use social issues to make us think that the divide is about something other than economics. It is true that we are divided in other ways, but by far the biggest and most meaningful divide is the gap between the rich and the poor, with the middle class ever shrinking, thanks in no small part to the fake news of trickle-down economics.
Then there is the investigation of Robert Mueller into Trump-Russia collusion, and the growing pressure from many in the party to end the investigation. Even though several key members of Trump’s campaign or administration, including Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, have been charged, once again we see this willingness on the part of many Republicans to look the other way as the investigation intensifies.
Is this what passes for patriotism now, this party-above-country tribal loyalty? Regardless of what he says or does, Trump will be defended by millions of Americans who are so deeply invested now that looking the other way has become a way of life.