Friday, March 18, 2016

Has the GOP Political Bargain Blown Up in Their Faces?

Lyndon Johnson handed the Dixiecrats to the Republicans by signing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. And now the chickens have come home to roost.

All you need to know: George Wallace was a Democrat.

Richard Nixon didn't invent the Southern Strategy. It was handed to him on a silver platter. Lyndon Johnson understood this when he declined to run again. Vietnam had certainly wounded him, but giving civil and voting rights to "nigras," as George Wallace used to call them, had ruined him in southern voters' eyes.

Now, almost a half-century later, a kind of reverse implosion is occurring. The GOP had managed its own form of a big tent by bringing a seemingly incongruous gang together: actual conservatives, Randian libertarians, evangelicals, disaffected whites (also known as Reagan Democrats), and, yes, outright racists. Because of long-simmering resentment of John Kennedy and his Bays of Pigs fiasco, this tent also included a hefty number of Cuban exiles. Because many Latinos are religiously conservative, they too found some room. George W. Bush, in fact, relied on them in his win (cough) in 2000, garnering 35 percent of their vote, a number that startlingly rose to as much as 44 percent in 2004.

Those days are long over. As the Republican Party drifted rightward over the last two decades, they've shed a lot of supporters, many of them because the party just hasn't delivered what these groups were looking for and, quite likely, never intended to.

Now we have a definite rarefied breed: Trump Republicans. Timothy Egan writes about them in today's NYTimes:
Long ago and far away, in the days when white men in power ties and women in funny hats gathered in air-conditioned caverns to hammer out the Republican Party platform, it was a predictable affair. The G.O.P. was for less taxes and less government, free trade and free people, a scolding of victims and grievance-mongers, and a vision of social norms circa 1952.
As time went on, they let the cranks and the racists in, the fact-deniers and the extreme gun nuts, the xenophobes and the nature-haters, because the big tent could take in all that extra gas without overheating. They would tolerate those people, who you picture looking like that dude who sucker-punched a protester at a Trump rally, because they needed them.
Now imagine the Republican Party gathering for its convention in Cleveland and hammering out a vanity platform in Donald Trump’s image. It’s all walls and no bridges. Free trade is gone. Taxes? Who knows. There will be a call for more government, through a bloated military, and untouched benefits for seniors who must be pandered to. Most significantly, it’s a party of grudges and grievances, of anger and fear by that formerly detested class — victims.
Yes, they are victims, victims first of the party that pandered to them and gave them nothing, and victims to the shrinking opportunities that plague America. Cutting taxes on the "job creators" turns out to not create jobs, and eventually the Supreme Court was going to figure out what the word equality means and apply it to a host of freaky freaks, including women (!) and LBGTQers. What's a straight white guy to do? Hint: Vote for Trump.

This is finally a bridge too far for David Brooks, who danced around apostasy until he realized he owned it. No, Not Trump, Not Ever:
The question is: Should deference be paid to this victor? Should we bow down to the judgment of these voters?
Well, some respect is in order. Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.
Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.
And yet reality is reality.
Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.
Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes. All politicians stretch the truth, but Trump has a steady obliviousness to accuracy.
Brooks doesn't simply say he cannot support Donald Trump. He is, more or less, ordering American citizens to come to their senses before it's too late. For the central conservative columnist for the Paper of Record, them's some serious words.

We shouldn't be surprised when his liberal counterpart ramps up the schadenfreude on the Republican establishment with his Friday column. Krugman lays it on thick:
To be sure, social collapse in the white working class is a deadly serious issue. Literally. Last fall, the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton attracted widespread attention with a paper showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans, which had been declining for generations, started rising again circa 2000. This rising death rate mainly reflected suicide, alcohol and overdoses of drugs, notably prescription opioids. (Marx declared that religion was the opium of the people. But in 21st-century America, it appears that opioids are the opium of the people.)
And other signs of social unraveling, from deteriorating health to growing isolation, are also on the rise among American whites. Something is going seriously wrong in the heartland.
Furthermore, the writers at National Review are right to link these social ills to the Trump phenomenon. Call it death and The Donald: Analysis of primary election results so far shows that counties with high white mortality rates are also likely to vote Trump.
Krugman goes on to point out two crucial facts, born out by studies: one, that this white working-class is suffering the same calamities long experienced by blacks, and, two, that this is not happening in European social democracies with better safety nets for their citizens, even as their economies suffer through even worse downturns than we in America have faced.

Donald Trump is fiercely unpopular, netting an unfavorable rating of 60 percent. So this candidacy of a particularly ill-chosen leader of the downtrodden whites seems doomed at the outset. But history teaches us not to be over-confident. If only we could have shown Germans in 1928 images of 1945, they might have reconsidered. Let's hope Americans can avoid a similar mistake.

No doubt we're at a most bizarre set of crossroads. This time, we must know which way to go.

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