Friday, September 29, 2017

Trumpism Fractures the Republican Party. How Is This Happening and at What Price?

I could give a flying crap what happens to the unctuous GOP, except that its destruction would leave a vacuum, and it's what would fill it that is truly frightening.

Senate candidate Roy Moore waves a gun while campaigning. A sign of the times?

 Not only is Roy Moore the odds-on favorite of winning the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but he represents a key turning point on the road to a new and still uglier face of today's Republican Party. It's no consolation that Trump supported his opponent, Luther Strange. For the forces at work that makes a Moore candidacy, let alone his election, even conceivable depends upon Trump's shredding of long-established norms.

The you-break-it-you-own-it rule has been turned on its head in the age of Trump. After all, his famous "grab 'em by the pussy" comment that so many observers expected to destroy his candidacy may have won him votes rather than wrecked his chances.

Want to know how far from established norms we've come with the Moore moment in time? Michelle Goldberg, recently installed as columnist at the New York Times, has a revealing column that is frightening in its implications. She recalls one of then Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's decisions in a case involving a lesbian mother whose children he gladly withheld from her:
“Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated,” wrote Moore. He added, “The state carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”
Yes, you read that right: Moore advocated the execution of homosexuals as one of God's dictums. That was then, this is now, where a campaigning Roy Moore saw it fit to brandish a handgun at a rally to impress upon his voters his commitment to the 2nd Amendment.

Yes, this follows from the crushing of norms Donald Trump has ushered in. Recall Trump's words on the loyalty of his base:
I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.
Shockingly, he may be right. So what is at the core of his magnetism, his "Make America Great Again" pull? Michelle Goldberg finds it in the ultra-conservative underpinnings of the rise of fascism in pre-Nazi Germany:
In trying to understand the movement I was reporting on [the rise of Christian nationalism], I turned to scholars of authoritarianism and fascism. If their words seemed relevant then, they’re even more so now. Fritz Stern, a historian who fled Nazi Germany, described the “conservative revolution” that prefigured National Socialism: “The movement did embody a paradox: its followers sought to destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future.”
Destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future. Sounds about right in describing the Bannon-shaped world view Trumpism aspires to uphold. The pity is that the ardent supporters of this view are asking a narcissistic, grossly uninformed billionaire -- whose main skill set is his ability to obscure his intentions while fighting by any means in order to dominate -- to do for them what he has no intention of doing.

While much of Trump's support shrinks to include only those few who believe in this "idealized past," the rest of us must suffer the collapse of what has actually made America if not great then at least a stable nation in a stable world. Now, however, all bets are off.

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