It is looking more like Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. This should surprise no one, with this pompous monstrosity the logical conclusion of four decades of divisive Republican rhetoric and bigoted policies. Where else did the delusional party elite think this Frankenstein experiment was headed?
This week offered a vivid example of Trump’s extremism. At one rally, he confronted a protester by repeatedly asking if he were a Mexican. At another event, Trump teased the riled crowd while they chanted, “All Lives Matter,” in gleeful defiance of the Black Lives Matter movement. At just the right moment, Trump gave the rabid audience the bloody red meat they so desperately desired when he uttered their racist refrain, thinly disguised as a statement of equality: “All Lives Matter,” Trump disdainfully bellowed.
In this exalted moment of communal awe and ecstasy, Trump was reduced to a sitcom character delivering a delicious crowd pleasing line – almost like Gary Coleman in “Different Strokes” when he’d purse his lips, narrow his eyes and say, “what you talking about Willis.” And the studio audience would erupt. Except the Trump version was ferocious, not funny, cruel instead of comedic.
After his Super Tuesday victories, Trump daftly pivoted from offending to pretending. In surreal fashion, he somehow claimed with a straight face that he was a “unifier” who would “expand the Republican Party.” In a sense he is correct, in the span of a week he was lauded by former KKK leader David Duke and extremist Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who said he liked Trump because the Jews did not own the sort of self-funded businessman. No doubt Mel Gibson is probably waiting in the wings deciding when to drop a strategically timed endorsement.
Equally disingenuous to The Donald Show, is House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pathetic attempt to cast the Republican Party’s values as squarely at odds with the Party’s likely nominee. Looking stern and deeply troubled, Ryan said at a press conference that Trump’s rhetoric was a “fundamental break from conservative orthodoxy. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”
Who is Paul Ryan kidding? If it weren’t for divisive wedge issues, serial gay bashing, the racist Southern Strategy, attempts to suppress voting rights, and now anger at Mexicans, Muslims, and Black Lives Matter – what would be left of the GOP? Who would vote for them?
Half the party apparatus has become metastasized prejudice in search of policy and politicians who are willing support bigotry under the auspices of opposing political correctness. The other half are the selfish party elite who embraced and enabled the rabble so they could get tax cuts and become even richer. In that sense, the GOP country club establishment literally sold out the future of the Republican Party and by extension America.
Still, the double talk and cynicism of Paul Ryan is breathtaking. In the mid-1970’s GOP leaders lavished praise on anti-ERA campaigners like Phyllis Schlafly. In the late part of the decade they endorsed Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, and when that hate group deteriorated, they embraced Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition. In the 1988 presidential race, the Republican Party accepted the nutty televangelist Pat Robertson as a legitimate candidate. In 1992, commentator and known anti-Semite Pat Buchanan spoke of the Culture War at the GOP convention in Houston, while Vice President Dan Quayle bashed Murphy Brown and spoke of “family values.”
In the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush won with voter suppression efforts, particularly in Florida. He won reelection in 2004, in part, by having Karl Rove place nasty, gay bashing ballot infinitives in swing states that constitutionally banned marriage for same-sex couples. John McCain added to the GOP’s decline by offering his vice presidential nomination to Sarah Palin, who talked of her exclusionary “real America.”
Let’s also not forget that party elites and the Koch brothers gave rise to the Teabaggers, who brought new level of classlessness and vitriol into the American political system – much of it directed with racial ferocity at President Barack Obama.
Given this heinous history of campaigns to scapegoat minorities, how is Paul Ryan or anyone surprised by the rise of the big, bad Trump Monster?
To paraphrase singer Ani DiFranco – as bad as Trump’s GOP is – it’s actually worse than it seems. In South Carolina, a CBS Newsexit poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters supported banning Muslims from the United States. A PPP poll found that a third of Trump voters support banning gays and lesbians from the country. Twenty percent said Lincoln shouldn’t have freed the slaves.
Vox reports that Matthew MacWilliams, a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst did his dissertation research on authoritarianism. “People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear,” said the researcher. MacWilliams found that authoritarianism was the most common and predictable trait for those whom embraced Trump’s candidacy.
The Republican Party is Donald Trump and Donald Trump is the Republican Party. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to dupe you into ignoring more than forty years of ignoble history.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”