John Scalzi wrote about Trump, the GOP, and the Fall. He’s got a really fun beginning.
At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.
He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all.
But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake.
Here’s the main point:
But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.
Chatherine Rampell wrote in The Washington Post, When the facts don’t matter, how can democracy survive?.
But this anti-intellectual, ignore-the-data attitude mostly owes its growth to a careless, conspiracy-theorizing league of (mostly) conservative politicians and pundits. They elevated themselves by sowing distrust in traditional institutions and sources of authority, from the media to civil servants to scientists. They presented themselves as the sole truth-tellers, system de-riggers and messianic statistics unskewers, while maintaining that everyone else was feeding the public lies.
Today, some of these same message-bearers are the victims of their own success. The most prominent right-wing media outlet, Fox News, has been attacked by even more right-wing media outlets for supposedly conspiring against Trump. Fox News’s own polls, for example, stand accused of pro-Clinton skewing.
The problem with elevating yourself by tearing down the existing authoritative institutions is that once you succeed, you’ve established a road map for others to tear you down, too. There will always be someone waiting in the wings with an even juicier conspiracy theory, an even zanier hidden truth, an even more intricate data-unskewing method — and there’s no longer any authority left to debunk any of it. This is how a democracy crumbles: not with a bang, but with data trutherism.
A couple of months ago Richard Wolffe wrote in The Guardian The GOP tried to sink Obama. Instead, the party imploded.
Obama’s biggest threat was that he could realign American politics, shifting it fundamentally towards progressives for a generation. He and his campaign aides talked privately of being the Reagan of the left: a transformative figure who would leave an indelible legislative mark at home and restore America’s position on the world stage.
So the GOP leadership chose to make Obama unacceptable, unpalatable and un-American. On the night of his first inauguration, House Republican leaders met at a Washington steakhouse to plot their path back to power. They would not reform their policies or consider the root cause of their defeat. Instead, they would oppose Obama on everything, well before he tried to pass a giant stimulus bill or healthcare reform.
They needed to deny him a reputation for bipartisanship and mainstream politics, and they succeeded. He wasn’t reasonable; he was an ideologue. His vision of healthcare reform wasn’t a free-market system based on Republican plans; it was a socialist takeover that would destroy the American way of life. He was inviting terrorist attacks on the homeland, not hunting down Osama bin Laden. He was acting in unconstitutional ways because he wasn’t really American at all.
And a couple of months before John McCain says he’ll vote against any Hillary Supreme Court nominee, Wolffe suggests:
This should lead to some serious soul-searching inside the Republican party. Not a post-mortem about how to reach out to Latino voters, but a dismantling of the politics of personal destruction, and the creation of a new, hopeful agenda that can appeal to the mainstream. Instead, the only point of unity inside the GOP is its gleeful hatred of Hillary Clinton, and its thinly veiled disdain for a nominee who has yet to find a politician he can’t insult.
Jennifer Victor writes in Mischiefs of Faction on Vox, The chaos in the GOP reveals the flaw in democracy we don’t usually see.
The chaos in the Republican Party we now observe is a natural byproduct of competing majorities. At this late stage in the game, the party lacks an institutional mechanism that would force stability, or coordination, in the party over its nominee. The party failed to coordinate on a candidate that might provide the appearance of a stable majority.
Democracy can only enact the “will of the people” if the will exists. What we’re seeing from Republicans is a classic preference cycle. There is no single majority preference among the members of the party; rather, there are different majorities that prefer different outcomes. At this late stage in the presidential campaign, we lack institutions that limit our ability to observe different majorities, and the result is chaos.
For some good news, Nancy LeTourneau talks about How Big Is Clinton’s Lead? “This race isn’t nearly as close as 2012 and – as we’ve pointed out before – Trump has never led the race at any point. But there is something else this chart demonstrates. When pundits report that this has been a remarkably stable race, it is true that Trump has always captured about 42% of the vote. But look at what is happening to Clinton’s numbers recently. There is a clear upswing that puts her average very close to 50%.”