In his New York Times column today, Paul Krugman basically summarizes everything I've been writing about the Republican primary for the last eight months:
So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.If I have said once, I have literally said two dozen times that Trump is not an outlier, but the unfiltered id of the Republican Party—and that Republicans who feign horror at the specter of his getting the nomination are full of shit, because his policies are not, as they continually insist, outside the mainstream Republican platform, but centered firmly within it. That, if anything, he is less extreme in some ways than his current competitors.
But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.
Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?
Mr. Ryan also declares that the "party of Lincoln" must "reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry." Has he ever heard of Nixon's "Southern strategy"; of Ronald Reagan's invocations of welfare queens and "strapping young bucks" using food stamps; of Willie Horton?Behold your roosting chickens, Republicans: "The political leadership taught their base too well whom to blame for what ails them, and thus cannot now move them from their fixed gaze and finger-pointing, even as it isn't helping the party anymore—and stands likely to hurt the party for the foreseeable future. They sowed the seeds of prejudice for decades, and now they reap nothing but the only crop such seeds can yield. ...And now the party elites have the temerity to publicly lament that the genie won't go back in the bottle. 'What happened to my party?' wonder the vanishing moderates of the Republican Party, shaking their heads gravely and publicly wringing their hands, before shuffling off to wash them of any responsibility."
Put it this way: There's a reason whites in the Deep South vote something like 90 percent Republican, and it's not their philosophical attachment to libertarian principles.
In fact, you have to wonder why, exactly, the Republican establishment is really so horrified by Mr. Trump. Yes, he's a con man, but they all are. So why is this con job different from any other?Behold your roosting chickens, Republicans: "Nothing is more dangerous to the GOP brand than a nominee who flatly refuses to pretend that their policies are anything but what they actually are. ...The challenge for Republican elites has always been how you convince people who aren't obscenely wealthy to vote for a platform designed to exploit them. So they developed a strategy based on appealing to bigotry, to othering and scapegoating and victim-blaming. And then they dressed it up in cynical language about morality. Donald Trump in particular has no use for this masquerade. He's quite content, proud even, thankyouverymuch, to blaze through the campaign trail without any of the requisite delicacy. Because he knows that decades of building a base by fomenting hatred doesn't require it anymore."
The answer, I'd suggest, is that the establishment's problem with Mr. Trump isn't the con he brings; it's the cons he disrupts.
First, there's the con Republicans usually manage to pull off in national elections — the one where they pose as a serious, grown-up party honestly trying to grapple with America's problems. The truth is that that party died a long time ago, that these days it's voodoo economics and neocon fantasies all the way down. But the establishment wants to preserve the facade, which will be hard if the nominee is someone who refuses to play his part.
...Equally important, the Trump phenomenon threatens the con the G.O.P. establishment has been playing on its own base. I'm talking about the bait and switch in which white voters are induced to hate big government by dog whistles about Those People, but actual policies are all about rewarding the donor class.
The entire narrative around Trump's ascendance is total rubbish. Deeply mendacious rubbish, fueled by Republican elites who want to deflect accountability for spending decades laying the groundwork for a candidate exactly like Donald Trump.
And the media not only fails to interrogate this narrative, but helpfully disseminates it.
Just this morning, I read this LA Times piece about the GOP elites' risky plan to stop Trump, in which was this passage: "[Mitt Romney] and other mainstream party leaders say the circumstances this time are extraordinary—citing Trump's sharp departures from long-held conservative policies and coarse rhetoric that is hurting the party's efforts to look more inclusive."
What "sharp departures from long-held conservative policies" are those, exactly? I see this framing over and over, without any evidence to back it up. We're just meant to take as read that Donald Trump diverges significantly from conservative policies, despite the fact that he clearly doesn't.
The real issue is that he's "hurting the party's efforts to look more inclusive." Look being the operative word. The Republican Party is not actually trying to be more inclusive, but merely to look that way. And Trump doesn't have any use for that pretense.
Truly, the only conservative policy from which he has taken a sharp departure is the policy of pretending to give a single fuck about the appearance of decency.
Anyway. Krugman's column is validating. Maybe now that an Important White Dude is saying it, the media heretofore insistent on repeating ad nauseum these bullshit talking points about Trump and his party will reconsider.
[H/T to syb on Twitter.]