The Republican Party Did This To Themselves
The Republican Party has spent the last eight years telling its base fables.
Obama is a socialist who has set out to destroy your country. Lower taxes on the rich stimulates the economy. The Affordable Care Act is a government takeover of health care. Mexican immigrants are pouring over the border to take your jobs. Climate change isn’t real. Gay marriage has a negative effect on society. The IRS is targeting conservatives. Hell, we don’t even need the IRS, or the Department of Education, or the EPA. We are going to win the 2012 Presidential Election. We are going to shutdown the government and that will force the President to bend to our will and the majority of the citizenry will love us for it. Voter fraud is a serious issue. The Black Lives Matter movement is racist. Obama is coming for your guns. Your Christianity is under attack.
The litany goes on and on, tale after tale, lie after lie that painted Obama’s America as antithetical to “real” American values, that portrayed the President and his political party as existentially destructive forces to liberty, freedom, God, country, and the Constitution. Rigidly cling to your values and beliefs, dear conservatives, in the face of all evidence, because the leftists and their so-called ‘facts’ are not to be trusted.
There are corners of the liberal Internet that like to paint Republican politicians as dumb. I don’t believe that for a second.
Rather, I don’t believe Republicans are dumb with any higher frequency than their Democratic counterparts. Of course they knew what they were doing. They were conditioning their voters to fundamentally distrust every word that came out of the President’s mouth.
Their base was terrified of Obama (you can decide why they were so scared for yourself). So, as the oppositional party, the Republicans exploited that fear. Fermented it. Validated it. “You know that feeling you have in the pit of your stomach, that sense that Obama represents the forces of darkness and is a threat to your way of life? That’s totally legit. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Also please send us $5.”
The Republican base doesn’t give a shit about facts because the Republican Party taught them not to. They did that because it helped them win elections. It helped drive turn-out and fuel conservative take-overs of Congress, governorships, and state legislatures.
So now a candidate has arisen who the elite finds distasteful, who appeals to the fears and anxieties of a voting bloc that believes their country is being taken away from them (fears that the Republican party’s establishment was all too happy to flirt with in elections past for their own political gain). And the establishment has chosen to try to combat him with facts. With honest-to-God truth. And they think that’s going to work?
How the hell are you going to convince millions of people that facts all of a sudden matter? How can you tell people that demonizing the other is hateful, wrong, and unproductive when you’ve been demonizing President Obama as an other – accusing him of not even being a citizen at times – for almost as long as he’s been a public figure? How can you say with a straight face that the frontrunner for your party’s nomination is a con man spewing nonsense when you as a party have been condoning the spewing of nonsense by con men for eight years in the name of saving the country from the liberal agenda?
Prime example: Mitt Romney got up on national television last week and denounced the current GOP frontrunner’s flagrant misogyny, xenophobia, and fear mongering. He did it with all the bluster and self-righteousness of somebody who gets up on national television and denounces those sort of things.
The frontrunner responded with “Well, you accepted my endorsement in 2012. You didn’t seem to have a problem with me then.” And you know what? The frontrunner ain’t wrong. Ol’ Mitt held a big press conference with the guy in February of 2012, throwing his arms around him in gratitude, celebrating his endorsement.
While the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination has certainly spewed a whole bunch of vile nonsense since 2012, it’s not as if he developed a newfound talent for spewing a whole bunch of vile nonsense in the past four years. He’d been spewing vile nonsense for a long time before 2012. The Central Park 5 thing had already happened. The Rosie O’Donnell thing had already happened. The birther thing had literally just happened.
And Ol’ Mitt legitimized him. He welcomed him into respectable Republican politics with open arms. Mitt ostensibly was the one getting an endorsement, but Mitt was endorsing this kind of thinking right back.
Now all of a sudden he has a problem with Drumpf’s statements? Come on, man.
The Republican Party has had zero reservations about peddling in misogyny, race-baiting, and xenophobia until now. Now that they realize what a bad look explicitly doing so is, they’re trying to disavow it. All of a sudden, they want their base to buy, “You know that gnarly stuff we’ve been telling you is okay for the past little while? Yeah, it’s not okay now. Please stop saying it and voting for people who say it.”
Super PACs are throwing millions of dollars behind “exposés,” trying to redirect attention to the obvious fallacies behind the image this frontrunner has created for himself. The establishment is acting as if the voters are being tricked, as if by simply exposing that the Emperor is, indeed, butt-ass naked and speaking straightforward, rather than cloaking his bigotry in euphemisms and B.S., they’ll get the base in line.
The base knows the Emperor is naked. They can see that. They have eyes. They’re not dumb. They’ve just been taught that it’s perfectly reasonable for a man with supreme sovereignty over the land to not wear any clothes. It’s preferable, even. Even when it’s cold out. Even when the rest of the world is laughing at the esteemed leader. And don’t listen to the haters that say otherwise.
His supporters know all about the fake universities, the failed brands, the lies and self-contradictions. They just don’t care because for a long time their party told them that it’s okay not to care. If facts contradict what you believe, then the facts are the problem.
The Republican Party has a major (some might say “yuuuuge”) problem on its hands. They’re waging war with the Beast they created. Rebuke it, and you alienate the people that have elevated you to higher office for a long time and risk losing a ton of future elections. Embrace it, and lose any last remnants of dignity you’ve managed to maintain over the past few years in the eyes of the global community.
Here’s an optimistic view of how this all ends: This is a wake-up call for the Republican Party. Donors and party elites alike decide that this is not who they want their party to be anymore. They accept that they aren’t going to win the 2016 election and are okay with that. They start to rebuild the party around knowable facts and generating actual human solutions to the cavalcade of problems this country faces. We have two functioning, intelligent parties that have a vested interest in governing, and choose to offer the people real choices come Election Day.
The flipside of that scenario is that we’ll still have this base, this massive and scared portion of the nation that craves red meat, dysfunction, and chaos. We’re still going to address their fears and concerns, irrational though they may be, because we all live in this country together and our fate is tied to theirs. We can’t just close our eyes and hope people who don’t agree with us go away. They’re people just like us – and unlike the Republican’s leaderships’ standard of governance, it’s a good idea to work with those who don’t agree with us rather than pretend they don’t exist.
But we’re not going to be able to figure that out until we acknowledge what got us in this mess in the first place, and how a specific brand of rhetoric brought about these events. The Republican Party needs to have their reckoning, and if this, this national nervous breakdown, is what it takes to make that happen, then perhaps in the end this will have been healthy for us all.