Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Donald Trump Isn’t An Alien Invader - He’s What The GOP Has Been Asking For All Along

Published in HuffPost
September 15, 2016 - 10:37 pm ET
By Rich Weissman, Black Butte Ranch, Oregon (www.richweissman.com)​

Donald Trump isn’t an alien invader from outer space who landed his flying saucer on American soil and seized control. Rather, he’s the terminus of an intentional and insidious journey the GOP has been taking for years. He epitomizes what they have ultimately pursued all along, and only now are they learning that the journey’s end is a place of devastation for them. As the headlines blast the message of the impending demise of the GOP, and as the Republican leadership desperately tries to keep things afloat with unsuccessful interventions, the party is coming to understand that Trump represents the final leg of the GOP journey which has led to its downfall.

The issue is quite simple: the GOP is imploding not because of Trump; it is imploding because of what the Republicans themselves brought to the political table over the past several years, their just dessert a Trump GOP nomination victory. Trump is not the disease that infects the Republican party; Trump is the final symptom that appears as the disease consumes and destroys.

For many years, the GOP has been focused on one thing: hating Democrats, and hating them personally. The focus has not been on providing opposing points of views or opposing plans. The GOP modus operandi has not only been to demonize and delegitimize Democrats as messengers of opposing ideas, but as people. From Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, Michelle Bachmann and the others, they attack Democrats by claiming illegitimacies of citizenship, by stripping them of their identities, and by describing them not by policy differences but by personal attributes which dehumanize. They say that President Obama isn’t an American and that he’s not Christian. They say that Hillary Clinton is a thief, a murderer, and also is not Christian. They develop personal conspiracies about the Democrats, and they suggest ad hominem violence as a mechanism for eradicating Democrats. Republicans have moved from principles to personal hatreds, personal conspiracies, and personal vendettas. And they blame the media. They hate the media. These are the politics of personal hatred that have become core to the Republican party for some time. All Trump has done is vocalize it in a much louder way.

Trump’s language is simply a continuation of the GOP’s focus on character assassination, just taken a step further and more crude. From “crooked” Hillary, “Pocahontas” Elizabeth, “foreign-born Muslim” Barack Hussein Obama, to all the other name-calling we’ve come to hear from him. But Trump is not the author of these barbs; the GOP defined these attributes long before this election cycle. Trump simply goes further and calls people “weak” and “loser” and “ugly”. He demeans U.S. judges, and war heroes, and their families. And he does what the Republicans think of as unfathomable; he says those things about Republicans, too. He says things like “lying” Ted and “little” Marco. No one is immune to his personal name calling. He typically doesn’t call his opponents by their last names or their titles, other than President Obama whom he calls by his full name, making sure to include his middle name. It’s not President Obama, or Senator Clinton or Madame Secretary, or Senator Warren, or even Senator Rubio or Senator Cruz. His name games are a way of degrading people on a personal level. Strip them of their titles and positions, infantilize them and taunt them.

These kinds of taunts are also hurled at the media, particularly female reporters. From Megyn Kelly to Katy Tur, he targets them individually, then threatens leaders with physical harm. But the GOP has talked hatefully about the media for years, perhaps just not in such an open and crass manner as Trump.

Trump focuses on conspiracy theories that indict his opponents. He says that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the founders of ISIS. He says that the election is rigged. He says that Ghazala Kahn was forced to be silent because of her religion. He claims that Senator Cruz’s father was part of the Kennedy assassination. Although I am not a Cruz supporter, and I disagree with him on almost all issues, I do not believe that his father was a co-conspirator in Kennedy’s death. But the incubation of conspiracy theories is not new to the GOP. It’s been part of their tactics for years.

Here’s the fundamental issue: the Republicans see politics as sport. One team wins; one team loses. One is victorious; one is humiliated. In sports, there is no compromise, no win-win, no working together, no common goal. It’s about being the victor. That’s not politics, where common vision and common purpose should prevail, albeit with opposing views on the best way to achieve that vision and purpose. Politics should be different than a sporting match. But Republicans have taken the competitive approach. No compromise. No consensus-building. Win at all costs. Shut the government down if necessary. Never reach across the aisle. Don’t find common ground. Do whatever it takes to humiliate the opposition. Trump has adopted this same approach, just with much more gusto.

Trump merely exaggerates the plays taken from the GOP playbook. The Republicans don’t say things like “Unemployment is down significantly since President Obama took office, and that’s good for America. But we think we can bring it down even more with the following plan...” Instead, they say that the unemployment statistics are rigged. They don’t say “Benghazi was a terrible tragedy, and we foolishly supported the reduction of funds for embassy security. But we think we can better protect our embassies in the future with the following plan...” Instead, they claim the attack and supposed cover-up were some kind of conspiracy initiated by then Secretary Clinton. The list of purported conspiracies is endless, and those conspiracies are so byzantine in nature that they could make even fiction writers’ heads spin.

All this results in GOP talk of impeaching President Obama, dismissing specific Supreme Court justices who don’t support GOP interests, refusing to appoint a new SCOTUS justice, and in the end, suggesting retaliation and physical harm against individual opponents. Pointed threats to specific people and reporters. Anti-Hillary Clinton shouts of “lock her up“, “”hang her“, or illusions to assassination. This is where this GOP approach ends up. Not just in the gutter, but in the morgue.

This is now the public perception of the GOP. And Americans don’t like it. They are turning against the Republicans in droves, and to make matters worse for the GOP, Trump is even turning on his own.

So as we listen in horror to the rantings of Trump at his rallies and during interviews, and read his twisted tweets, we need to appreciate that the problem isn’t Donald Trump. The problem is the Republican party that promoted an agenda of personal attacks against opponents, rather than proposing alternate ideas for the future of America. A party that gleefully chose hatred, cultivated conspiracy theories, and normalized calls for violence against persons. Trump is simply the fruition of these GOP tactics.

As we watch the GOP implode, we can only hope that whatever new party emerges will have learned a lesson and will rebuild on a foundation of ideas, plans and policy. This will take years, and in the meantime President Hillary Clinton will keep our nation safe and steady. Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican leadership will bemoan their and Trump’s devastating losses, probably unable to see that it was the GOP itself that created the monster that destroyed it, not the other way around.