Now that the two conventions are out of the way and we are headed hard and fast toward election day — or, in Donald Trump’s case, limping — both parties, and in American politics in general, really seem to be reaching a critical juncture. The GOP is only being held together by a thread, the Democrat Party just came through a controversy over its apparent bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to be dogged by the email scandal.
I’m not sure how this happened, but nobody seems to actually like Trump and Clinton, even though they managed to garner the largest number of votes in their respective primaries. Although many high-profile leaders inside the GOP have effectively fallen on the sword and endorsed Trump, a handful, including Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham (and many others), have still refused to fall in line. I thought I would never have said this, but fictional-god bless their souls. This leads to my next point.
Both parties are deeply divided, not just along populist and more mainstream political lines, but because of deeply contentious controversies. Sanders supporters were already against Clinton for the perception that she has an all-too cozy relationship with Wall Street and corporate America and that she, essentially, represents all that is wrong with Washington.
As if that weren’t disquietude enough, we can now add election-thief to the charges Sanders supporters have made in recent weeks against her and the party.
DNC leaders, and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in particular, were caught in a lie, as the chairwoman said unequivocally that “no shred of evidence” existed to suggest that she showed favoritism toward Clinton and that the party was not secretly making machinations against Sanders — until, of course, a WikiLeaks dump of 20,000 emails proved otherwise.
Here is the damning interview:
Yet, after claiming for months that she was unbiased and did not show favoritism to either candidate in her professional capacity as chairwoman, she is now going to turn around and openly support the candidate she only favored in secret before? In a move that is brazenly shady and unethical, she will now serve as the “honorary” chairwoman of the Clinton’s so-called “50-state program.” Don’t you need a little honor to serve as an honorary anything?
Although Clinton’s email controversy has haunted her campaign up to this point, even after FBI officials said she was cleared of charges, much of the turmoil inside her party seems to have died down after the convention a few weeks ago. Trump’s campaign, on the other hand, is one surrogate meltdown or assault charge away from a complete implosion, and the Republican Party likewise is skating dangerously close to suffering its own entropic heat death.
In a recent editorial titled, “How Can America Recover From Trump?” The New York Times painted a rather vivid picture of the current situation in American politics:
Donald Trump is heading to November like a certain zeppelin heading to New Jersey, in a darkening sky that crackles with electricity. He is fighting crosswinds and trying new tacks — hiring the head of Breitbart News to run his campaign, trying on a new emotion (regret) in a speech on Thursday night, promising to talk more this week about immigration, his prime subject. There’s still no telling what will happen when the gasbag reaches the mooring.
It could be that the polls are right, and Mr. Trump will go down in flames. But while that will solve an immediate problem, a larger one will remain. The message of hatred and paranoia that is inciting millions of voters will outlast the messenger. The toxic effects of Trumpism will have to be addressed.
The piece went on to describe the virtual deluge of anti-immigrant, bigoted and nativist rhetoric that has issued, not just from Trump’s mouth during the last year, but from the pitiful gaggle of speakers that essentially used the Republican National Convention floor as a showcase for some of the most cynical and vile displays of fear-mongering we have ever seen in modern politics.
The Times didn’t offer many answers on repairing the Republican Party. According to the newspaper, the GOP could “sue for peace” if Clinton wins and put forward rational policy plans in the future or it could work to “separate the economic discontent from the bigotry and paranoia” that has so poisoned our national discourse. Here is the concluding sentence:
The question to future Republican leaders is whether they will even try to do so.
The Times editorial board was right to end on that pessimistic note. After Mitt Romney campaign’s “more genteel” nod toward nativism, the GOP had an opportunity to reclaim the center four years ago, but it failed to move the needle. Former House Speaker John Boehner may have been the party’s last great hope, but Republicans subsequently ran him out of town. Meanwhile, current Speaker Paul Ryan, who offered a lukewarm endorsement for Trump if ever there was one, hardly seems up to the task.
Since the Tea Party reared its ugly, anti-intellectual head in about 2009, I have written about the vanishing center and the GOP shift to the right (here and here). For the record, the column referenced at the latter link was a bit off. Writing before Trump graced us with his presence, I actually had some optimism that the far-right partition of the GOP was disintegrating and that middle-of-the-road politics might get a renewed push.
I could have hardly imagined that the party would have inched ever closer to the precipice, but with the rise of Trump, the head-scratching results from the primary and formerly leveled-headed people like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain boarding the Trump train straight to Lemmingville, we have seen the consummation of this reality, such that, I truly no longer know if the party can survive another tilt without devolving into outright fascism. To avoid it and thus force all the angry, whitebred haters and xenophobes to crawl back into whatever hole they lurched out of 15 months ago, Trump has to lose and lose mightily.