“I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks.” – Mary Shelley
Today’s Republican party has created what you might call the abominable candidate, Donald Trump. In the tradition of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, this primary frontrunner is a conglomerate of the worst possible parts of a person – racism, xenophobia, willful ignorance, entitlement, and bravado all wrapped up in one very ugly bully.
As horrible as Trump is, he is the fitting harvest of all the acrid seeds sown by the most cynical and opportunistic people in the GOP in the last 50 years or so. Trump was sown by Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon, Lee Atwater, and Ronald Reagan in their not-so-subtle race baiting that was so genteelly nicknamed the “Southern Strategy.” This strategy helped gradually convert the south to a Republican stronghold, primarily by appealing to deeply held prejudices among voters there through the use of coded language. If you think that strategy is dead, then ask yourself why Trump had such a hard time rejecting the support of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan in the days leading up to Super Tuesday when several southern states were about to vote.
Trump was sown by the Tea Party whose incendiary rhetoric has led to moments like the one where Congressman Joe Wilson, with a stunning lack of decorum, yelled “Liar!” at the President during his State of the Union address. From the Republicans in Congress, President Obama has faced blatant racism throughout his tenure. They questioned his legitimacy because of his foreign-sounding name and the fact that he was born in Hawaii. Yet somehow the party faithful can pretend not to know (or care) that one of the Republicans running now to succeed Obama, Ted Cruz, was actually not born in America, but in Canada. Where are those “birthers” now? The behavior of these GOP leaders emboldens the members of the base. Lack of courtesy, lack of respect, lack of decency abounds. The loudest mouth wins. Enter Trump.
“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” – Hosea 8:7
Trump was sown by the years and years of lip service the GOP gave to the concerns of religious voters. In his article “Jesus is not a Republican” from The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 2006), Randall Balmer makes the case that Republican politicians have repeatedly disavowed fundamental teachings of Jesus such as helping the poor, the use of torture, and the value of life all while courting religious voters. The religious political machine has focused more on punishing those who are down on their luck, ridiculing and humiliating them, calling them “moochers” and freeloaders. The machine has stood by while wars are prosecuted for false reasons and stood behind an administration that believes waterboarding is an ethical interrogation strategy. Trump has called for a return to the use of torture, even as he has said, “beyond waterboarding,” which is horrible to imagine. That’s not a position consistent with valuing life, and Trump has backpedaled on that position somewhat, but he has also said that we should target the families of our enemies – their wives and children. That’s something straight out of Macbeth, not the New Testament. We can’t pretend that these are Judaeo Christian values – they just aren’t. But this is the man who would lead the Republican party.
“When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?” – Mary Shelley
The chickens are coming home to roost. The poor of the country, especially those in the south, are tired of Republican politicians taking their money and their votes and failing to deliver on any of their promises. The religious right are sick and tired of seeing their social issues used as a political football. Every four years, like Charlie Brown, they run out onto the pitch where Lucy waits, only to end up flat on their backs. Good Grief! Maybe not this year. You can’t blame voters for feeling that enough is enough and looking for an alternative, an outsider, a non-politician.
“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example” – Mary Shelley
So where does this leave moderate Republican voters? There are many of them who are people of good will who believe in things like small government at the federal level and a greater role for local governments and who have specific ideas about fiscal policy that don’t include destroying the middle class. There are many moderate Republican voters who do not hate Mexicans and Muslims and who do believe in the American Dream that so many immigrants come here to find. But this is not their Republican Party – for some time it has been slipping away. For years they have turned a blind eye while the party grew more and more extreme. If Mitt Romney’s desperate speech doesn’t tell the truth of it, then I don’t know what else does. It’s all hitting the fan now. Fox News viewers can hardly stomach it anymore. The former nominee basically begged voters to go out and vote for anyone but Trump, betting on, hoping for a brokered convention where the delegates can rally together and choose someone more palatable. In doing so, the party will basically slap the face of their own voters, saying, in effect, thanks for voting – that’s cute, but we’ve got this from here. As I wrote a few months ago, this is a crossroads for the GOP as we know it. Will they be defined by their new standard-bearer, Trump? Or will they have the courage to watch the thing they gave their lives to, broken, and find a way to build it new? In a surreal moment at the end of the Republican debate in Detroit, after spending 2 hours slamming Trump and declaring him unfit and unqualified to be president, we watched as these same men, Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich, all pledged to rally behind and support the eventual Republican nominee, even if that is Trump. If that is true, they have no one to blame but themselves.
© Ryna May 2016