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A Problem That is not Just One Candidate

March 17, 2016


Is there a crisis in the Republican Party? They are a little late, maybe a few decades late, but many leaders of the GOP seem upset enough about the political rise of Donald Trump to say something. What is most surprising is not the rise of Donald Trump. What is profoundly baffling is the religious and political right’s Meanwhile, I am at a loss to find what they are upset about. Their protests are not genuine.

Some mark the change that created today’s current environment by Nixon’s Southern Strategy, that took advantage of southerners who left the Democratic Party over their Democrat representatives voting for Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights legislation. Others point to the cultural shift that exited on the cresting wave of the Reagan devolution, the Reagan Democrats who showed their segregationist stripes in the backdrop of school buses, college admission and the breakdown of redlining practices.

I do not understand why so much ire, coming from both the right and the left is focused on Donald Trump. Pundits, party people, media, candidates and the public are focused on his rhetoric. Still, I have not heard him say anything original, especially in terms of how his views relate to our political landscape. He has not stated any policy that is different than what has come out of the Republican party in the past few decades. The attitudes he carries are not different than the predominant attitudes of the party. The people and institutions he targets are the same as those that have buoyed the party to success in the past three decades. The tone is the same as the the Dixiecrat movement, George Wallace’s rise, Nixon’s southern strategy, Reagan’s “American morning,” or the Tea Party revolution. It is only with honesty that we acknowledge that Trump’s current success has come by appealing to the same constituencies that have brought Republicans the margin of success over the past century. It is with sadness that the same can be said for the most prominent brands of Christianity in the United States.

I can name two major party Presidential candidates who, in high profile, in recent history, comfortably accepted the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. The two who come to mind first are Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan.

There are few differences between Trump and the establishment. One, most of the establishment has been running themselves or someone else for President for most of their career. Becoming President has, traditionally, required a different path and a different monologue. Two, his has bad manners and the bad manners might be, to the establishment, nothing more than breaching the code and taking a shortcut to a host of prizes the elite thought that they could keep for themselves and served by radical Tea Party and Duck Dynasty rubes who do the deeds for them. The rubes are not a new phenomenon. But there was a brief period when they were not so well loved.

That brief period of time, the civil rights era, was one where this conservative right supremacist movement did not look as pretty as what Americans wanted to portray. In the midst of this concern for a cosmetology of ideal, it did not lose in the eye of America on the issues. It took its downward ebb in America’s reaction to the graceless behavior and lack of sophistication that was portrayed when the newsreels showed the ugly counter-protest to the brave civil rights activists. It was not a breach of American ideals; it was a breach of decorum.

What rose is that kinder, gentler brand of bigotry, not always exclusive to the right. It is one that hides behind moments of political correctness when in mixed company and is as much a part of a broad social political (and religious) agenda as it is a part of every candidate and party who is chasing after the voter and consumer demographic that is working its way into the GOP endorsement process.

As Nasreen Mohamed put it in a recently published piece, “Donald Trump’s position is not isolated from contemporary U.S. policies, but rather is part of a larger political landscape.” It is a landscape that has been cultivated for decades, both the policies and in tone with an increasing shedding of the dog whistle–say it straight out, like Ronald Reagan did sometimes, after lulling us into that fake grandfather coddle, and as Trump does all the time, lulling us into the media-sanctioned legitimacy. Lulling us into the illusion that these other more polite Republican candidates are offering something different. They are not.

Donald Trump  has shed not only the dog whistle but also that face political correctness that the rest of his party has hid behind every time it gets called out for its bigotry, because, after all, political correctness is that thing behind which bigots hide.

He is not hiding, as as sure as he owes his success on the discovery of the Tea Party that you can spout the foul language at any turn like it is an entitlement–and that is the hallmark of supremacist society–the Republican party owes its rise to that very thing.

I do not lament the difficulties of intraparty workings. It is politics and deserves the bed it has made for itself. But just as the rhetoric of supremacy has escalated the GOP to electoral success, has for just as long been the dominant voice in emerging evangelical Christianity.

These words, attitudes and positions–it is hard to tell whether it is a parallel rise or the residue of centuries of colonization that assumes a disposable status of brown peoples on the land of their homes or extracted like ore from a landscape.

But it is nothing new. Trump isn’t anything other than the logical culmination of what has been cultivated in the religious, Republican and Confederate rebel consciousness. After a generation of right wing politicians who pander to a right wing constituency fueled by right wing talk radio and and infusions of parallel rhetoric from pulpits that once inhabited a theological fundamentalism that has morphed into a political fundamentalism–no one has a credible right to surprise.

What kind of privilege allows someone to not have been bothered by the 30 years of supremacist speech but is suddenly appalled by Trump? Think again about this illusion that it is Trump’s bad manners that are the problem, that if he spouted his dreck with politeness, what he stood for would be okay. He is not different on the issues; he is no more a bully; he is no further from the substance of the brand of conservative Christianity that has been championed over that period.

Watching this election cycle is like watching a family whose secret of deep-seeded alcoholism is being made public by the conspicuous behavior or whomever they have decided to call the black sheep. And like that family, they are criticizing the most afflicted and expressive exhibitor of the affliction rather than the source of that affliction, which is, of course them.

And, of course, they will continue to say that it is not them, that it is not the story of generations and iterations of crops of what is blooming out of the mouth of Donald Trump. But biggest danger might not be that he might get enough support to secure the nomination, gain support for his rhetoric or even get elected. The biggest danger may be that even if we solve the problem of him, there is an entire extended family whose illness they will not acknowledge exists within them and that, after focusing so much attention on one person, the general public will not see among the wolves in respectable suits.

That unwillingness to call out these other suits is the real crisis of today.

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