I suppose it shouldn’t surprise that a super-wealthy real estate developer would run for President promising to turn America into a gated community.
Really, this is where Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been pointing since he launched his campaign by calling for “the greatest wall you’ve ever seen” to keep out Mexican criminals and rapists. His latest stand, for a ban on Muslims traveling to America, is of a kind with the Mexican wall. It’s just one tick crazier.
But after all the crazy shit Trump has said, the ban on Muslims was the straw that broke mainstream Republicans’ backs. Some Republicans, including a lot of Vermonters, sensing that the Crazy Line has been crossed, have finally criticized Trump as being out of step with true Republicanism.
Well, there’s a problem with that. It’s not true.
Donald Trump is, in fact, the inevitable end product of the past two decades of Republican and conservative politics.
Ever since the all-out attacks on Bill Clinton, the Republicans have pursued a scorched-earth policy when it comes to Democrats in leadership. They have met Obama birtherism with a nod and a wink. They have stoked the fires of right-wing anger, and benefited politically from doing so.
They have enjoyed the free energy of the right-wing media machine, and capitalized on its ability to engage the conservative base with extreme, hateful rhetoric. (The Rush Limbaughs of the world weren’t criticizing Trump today — they were defending him. They know where their bread is buttered.) They egged on the Tea Party movement because in the short run, its anti-liberal fervor helped them prevail at the polls.
Trump isn’t the first far-right candidate to beguile the GOP electorate. He’s just the most media-savvy and the most fearless. How is he different from Michelle Bachmann or Mike Huckabee or Herman Cain or Sarah Palin, the Queen of the Know-Nothings who was ushered into the GOP tent by none other than the “moderate” John McCain?
If the senator from Arizona wants to blame someone for the depths his party has fallen to, he should damn well look in a mirror.
And, as Rachel Maddow pointed out on her Wednesday show, there’s really not much space between Trump and several of his fellow candidates on how America should view Islam.
Ted Cruz? “I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”
Rick Santorum? “I’ve proposed actual concrete things that would have… not the effect of banning all Muslims, but a lot of them.”
Rand Paul? “I’ve called for something similar which is a moratorium based on high risk.”
(Which, by the way, would have done nothing to stop the San Bernardino attack, which was carried out by two people who seemed to be living a normal American life.)
Jeb Bush? He wants to bar refugees who aren’t Christian.
Marco Rubio? He’s called for the shutdown of mosques and any other place “that’s being used to radicalize and inspire attacks against the United States.”
The Republican leaders of both the House and Senate have promised to support the Republican nominee, even if it’s Donald Trump.
Vermont Republicans are, with the exception of party chair David Sunderland, coming down a lot harder on Trump. Which is understandable, because they don’t benefit much from the harsh conservative rhetoric. Vermont is a different place, where opposing the placement of Syrian refugees is actually a political loser. But they still identify themselves with the national party, they have benefited materially from out-of-state conservative support, and they are banking on such support in 2016 for their efforts to win more seats in the legislature. Like it or not, they are part of the big machine.
That machine’s willingness to encourage the basest impulses of their base has created a world in which, according to one poll, two-thirds of Republican voters agree with Trump on banning Muslims.
This isn’t an extreme viewpoint in GOP circles; it is, in fact, the mainstream. That’s the bitter harvest the Republican Party is now reaping. And they have no one to blame but themselves; they’ve been assiduously sowing this crop since the early 1990s at least.