Ida Mae Astute ABC Flickr cc 1024

Donald Trump Hasn’t Killed the GOP: He is the GOP

“I will credit my father. He invented . . . green eggs and ham. He did it two ways. The easy way was he would put green food coloring in . . . The food coloring is a little bit cheating. But if you take spinach and mix it into the eggs, the eggs turn green.” — Ted Cruz

Perhaps the sheer trauma of the last year has made us forget. A year in which the USA’s political boil, swollen by years of sustained attacks by Republican idiocrats, has at last been lanced by Donald Trump.

The sheer spectacle of The Donald’s rise and the suddenness with which we realized - like a hypnic jerk - that this guy was serious, might explain the rush to claim that this is unprecedented. But to declare the death of the Grand Old Party now – to lament its decline into demagoguery and bigotry – is to ignore what was already in plain sight for anyone who chose to look.

Ted Cruz’s show of ‘defiance’ at the Republican conference should have been treated with the contempt it deserved. Instead the man who helped shut down the government by reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ to his kids, used the ‘Planned Parenthood sells baby bits’ meme to call for the defunding of public abortions, and dismisses climate change as pseudoscience received support. Hillary Clinton even told supporters “Ted Cruz was right”, albeit not without first expressing surprise that she agreed with him. There are two points to be made here:

  • Everyone votes with their conscience. Telling people to is as helpful as telling people to breathe. Cruz’s condemnation of Trump was textbook dog-whistling. A non-protest. Meaningless except as a nod to the ‘Good Conservatives’ that he thinks fill his party – amongst whom he counts himself a member. These Good Conservatives are shocked that years of employing both covert and overt racism to garner votes has resulted in their radicalised voter base choosing to support the purest distillation of their values.
  • Donald Trump is the GOP’s conscience. Trump’s ‘wall’ is the current (uncompleted) US-Mexico border fence that Republicans love, but bigger. Trump’s ‘Muslim ban plan’ is the current (bipartisan) Muslim-targeting ‘security measures’, but more sweeping. The Donald is the GOP’s id. When the Republican super-ego (and its pained attempts at professionalism and inclusiveness) is stripped away, when the ego is beaten and deported, Trumpism remains. It has been there for years – the desires of its shrunken heart driving the action from the furthest reaches of the Republican psyche.

As I’ve written elsewhere, Trump’s rise relied on harnessing the anger of those left behind by hollow centrism, but it was specifically Trump only because he did it best. Low Energy Jeb Bush was unwilling to engage in birther-style douchebaggery, and was promptly scalped. Had Lyin’ Ted not been defined by his Trump Epithet and uncanny resemblance to the Zodiac Killer, perhaps he’d be the one taking the US to the brink of the brink right now.

Cruz was outmatched, but if it had been Marco Rubio or Ben Carson instead, do we really believe the GOP would have run on a significantly different platform to Trump? If Trump’s legacy is legitimizing people like Cruz, and normalizing the GOP’s pre-Trump rhetoric, then the only difference between the horrors of a Trump presidency now and a Republican candidacy later is time and more palatable rhetoric.

After all, the wall would not be going up, and it’s unlikely that many of Trump’s signature proposals will go through – what we’re really scared of is what Trump represents: a neo-fascist USA, angry and discriminatory. Read enough content from women, people of colour, LGBT people, disabled people, immigrants, Muslims, atheists and anyone who isn’t part of the core Republican demographic (the wealthy, Christian fundamentalists, and those with ‘traditional values’) and you’ll conclude it’s already here.

So while it’s tempting to say Trump remade the GOP in his image, that would give him far too much credit. The Tea Partiers, the birthers, the conspiracy theorists, the chronically intolerant and the fractally wrong have been taking the GOP on a journey for years – Trump only set the exact tenor for the final stretch.

When Trump entered the race all those months ago, we thought it was a joke. But our smug refusal to take him seriously was the joke. The punchline to a set-up we’d missed because we were only half listening. Egg on face, we exit stage left, and maybe if we’re lucky the show won’t go on. But for now it’s Trump, and his party, and his very passionate followers, who are laughing at us.

Photo: Ida Mae Astute/ABC/Flickr

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Published 10th August 2016

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