Sunday, October 22, 2017

Trump's Presidency Vindicates the GOP's Harshest Critics

Left to right: Noam Chomsky, Hunter S. Thompson, Gore Vidal (Chomsky: AP, taken from; Thompson: Neal Haynes/Getty Images, taken from; Vidal: Maxppp/Landov, taken from
In a 2009 interview with The Times, the controversial author and public intellectual Gore Vidal stated: "the Republican Party is...a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists." Vidal's assessment, while acerbic in his typical fashion, was not one that was unique to him.

Years earlier, Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson had been even blunter than Vidal was: 
Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush? They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us; they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.
More restrained than these assessments, but ultimately similar to both in its conclusions, was Noam Chomsky's comment on right-wing media (Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, etc.) that "The memory that comes to my mind — I don’t want to press the analogy too hard, but I think it’s worth thinking about — is late Weimar Germany. There were people with real grievances, and the Nazis gave them an answer." This assessment, like the previous two, was made back when Donald Trump was known as a real estate mogul and host of "The Apprentice."

So what do we make of comments like this now that Trump is the president of the United States, thanks to the Republican Party? That we have a Republican president who assures us that some of the people at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville were "fine people?" Who ran on a platform that included banning people from entering the United States based on their religion? Who harshly condemns athletes who kneel during the national anthem but struggles to find a bad word to say about flagrant racists, and who himself has a long history of racist statements?

One approach is exemplified by Bill Maher, who commented that "liberals made a big mistake because we attacked...Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn't. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way...Mitt Romney wouldn't have changed my life that much...Or John McCain," and that liberals "cried wolf and that was wrong." Naturally, on the other side of aisle, this is a popular notion, and an article in National Review, written by Charles C.W. Cooke, argued that "when a fine man such as Mitt Romney is given the Hitler treatment too, it becomes difficult for that message to resonate."

That's one approach--to claim that Donald Trump invalidates earlier criticisms like those quoted above by showing us what a real fascist looks like. And Trump does seem more dangerous and less qualified than previous Republican presidents and nominees, not to mention far more personally repugnant. But there's no point in kidding ourselves by pretending Trump is some terrorist who hijacked the Grand Old Party and steered it away from its venerable tradition of Compassionate Conservatism and Limited Government and into the swamp of All-American Fascism. The Republican Party sowed the seeds of the poisonous weed that Trump is, and even "honorable" Republicans like Romney and McCain bear their share of the blame for what we have right now.
    For starters, Romney might not like Trump now, but he had no problem kissing his ass in 2012, when he gushed that "being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight" at a news conference with Trump. Sure, that was years before Charlottesville, the Muslim Ban, and so forth. But not before the racist witch-hunt Trump encouraged over whether the first black president had really been born in Hawaii. Or before Trump had made many other racist comments, and had been sued by the Nixon administration for housing discrimination. 

    And let's not forget McCain's helpful contribution of choosing Sarah Palin, who has since called Black Lives Matter protestors "thugs" and "rioters," defended the arrest of a Muslim student for bringing a homemade clock to school, and endorsed Trump. Even in her time as McCain's running mate, she falsely accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists." The Saturday Night Live skits and numerous laughable comments may have brought attention to how much of an imbecile Palin is, but she's not a joke, and never was. Her disturbing, continued relevance even after Obama handily won the election was because she tapped into the same bigotry and anger that Trump later rode to victory on. McCain, it's worth noting, also endorsed Trump for president, only withdrawing his endorsement after the infamous Access Hollywood tape came to light.

    Trump is not some kind of freak accident, nor is he the result of some extremist constituency storming the Republican Party by force. He's what the Republican Party has been heading toward for decades, going back to Nixon's Southern Strategy, into Reagan's race-baiting and close relationship with the Apartheid government of South Africa, and continuing with the racist pandering against Obama by too many Republicans to name. The Republican Party has been goose-stepping toward Trumpian fascism since at least 1968.

    I realize it isn't very Politically Correct to attack your political opponents as some kind of cryptofascists. It borders on what some would (wrongly) call a violation of Godwin's law. But so what? I don't think the civilians killed in Fallujah or by Reagan's terrorists in Nicaragua felt much relief that they were shot or bombed rather than gassed. And frankly, I find it hard to give a damn whether I'm being too nasty to the people who have had no problem being much crueler for far worse reasons. When Republicans fought tooth and nail to keep gay couples from enjoying the same benefits and protections as straight couples, and right-wing twerps like Ben Shapiro (an anti-Trump conservative, for whatever that's worth) can devote considerable time to otherizing and demeaning transgender people, I don't really care if I'm violating some idiot conception of political decorum.

    And, sure, plenty of Republicans--the everyday people who vote Republican, not the politicians--are nice enough people. But so what? The road to Trump was paved with good intentions, and the personal benevolence of some Republican voters doesn't change the fact that the people they've voted for have been monsters who've wreaked havoc on vulnerable populations around the world. And let's not pretend that even Hunter S. Thompson's biting description quoted above doesn't apply to plenty of the people who supported Trump. Political differences don't have to ruin friendships or create animosity, but there are a significant number of people in America who have despicable views and deserve to be called out for it. Hillary Clinton's infamous "deplorable" comment, while clumsy in her typical fashion, wasn't entirely off-base.

    In short, no apology is owed to the Republicans, anti-Trump or pro-Trump, for the criticisms that have been thrown their way in the past. No, what they deserve is a congratulations. Intentionally or not, they helped pave the way for an American president stupider, crasser, and more openly sadistic than almost anyone had imagined could be elected outside of the grimmest dystopian fiction. It's an impressive accomplishment, and they deserve all the credit for it.