Our long national nightmare is over.
Can you see the latest class of insightful pundits furiously crafting the narrative? Listen closely and you can hear the whirring wheels of the spin doctors’ myth machine. If you squint, you can see them gathering the cattle excrement from which they will weave a blanket of bullshit out of whole cloth.
The Electoral College has finally voted, releasing mainstream Republicans from four years of bondage in MAGAland. They are now free to place the word “president” next to “elect” and return to the regular principles of conservatism, fiscal responsibility, states’ rights and family values. No longer will they be required to go along with Donald Trump’s fever dream of overturning the will of the people and subverting democracy.
According to the talking heads inside our television sets, for four years, Donald Trump changed the Republican Party into a cabal of cowardly acolytes who acceded to white nationalism, fearmongering and outright lies to hold on to his ever-dwindling power. They sat in silence as he tried to toss Black people’s votes. They refused to refute his lies. They averted their eyes as he demonized democracy.
“What happened to the Republican Party?” asked Joe Scarborough as his fellow patriots shook their gel-slicked heads in disbelief.
They wanted their party back. Unlike Donald Trump, they loved America. And to prove it, a few GOP faithful formed the Lincoln Project—a makeshift group of Republican Avengers who used clever ads and the internet to wrest their party back from the hands of an insane, lying, aspiring authoritarian. Christian Evangelicals like Jesus disciple Beth Moore even condemned Trumpism:
“He is without question the most powerful voice in our party,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Sunday’s episode of Meet the Press. “He will have an enormous impact on our party going forward...I believe the great majority of people who voted for Donald Trump want to make sure that his principles and his policies are pursued. So, yes, he’s not disappearing by any means. He’s the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to the Republican Party.”
There’s just one problem with this narrative:
Donald Trump is the most Republican Republican of all time.
Scholars, politicians and sociologists all struggle to define the phenomenon known as Trumpism but perhaps GOP adviser Ron Christie described it best. He defined Trumpism as “what the president believes on any particular moment on any particular day about any particular subject...He could believe he’s against climate change on Monday, and Tuesday, he could come back to you and say, ‘I am the most ardent believer in climate change,’ but by Wednesday he could go back to his previous position.”
While that ever-shifting explanation leaves a lot to be desired, it also applies to a party that purports to hate government interference—except in cases of women’s vaginas, same-sex marriages and trans toilet choices. They champion religious freedom—but only for Christians. They are pro-life—except when it comes to the death penalty, healthcare initiatives, masks and police bullets. They rail against government handouts, except to corporations, white farmers and wealthy businessmen.
They believe in America, the Constitution and liberty and justice for all. But they will not stand for anyone who exercises their constitutional right to protest or condemn America’s injustices. They demand law and order while protecting out-of-order cops who disregard the law. They run up deficits while touting fiscal responsibility.
Republicans don’t believe in anything; they just say things. And Trumpism is not a phenomenon. Trump is a loyal institutionalist who is as fickle and capricious as the party he represents.
He is more Republican than most Republicans.
There are some who would argue that Trump is a far-right-wing version of the Republican Party. They theorize that the GOP has shifted so far right because Trump mobilized the most extreme elements of the party’s base. This narrative serves as cold comfort for mainstream moderates who see their party slipping towards white nationalism
It is also a lie.
Using racism to coalesce the GOP base is not a Trumpist tactic; it is a Republican tactic.
It’s almost like Nixon’s War on Drugs didn’t exist. Remember that time when Republican messiah Ronald Reagan traveled to the site of a civil rights murder and essentially gave the thumbs up to the states’ rights advocates who shot the activists in the head and dumped their bodies into a hole? Or how about when he chatted with his homeboy Richard Nixon about “those monkeys from those African countries?”
Or maybe you can recall Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush framing a Black teenager to incite fear about crack dealers in the “ghetto.” How about George W. Bush saying that flying a Confederate flag was a “state’s right?” Can you recall moderate John McCain saying it was a “symbol of heritage” when he ran against Barack Obama? McCain would later admit that he only said it because he was trying to appeal to South Carolina’s Republican base.
And just in case you thought Trump devised a plan to steal votes, please remember that democracy has never been their thing.
This is the party of the Southern Strategy. This is the party that was barred from polls because they sent an armed “task force” to polling sites in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods to scare away voters. This is the party that sent postcards to Black voters in North Carolina telling them they might be arrested if they vote. This is the party that found a loophole in Florida’s constitution that allowed them to continue disenfranchising millions after the state’s voters went to the ballots and said “Enough!”
This is the party that targeted Black voters “with almost surgical precision,” according to a federal court ruling. This is the party that ignored Russian interference. This is the voter ID-requiring, poll-closing, poll restriction-loving, registration-purging party of “the most racist politician in America,” the white nationalist congressman, and the “The Wizard of Voter Suppression.” This is is the party of Willie Horton and “nigger, nigger, nigger,” and “welfare queen” and “build that wall” and “send her back.”
This is not Trump’s party.
This is the Republican Party.
Do not fall for it.
Contrary to popular belief, Trump did not strongarm an entire party into subverting democracy, ignoring civil rights and dog-whistling white supremacist ideology. He’s neither a marketing genius or a political innovator. He isn’t even saying the quiet part out loud. He’s just inhabiting a house that they built.
Those hand-wringing conservatives who are now denouncing “Trumpism” and distancing themselves from the white nationalist president are the same ones who spit-shined Trump’s shoes as he meandered his way toward the White House. Joe Scarborough and Mika B. apparently had no idea Trump was racist after a years-long friendship. Before discovering Trump’s racism in 2017, they called their schmoozing the “Washington way.”
Lincoln Project founder Rick Wilson was a Confederate flag-loving, Trayvon Martin-hating Republican until he deleted his tweets. Co-founder Jennifer Horn lobbed baseless accusations of voter fraud and illegal voting when Trump’s desk was still on the set of The Apprentice. Mitt Romney was hiding his tax returns when the White House was still a glimmer in Trump’s eye.
They built this party. Trump just perfected it.
“[I]n large measure, we laid down the metrics and pathway for Donald Trump to emerge and to arise the way he did. He understood the GOP better than the GOP understood itself,” Former GOP Chairman Michael Steele told Jonathan Capehart. “[T]his confrontation within the party is something that is long overdue.”
Steele said that in August 2016.
When you hear the audible gasps from people wondering why the leaders of the “Party of Lincoln” are so quiet about Trump taking a hatchet to the Constitution, the Bible or moral values, it’s not because they have been bullied into a “complicit silence.” Their reticence to speak has less to do with fear and everything to do with political manifest destiny
Trumpism isn’t a new political ideology. It’s just purest, uncut form of Republicanism and they never meant for it to be taken at full strength. Orange Crush’s vocabulary might be too limited to use the usual euphemisms employed by his co-conspirators but, rest assured, he’s saying the same things they are. Perhaps that’s why he is so beloved—his base doesn’t need a glossary or a decoder ring to decipher the delicate, racist grandiloquence hiding beneath the surface of the party dogma.
When he is gone, Republicans will go back to hiding behind the florid pretense of patriotism and puritanical philosophy. They will wax poetic about the amber waves of grain and how we finally returned to our American values. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with preferring politicians who can mask the smell of their anti-democratic white nationalist feces-flinging versus an untrained, feral, dookie-throwing spider monkey.
But let’s stop pretending it’s not all the same bullshit.