Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Trump Monster Is Strangling The GOP Mad Scientist

In keeping with the spirit of the season, I've been watching lots of old Frankenstein movies this week, and so I've had mad scientists and monsters on my brain. Watching the aftermath of the release of the Trump tape yesterday made me realize that the monster, long having been on a rampage, is now choking its supposed mad scientist master.

The monster here isn't Trump, or even Trumpism, but a certain kind of populist conservative politics propagated, encouraged, and nurtured by both the Republican Party and conservative media over the past fifty years. It doesn't matter if the candidates are "big government conservatives" like Nixon and Dubya, or more laissez-faire types like Romney and Reagan. Almost every candidate the GOP has put out in the general election since Goldwater (save for Gerald Ford and Bob Dole, to their credit) has tried to divide the country in order to win by taking the bigger half. These divisions have often been made on consciously racial fault lines in order to pander to the white majority's baser instincts. In other cases, they exploited cultural fault lines, be they generational or religious.

I'll just give you a greatest hits highlight reel: Goldwater opposing the Civil Rights Act, Nixon's appeals to "law and order" and "the silent majority," Nixon's terming of his opponent in 1972 as the candidate of "acid, amnesty, and abortion," Reagan's talk of "welfare queens" and "young bucks" and "states rights," George HW Bush's Willie Horton ad, Dubya's "with us or against us" and turning out Bible thumpers to attack gay marriage in '04, McCain's harping on Bill Ayers and Palin's "real Americans" rhetoric (the beginning of the Tea Party), Romney's 47% "makers and takers" schtick, and just about everything out of Donald Trump's mouth.

In recent years this kind of conservative populism was given a massive shot in the arm, Steve Rogers-style. After losing both the White House and Congress in 2008, many wondered if the conservative movement had met its Waterloo. Instead, conservative media went on the offensive, most famously in the guise of Glenn Beck, an old school paranoid ranter who would have embarrassed the editors of Red Channels. The Tea Party was soon unleashed, and by appealing to the most rabid portion of its base, the GOP managed to thunder back. Of course, to do this they had to let the monster of its leash. And the monster started getting so confident that it was not afraid of fire or the whip wielded by its master anymore. It decided it would not be quiet and go back into its hole.

And so the monster found a new master: Donald Trump. This master told the monster exactly what it wanted to hear, got it angry and smashy to wild effect. The mad scientist tried to ignore this at first. Then, afraid that the monster would be lost forever and the scientist's powers destroyed, decided to chicken out, cross its fingers, and just let Trump do his thing. Now the scientist is paying the price for his cowardice and craven cynicism, and is being strangled by the monster. My only hope is that the monster finishes its task right before the angry peasants show up with torches and pitchfork to destroy the awful beast.

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