Slippery GOP Maneuver: Lump Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump
I’ve been spending some extra time working my way through Senator Ben Sasse’s open letter declaring his opposition to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, because it’s an interesting historical artifact of the present historical moment, when the Republican Party appears to be splitting in two.
There are many problems with Sasse’s letter, but one that’s especially curious to me is the way that Sasse attempts to lump Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton together. He chooses to speak of them as a common problem, writing, “If you are one of those rare souls who genuinely believe Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are honorable people…” and “We now have the two most unpopular candidates ever…” and “With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose.”
It’s a slippery maneuver to try to recast the Trump disaster as part of a larger problem – one that taints the Democrats as well. Even as they distance themselves from Donald Trump, Republicans like Sasse also try to disassociate the Republican Party from Donald Trump. They try to suggest that, actually, Donald Trump is just one manifestation of a bigger political crisis – one that can be blamed on liberals.
Crazy as it seems, they’re actually trying to blame Democrats and liberals for Donald Trump. The reason Republicans like Ben Sasse are attempting this extravagant political maneuver is plain. Donald Trump has exposed everything that is ugly within the Republican Party, and made its presence undeniable.
Donald Trump has spoken the hateful ideas that have rested at the heart of the Republican Party for generations. Confronted with this exposure, it’s natural that some Republican politicians want to blame somebody else, but the record is clear.
Before Trump, which political party aroused xenophobic hatred against Mexicans to win elections? The Republicans.
Before Trump, which political party exploited fear of Muslims to win elections? The Republicans.
Before Trump, which political party came up with travel bans against non-Europeans as a tool with which to win elections? The Republicans.
Before Trump, which political party came up with schemes for religious discrimination against non-Christians? The Republicans.
Before Trump, which political party made headway with male voters by insulting women? The Republicans.
Before Trump, which political party promoted torture? The Republicans.
Before Trump, which political party encouraged wild conspiracy theories about its opponents, including urban legends that Barack Obama was born in Kenya? The Republicans.
Ben Sasse calls Donald Trump a “dishonest liberal”, but that’s absurd. Donald Trump is dishonest, certainly, but he’s is all Republican. Trump couldn’t win the Democratic nomination, because Democrats, especially liberal Democrats, would laugh him off the stage. It has been liberals, not Republicans, who have turned up at Trump rallies to protest against him. It’s Republican voters who have chosen him as their nominee – yes, Donald Trump has won states with closed Republican primaries. It’s the Republican Party establishment that is now propelling Trump forward to the White House. The Democratic Party and liberals are opposing Trump, not supporting him.
Yes, there are some Republicans who are refusing to support Donald Trump, but they’re in the minority within their political party. In a national poll taken just before Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out, Trump was the favorite candidate of 56 percent of Republican voters. With Cruz and Kasich gone, that number is even higher. Republicans haven’t completely closed ranks around Trump, but most Republicans are willing to support him.
The fact that the Republican Party appears to be splintering is mostly a consequence of the disgust of Republican Party leaders. The Republican rank and file is eagerly applauding Trump’s racism, sexism, nationalism, militarism, and crude bullying of anyone who stands in his way. They’re supporting Donald Trump’s fascist campaign because, really, that same enthusiasm for fascist ideology is what motivated them to support more conventional Republican candidates in the past. The only difference is that before, Republican Party politicians had to put on a smiling mask over the hate. Donald Trump, as a billionaire candidate, can afford to simply dispense with the facade and go straight for the Republican amygdala.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party. They have both proven to be too far to the right, politically, to suit me, willing to go along with Republican ideology far too often. Democrats like Hillary Clinton have not led the liberal shift in America’s political identity. They have followed it, 5 to 10 years behind public opinion, depending on the issue.
However, one thing about Hillary Clinton and the Democrats is clear. They don’t support the wild, careening right wing extremism that has made Donald Trump so popular among Republican voters. Clinton and the Democrats have supported a steady, somewhat moderated right wing ideology: Pro-corporate, pro-war, and opposed to liberal policies on the environment and economy.
The distinction between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is obvious to most Americans. The idea that Clinton and Trump are cast from the same mold is ridiculous, though convenient to establishment Republicans who are trying to scramble to save themselves from being dragged down by Trump.