The Republican party, today — I mean, this very day — reminds me of Ben Carson. During the campaign, you recall, Trump likened him to a child molester. Twice. He also mocked his religion (Seventh Day Adventism). Needless to say, Carson endorsed him, after dropping out.
He was asked about Trump’s attacks on him. He explained that Trump had been “concerned about the fact that he couldn’t shake me. I understand politics, and particularly the politics of personal destruction, and you have to admit, to some degree, it did work. A lot of people believed him.”
The Republican party, today, sounds like Carson. What do people call this, Battered Wife Syndrome?
In January, I wrote about what I called “The Rule.” The rule is, “Criticize Trump, if you have to, but respect his supporters.” I’m sure that’s a good rule — a necessary rule — for politicians. But what about the rest of us? Are people not at all responsible for what they bless, endorse, and empower?
I’m going to excerpt a bit of that January column:
Trump has praised Putin. He said, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin.” Forgetting international law, it was pointed out to him that Putin kills journalists he disagrees with. Trump answered, “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”
This is the kind of moral equivalence — a false equivalence — that the Left has specialized in for years.
Trump further said of Putin, “It has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.” Huh. Maybe Trump can team with Putin and O.J. to hunt for the real killers?
Trump blasted John McCain, saying he was not a war hero because he had been captured by the enemy. McCain was captured, all right — on his 23rd bombing raid over North Vietnam. He then endured five and a half years of torture.
How many years, or minutes, could Trump have endured (or could I have endured)? Trump took four student deferments. Fine. I don’t knock him for that. Plenty of people took deferments.
But if you did it, do you knock John McCain for his service? Really?
Conservatism has always included a dose of chivalry. Trump attacks women, verbally, in vile ways. After a debate in which Megyn Kelly asked tough questions, Trump said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
He knocked Carly Fiorina for her looks.
Are these your values? …
He mocked — physically mocked — a physically handicapped person. A nasty kid on the playground does that. Then he turns about twelve. He knows better. Trump is almost 70, and running for president.
That’s okay? His “people” like that?
For a long time, I thought that Trump supporters overlooked his character, because they wanted to build a wall or hated John Boehner or something. (The ex-speaker, of course, is a golf and texting buddy of Trump’s.) I’m sure that many Trump supporters wince at his character. But, from what I can tell on social media, etc., many like it. It’s a draw for them, not a repellent.
In Indiana, Trump boasted of an endorsement — from Mike Tyson. “Mike said, ‘I love Trump. I endorse Trump.’ . . . I love it. He sent out a tweet. Mike. Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, okay?” It was not okay with Carly Fiorina — who said, “Sorry, I don’t consider a convicted rapist a tough guy.”
Whom does our culture side with? Whom does the GOP side with? Well, obviously.
With Trump’s nomination for president, the Republican party has been de-moralized. That’s a word I, and others, learned from Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian. Societies sometimes become de-moralized. The moral element is undermined or evicted. Societies have to be re-moralized.
Over and over, Trump called Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and Marco Rubio “Little Marco.” His fans thrilled to that kind of thing. Yet Trump is a person who lies with ease. And though he may be tall, he often acts like a moral midget.
His rivals never called him “Demented Donald,” or “Disgusting Donald,” or “Dangerous Donald,” or something similar. How would that have gone over? Should you resist going low, when there is lowness around you?
Yes, of course. But you may not come up a winner (in the vote-getting sense).
What if Ted Cruz had accused Trump’s father of being connected to the Kennedy assassination? Would that have won him votes in key Indiana counties?
Trump is an expression of the tabloid culture. The Kardashian culture. The professional-wrestling culture. I think these are fine subcultures, to a degree — they add to the pageant of America. But the Republican party has put them at the center of politics: presidential politics.
I remember something from the Clinton/Lewinsky era. A Hollywood actor — I don’t recall which one — said (roughly), “That’s the way I behave. That’s what my buddies and I here do. I don’t want the president to do it.”
Donald Trump is now the face of the Republican party. He represents the party across America and on the world stage. He is now the “brand” of the GOP. You can always disown, so to speak, a congressman or governor. Every party has its clowns. But a presidential nominee is the human emblem of the party.
Many years ago, I worked in Washington, D.C., around a bunch of Democrats. They were often dismayed by Marion Barry. I delighted in referring to him as “the four-time mayoral nominee of your party.” I would point out that my party had nominated honorable alternatives, but the voters had always picked their nominee, the Democrat.
This bothered them (and shame on me for being mischievous).
The GOP is now a party that thinks that Donald J. Trump ought to be president of the United States. That is not a party I could belong to. Politics is constant flux, and so is the world. Flux, flux, flux. I tend not to like it much. One of the reasons I’m a conservative, I guess!
“For things to remain the same, everything must change,” wrote Lampedusa. I loved that book when I was a student. (The Leopard.) But I’ve never been sure what that wise-sounding phrase actually means. Time to find out, no doubt.
Anyway, to be continued …