Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Response to Exactly Revenge

(See: Just Above Sunset: Exacting Revenge)

Eugene Robinson, of the Washington Post, makes a good point about Donald Trump:

What Trump has done is call out the establishment on years of dishonest rhetoric. ... 
The Republican Party promised – with nods, winks and dog-whistle toots – to change all of this and make everything the way it used to be. In practice, however, party leaders were compelled to deal with the world as it actually is – hence, for example, the establishment view a couple of years ago in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. ... 
Enter Trump, who has the temerity to point out that the party establishment says one thing but does another. He launched his campaign by calling the GOP’s bluff on immigration: If the 11 million people here without documents are really “illegal,” as the party loudly proclaims, then send them home. Other candidates were put in the position of having to explain why, after claiming that President Obama was somehow “soft” on immigration, their position on allowing the undocumented to stay is basically the same.

This reminds me of my time in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the early 1970s when I launched a TV Magazine program on public access cable and was hanging around a local Democratic club, the Park River Independent Democrats, to find out how politics worked in the neighborhood.

One big issue at the time was the "51st State Movement" that had many New York City Democrats wanting the city to secede from the state because the Republicans in Albany were mistreating us. The club had set up card tables on Broadway and 72nd Street and were asking passersby to sign secession petitions.

I remember asking Henry Berger and Paula Weiss, the two leaders of the club, if they really believed secession possible, or was even a good idea, and both laughed -- and I'm paraphrasing here: "Of course not! First of all, it's a pretty stupid idea, but second, it'll never happen!"

Then why are you soliciting petitions for it?

Their answer was that they were trolling for new members for the club, figuring that citizens who care enough about this issue to sign a petition might start coming to club meetings, get involved with local politics, and will hopefully stay involved long after this whole stupid secession movement is dead and gone and forgotten.

It was a ruse, albeit from their perspective, a well-intentioned and forgivable one.

The difference between the so-called Republican "establishment" and the so-called Republican "base" is the difference between the leadership of that Democratic club and the rubes who stopped to sign the petition. The establishment is sophisticated enough to know what needs to happen to get real things done, even if they have to pull the wool over the eyes of rubes to do it -- which is fine until the rubes catch on. Then? All the plans fall apart and nothing of import happens.

Donald Trump isn't just calling the GOP's bluff, he represents the logical extension of everything Republicans secretly think but are afraid to say out loud.

Politics may have kept John Boehner in check, keeping him from accomplishing anything Republicans really wanted to do, but Trump's not a politician, so he can promise, at least at this point, to deliver things that politicians never could deliver. Whether Trump would actually break the machine if he became president, or would miraculously smarten up and just be an Obama third term, is an open question at this point.

But can Ted Cruz beat Trump? One reason I doubt it is that all he has going for him is that he's an outsider, but he's an outsider who has been working on the inside, and has still demonstrated that he is totally feckless at accomplishing anything -- which gives Trump supporters no good reason to abandon him for Cruz. After all, if you're going to fail at achieving your agenda, you might as well do it with some guy who goes around loudly saying outlandish and controversial things that nobody else has the guts to say.

The real issue may be the future fate of the Republican party. 

I see this as a huge game of Jumbo Jenga, where you stack up a tower of wooden pieces that players then pull out one by one, seeing how long they can do this before the whole structure inevitably tumbles over. (By the way, in recent years, I've googled to see whatever happened to the Park River Independent Democrats club back in Manhattan, and it seems to have vanished.)

I think everything points to the national Republican Party eventually breaking down into two separate parties made up, on one side, of relatively moderate wrong-headed conservatives, and on the other, outright wackadoodle wrong-headed conservatives. This may temporarily please us Democrats, but only until it dawns on us that both those groups carry guns.

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