It is difficult to analyze what has become of the Republican party and how it has gotten to this point. Surely, it has reached its nadir. How could any sane political party in the 21st century nominate a candidate like Donald Trump for the highest office in the land? He is a misogynist, a bigot, a playground bully seemingly stuck at a fifth grade level of emotional maturity. His lack of policy understanding is only surpassed by his poorly suited temperament for high office. While Hillary Clinton may be disliked by many, especially among those on the right, Trump is utterly unqualified- intellectually, temperamentally, character-wise.
The Republican base can nominate such a man and show fealty to him simply because they too have been fed a steady diet of intellectual pablum for years by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the other organs of the far right media. No where can be found such mass hysteria, convoluted conspiracy theories, white grievance, and misinformation peddled as a “fair and balanced” perspective. There seems a longing for a much earlier era in the conservative media- perhaps the Victorian Age where gender roles were rigidly defined, one’s place in society was decided at birth, and there was no messiness created by other than heterosexual relationships or the voices of people of color being heard. Science is looked at like some weird alchemy. Factual information is not trusted and thought to be a product of the liberal media. With all authoritative sources being resoundingly rejected, misinformation is the norm and reality becomes harder to recognize as it steadily shifts rightward like some gigantic tectonic plate.
The Republican party offers no solutions besides tired, worn out theories like trickle down economics which exacerbate already alarming income disparities and creates deficits as far as the eye can see. It does not confront social injustice. What it does best is to be a party of opposition seeking to repeal and “replace” the Affordable Care Act, undo regulations and environmental protections, and in its new incarnation- withdraw from free trade agreements. It defines itself solely as a party in opposition.
The intellectual elites of the party, people like George Will, Bill Kristol, and David Brooks, thought the party stood for something- certain principles which the base also believed in like small government, low taxes, and a strong military. With the ascendancy of Donald Trump, we find the base believes in none of it. They are simply motivated by hyper-nationalism, white male grievance at declining fortunes, bigotries and more bigotries. Trump stands for nothing. His policies change from day-to-day, the one and only constant is the bigotry. Trump can not protect his legions of adoring aggrieved white males from the thing they fear most- societal change. Lost manufacturing jobs are not coming back. Grievance is simply not a job creation policy or a marketable skill.
Trump certainly does not believe in small government. He wants to spend twice as much as Hillary Clinton, up to $500 million, on infrastructure spending, for example. He wants to build a massive, 1,000 mile long wall along the border with Mexico costing perhaps $25 billion. His deportation force necessary to expel 11 million undocumented workers would cost in the range of $400 to $600 billion. Trump is no believer in free trade either wanting to renegotiate NAFTA and pull out of the Trans PacificPartnership, while slapping massive tariffs on Chinese imports. The man has no coherent political philosophy whatsoever. And in addition to all this spending, he wants to implement massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and repeal the Estate Tax, which is levied on only the portion of an estate’s value that exceeds $5.45 million per person.
What is there left of conservatism when the Republican party’s small government philosophy is bankrupt and carries no currency with the base? The Republican intellectual elites thought they had a massive following behind this ideology when really all along all the conservative base wanted was just to kick out the Mexicans and no longer let “political correctness” inhibit their hate speech and the waving of the confederate flag. They snarl loudly “build the wall” and “jail Hillary!” It is a movement whose energies are diametrically opposed to the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rather than fighting for social justice, Trump’s troops want to turn back the clock to restore white hegemony and do not renounce violence to do so. It is reactionary to its core.
Trump is preaching “change,” but it is a reversion to intolerance and inequality. Trump’s candidacy is the rejection of a meritocracy and the embrace of a kind of feudalism where titles and estates are handed down from generation to generation. He has accomplished little and got his start when his father guaranteed half the $70 million cost of a real estate deal. Trump would be wealthier today if he would have parked his inheritance in an index fund. Like a dazed boxer struggling to hold himself up in the last round, the conservative movement itself is fragmented and left with its knees buckled. It too has no coherent philosophy. Unfortunately, anger and grievance is not a governing philosophy. So the nomination of Trump and the doubling down on the Republican party’s divisive Southern Strategy is a last desperate attempt to rally a vanishing breed of poorly educated white males who, like the wholly mammoth, are rapidly disappearing caught in a demographic tsunami. Surely, the Republicans must redefine themselves as a party or die! Perhaps the symbol of the Republican party, the elephant, should be changed to a picture of the long extinct wholly mammoth.