The Republican Party and its handlers, including the right wing talk radio jocks such as Rush Limbaugh, and the bought-and-paid-for media such as FOX news, did not create the Tea Party. Michele Bachmann and a few others did that.* But once the Tea Party got going, mainstream conservative Republicans, including and especially leaders in Congress, went right to bed with it. The Tea Party gave Republican strategists an easy way to garner votes and support. This was especially easy to do because America decided to elect an African American president. Make no mistake. The Tea Party is pro-white, anti-everybody-else, and having an African American Democrat as president made defining issues and shaping rhetoric trivially easy.
It is a mistake to think that the Tea Party comes with a set of positions on various issues. It does not. Yes, the Tea Party tends to be libertarian, conservative, and so on and so forth, but really, it is philosophically inconstant and mostly reactionary. This has been demonstrated over and over again, as President Obama embraced various issues that were previously held by prominent Republicans, and those policies were immediately opposed. Because they were the policies of the Black President. The merit of a policy had nothing to do with opposition against it. They were President Obama’s issues, therefore the Tea Party was against them. And since the Republican Party was so rapt with the Tea Party, the GOP was against them.
This worked well. It gave the Republicans massive victories in a gerrymandered Congress. It meant that absurd excuses for leaders won elections, or if they did not, lost by only a few percentage points, when they should have been largely ignored by the populous.
The reason for even doing this is abundantly clear. An informal tacit (maybe) cabal of 1%ers and various regulation-loathing industries, most notably the petroleum industry, paid for the campaigns and managed lobbyists, the Republican leadership managed the elections, calling in the Tea Baggers each November. Add a little voter suppression, a little Swift Boating here, a healthy dose of Fear of Terrorism there, a wartime setting, and the Republicans, who hold policies that when asked most voters are actually against, became far more powerful than even Newt Gingrich and his Republican Revolutionaries could have hoped for.
But there is a catch and the GOP got caught.
An actual Republican running for, or serving in, office, can go only so far in supporting absurd policies. Established politicians reluctant to take the final “logical” plunge through the Tea Party’s looking glass were often “primaried” and sometimes pushed aside by the emerging Tea Party candidates. By keeping up a full court press to overthrow everything President Obama tried to do the mainstream Republicans held a central place in this game, but there was plenty of nibbling around the edges of their power structure. They went from leaders (sort of) to managers. Worldwide Wrestling Federation mangers.
Then, purity happened.
Imagine a candidate that has never run for office before, but has greater name recognition than all but a fraction of a percent of the entire panoply of politicians that make up any and all American parties. Imagine that this candidate has excellent media presence. Imagine that this candidate has no established policy related views. Imagine the candidate has an arguably good resume of successes, even if many of those successes are either unrelated to governance, or are tainted by equally impressive failures.
Mostly, though, imagine that this candidate is perfectly willing to make over the top statements denigrating non-white people, and at the same time, statements endearing to the anti-government, libertarian-trending right wing. Imagine that candidate is willing to say, again and again in the style of Dale Carnegie, that all of our elected officials are stupid. How stupid are they? They are so stupid that the Mexicans are smarter. They are so stupid that the Chinese are smarter. They are so stupid that people the right wing disdains, and other people the right wing fears, are smarter.
This is something mainstream politicians can’t say, because it would require saying it about themselves. But there is one candidate that can say these things.
I am speaking, of course, of Donald Trump.
And the point of this missive is not anything about Donald Trump. I don’t have to tell you about him, he’ll be happy to do that himself. The fairly obvious point I want to make here is that Donald Trump is, in essence, a creation of the Republican Party. And, he is the Republican Party’s worst nightmare.
Why is he a nightmare and not a darling of the GOP? For one reason I am certain is true and one reason I hope is true. What is certain: Trump obviates and invalidates every single Republican elected official (and the Democrats too). The less certain reason is that he can never win a national election, but in running for President as the nominated GOP candidate, he could bring down the party. Not that parties are easily, or really, ever, brought down (apparently). So maybe not all the way down, as in, “you’re going down, Republicans!” More like downish, relatively down, down and out, at least for a couple of election cycles.
And this is why I’ve decided to call The Donald by a new nickname.
Victor Frankenstein made a beautiful thing. He thought. And in the original text, he did. But I’m thinking more of the movies, where Shelley’s “The Monster” is known as Frankenstein (for some reason) and where The Monster is the hideous creation of a mad man who thought he could control and create life. But FrankenTrump is not life controlled or created. FrankenTrump is a distillation, an emergent entity, a possibly inevitable outcome of setting aside all efforts to govern or develop actual policy and do nothing but play politics, 100% of the time in every way possible, involving elected officials, the party itself, a good chunk of the press, and everything else that can be controlled. Victor Frankenstein melded this and that body part to make something he eventually could not control and that eventually became his ruin, after terrorizing the townspeople for a while. The Republican Party stitched together a lock-step party policy, a complex and insidious campaign of voter suppression, a panoply of pernicious pundits, an entire mega news organization, and piles of money, and created FrankenTrump.
And now they have to live — or die — with it.
More popcorn please.
*And for this I apologize. Back when Michele was still in the Minnesota State Legislature, I was one of her first targets, coincidentally having her son in my evolution class and apparently, at least according to him, inspiring her to introduce one of the first, if not the first, “academic freedom” bills ever. Sorry.