Saturday, June 25, 2016

"How did we get here?" An essay on the state of Republican politics, Pt. 10- conclusions



Epilogue
The start of the week brings us a raft of latter-day Trump endorsers who now have the look of a base-runner caught between 1st and 2nd after a miracle line drive catch. They already committed; no easy way back.
Josh Marshall, “Caught Out,” Talking Points Memo, June 6, 2016
For conservatives in this moment, that’s the other half of the picture worthy of scrutiny. Lacking a blatantly dangerous target to explode, the task before us is rediscovering not what we stand against—that’s obvious—but why exactly we’re opposed to what we stand against.
Jonathan Bronitsky, “Six Lefts Make A Right,” The American Conservative, June 8, 2016


As I was closing in on the end of this long meditation, I had two more Facebook messages from my friend at the start and end of April:
When I reached out to you back in February in hopes of an understandable, manageable explanation of the political chaos I was watching, I now realize that I was really asking you for wise assurance that things would be ok.  I was expecting you to tell me that we'd regain our national balance, that there would be some restored national sense of equipoise and balance.  I no longer believe that is possible.  I am resigned and frankly, sickened, by what is happening.  Upon Trump's nomination, I will be changing my registration to unaffiliated.  I cannot, I will not, vote for Trump or Cruz.  I'm done.
The second put the period on the sentence:
Seeing a campaign yard sign the other day reminded me of just how much politics -- and my life -- have shifted.  I live in the newly configured 13th congressional district.  Primary is next month.  I am seeing signs for GOP congressional candidates in MY district that I don't know and never even heard of.  Even two or three years ago, it would have seemed unimaginable for me to be that disconnected from politics in my own back yard.  I am checking out of the Republican Party and changing my registration to unaffiliated on July 22.
A confession, on my way out. My friend didn’t need me to explain anything. All posing the question did was to articulate what had been rattling about in my head, to scrawl the theorem on the whiteboard and begin working out the proof to its logical end.
On the off chance he actually did think I would have something useful to say, well, he was being nice, but he shoulda known better.
But asking was useful for me. It gave me the chance to put three months of moments here and there into making sense- a little- of two-thirds of my life.
The Republicans resolved all doubt for me, however, on the weekend of June 12, 2013. They were animated by conservatives and evangelicals trying to make the Orlando murders a terrorist issue. Or a gun control issue. Anything but what it was.
Many, among the 2800 comments I read at Franklin Graham’s Facebook page, were laudably open in their hatred and spitefulness. The gays deserved what they got was a common refrain, perhaps picked up from the viral posts to that effect by Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (once they were being spread for him by thousands of others, he claimed it was a coincidence his pre-selected scripture was so perfectly relevant to the day, and took it down. Then he published a long defense of how it was, if unintended, still perfectly correct.


To those keen to deny the Republicans’ antigay animus all through this presidential campaign- remember Perry, Cruz, Carson, Jindal, Huckabee, Rubio, Santorum?- refocusing on Muslims was a handy way to change the subject.


The day and evening were then filled with the ritualized “thoughts and prayers” tweets of politicians. What is striking about this event’s crop is how not a single congressional Republican- nor Governor McCrory, closer to home- mentioned the LGBT community the murderer targeted with an assault rifle that killed or wounded 37% of the patrons of the club in a matter of minutes. The more than fifty men and women who died there- and fifty or who were maimed- were reduced to “the victims”.


For pols who have blistered Democrats for not using the magic words, “Radical Islamic Terrorists”, the omission is not accidental.


Democrats, to a man and woman, expressed sympathy for, and empathy with, the LGBT community by name. To people who have spent their lives demonized and marginalized, every step of legal progress contested if not rolled back, gestures matter. When we are named, we exist. When we are not, North Carolina Republicans can proclaim “We don’t want to discriminate against anybody!” as they have done over and over in the wake of saddling the state with HB2.


Somebody- somebody smart- pulled an all-nighter that bloody Sunday. The word went out to the GOP: you can have it both ways.


And thus we discovered that Ted Cruz, who lasted the longest and brayed the loudest his intent to roll back the rights of LGBT Americans- wants us to be free, if nothing else, of fear of murder because of who we are, if only by Radical Muslim Terrorists:
"What we need is for every American – Democrat and Republican – to come together, abandon political correctness, and unite in defeating radical Islamic terrorism. 
"ISIS doesn’t just target soldiers. They don’t just target Republicans. Or Jews. They also target Christians and fellow Muslims. They target each and every one of us. As we saw this morning, they target the gay and lesbian community. Their objective, which they broadcast worldwide, is to murder or forcibly convert every single American. 
"For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians. ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it. Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation. If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder."

Marco Rubio said he didn’t need an investigation to know the LGBT community was being targeted in Orlando, before hinting he might rethink his retirement from the Senate. Within days he discovered the brass ring was a lot closer atop a pile of bodies.


And then, mid-afternoon, came a speech by Donald Trump, who has sworn to appoint supreme court justice to overturn LGBT rights, and was against HB2 before he was for it:


Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando's LGBT Community.

This is a very dark moment in America’s history.

A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.

It is a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation.

It is an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity.

It is an attack on the right of every single American to live in peace and safety in their own country.

We need to respond to this attack on America as one united people – with force, purpose and determination.

...Many of the principles of Radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions.

Radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-American.

…I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, and Jewish people, are the targets of persecution and intimidation by Radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence.

It’s not just a national security issue. It is a quality of life issue.

If we want to protect the quality of life for all Americans – women and children, gay and straight, Jews and Christians and all people – then we need to tell the truth about Radical Islam.

...The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans.

Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country who suppress women, gays and anyone who doesn’t share their views.

She can’t have it both ways. She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.

How does this kind of immigration make our life better? How does this kind of immigration make our country better?

Why does Hillary Clinton want to bring people here—in vast numbers—who reject our values?

Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words? Clinton wants to allow Radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country—they enslave women, and murder gays.


This is brilliant politics, and breathtaking cynicism. Who, after all, need foreigners to harm gays by force when one is the head of party dedicated, root and vine, to doing it in law?


It’s a ludicrous, contemptible, and false Faustian bargain. The Republicans are offering LGBT Americans a choice of third-class status alive, or majestically even-handed equality of death. “We won’t kill you,” is the hashtag. “Muslims will.”


I leave to others whether they want to spend their remaining days, and consign those of their posterity to, a life organized around fear, endless unsupervised surveillance, and authoritarianism. It may be new to them, and present a certain novelty.


I do not. I will not.


I have lived that way most of my life. A write called Kristen Becker has put it better than I can:


The media is awash in coverage of the terrorism angle of this tragedy. But to understand the impact of the shootings in Orlando, one must understand what gay bars really mean, especially in conservative areas.

To live and work as a member of the LGBTQ population in a conservative area means to not hold hands in public. It means to learn how to alter your pronouns on Monday morning so you don’t accidentally out yourself at the water cooler and lose your job. It means renting a two-bedroom apartment, even if you only need one.

Day in and day out, you spend countless hours of energy containing yourself. Keeping who you are hidden, until you get to a safe space. Nine times out of 10, that safe space is a bar. Often those bars have really vague names and minimum signage. Better safe than sorry. No need to draw attention.

This is the trickle-down hate effect. Many of this country's lawmakers have spent the last year spending our tax dollars to push anti-LGBTQ legislation through their respective state governments. One after another, laws aimed to de-humanize the LGBTQ community were brought forth under the guise of “religious freedom.” There will be many right-wing Christians who will jump to the front and say, “The shooter was Muslim!”

The man who pulled the trigger might have identified as Muslim, and a perversion of Islam even so, but Christian rhetoric really killed 50 people on Sunday — the fruit of the last two years of conservative vitriol lays on an Orlando dance floor this morning, covered in innocent blood.

This week, the LGBTQ community will rally around itself. We excel at taking care of one another. We are accustomed to making our own way. Take for example, the gay and bi men who faced the AIDS epidemic with many a lesbian by their side, nursing them when no one else would. We have holidays with our chosen families after our blood relatives disown us. We pass through life while sharing secret side-glances with strangers, looking out for each other when we can.

June 12, 2016 will go down as the day we stopped accepting our furtive lives. We're told to keep our lives private and then we're killed in our private space? Americans can't expect things to go back to the way they were. Muslim beliefs, Christian beliefs, Atheist non-beliefs — whatever justification is made for homophobia just doesn't fly anymore.

Not sure how to tell your kid why two men are holding hands? Not our problem. Don’t like that Target allows us to relieve our bladders in peace? Suck it up. Two women in love, showing affection for one another and now you have to have a weird moment of silence with your mother-in-law? Tough shit.

We have spent decades attempting to let religious homophobes and transphobes evolve, but they're taking too long and we're losing too much. I’m sure this will be hard for you to hear, but our existence doesn’t need to be sanctioned by you.

Who is the “you” I speak of? You know who you are. So do we.


To what does it all come down to? I think, to this:


The conservative notion of democracy has changed. No longer, in their universe, do ideas contend.


Now there are people who are right, and people who are enemies.


Democracy is no longer about compromise and cooperation. It is about destroying the Other, and ruling forever. It is not so many years ago since my old teacher, Karl Rove, declared a permanent Republican majority, in a world where the victors make their own reality.


The elected opposition merely takes up space and collects a paycheck. Judicial review is to be eliminated. Courts exist, in the new democracy, to validate what the majority enacts.


The party that wins a working majority shall rule by decree, and all the means by which it can remain in power- voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the nimble application of tax donatives to the counties and cities that pay court- are fair game.


When the argument cannot be own on its merits, change the subject. Thus the North Carolina Republicans have unveiled, for the November ballot, a trifecta of pandering to its base: constitutional amendments for everyone!


One will enshrine the right to carry a gun pretty damn much anywhere.


One will enshrine the ability to hunt pretty much anywhere.


And one will cap state income tax rates.  The first two are to get out the vote in November; the last is to keep it turning out.
A cap on rates, in the New Normal, extended low growth, guarantees that gain in the economy go to the most well off. It ensures that normal growth in state expenses- salaries, pensions, and services- will be, increasingly, stunted.


City and county governments will, increasingly, be forced to look to local taxes on sales and property to make ends meet. Elderly white, angry, racially tinged voters- America’s Brexiters- will do the rest,  out local government in coming elections.


This is not why I started being a Republican.


It is why I stopped being one.


I hope my friend will agree.


Whether he does or not, I aim to fight like hell.


I aim to leave American better than I found it, not just to maximize my profits while I am alive.

"How did we get here?" An essay on the state of Republican politics, Pt. 9





#ThanksObama
“First protester,” the white-haired woman’s husband declared, soon after we were packed in next to one another close to the podium. “I’ve got dibs.” She wore a pink shirt and a heart-shaped sapphire ring; the rest of her jewelry was turquoise and swirling green malachite. For a beat she gave her husband a look, the serious kind — then it cracked, and she beamed with the sweet comic timing of a couple long in love. “I’m gonna beat the [expletive] out of him,” he promised with a sly smile, “and get on CNN.”

It was the joy of punching, real or imagined. “He stands up there and says what we all think,” the husband said. “We all want to punch somebody in the face, and he says it for us.”
Jeff Sharlet, “Donald Trump, American Preacher,” The New York Times Magazine, April 16, 2016
The other day I spied a high Republican official walking on the street and called out his name. He stopped, hit his smile app and exclaimed how glad he was to see me. “What are you going to do about Trump?” I asked. He paused and then uttered the dreaded word: unity. “We have to have unity,” he said. I got his message. He’s selling out.
Richard Cohen, The Washington Post, April 19, 2016
We’ve become a party that preys on the discouraged, not one that fosters hope. We’re incentivizing anger, not integrity. We tear down others to promote ourselves.
T.T. Robinson, “Why I’m Ashamed to be Republican,” The Washington Post, April 24, 2016
House Republicans at a conference meeting heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals shortly before the chamber voted Thursday morning to reject a spending bill that included an amendment barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Jennifer Shutt, “Homosexuals ‘Worthy of Death’ Bible Verse Read Before Key Vote,” Roll Call, May 27, 2016


"You know, I think we are called to pray. We are called to pray for our country, for our leaders, and yes, even our president," [Senator David Perdue] Perdue said during the Faith & Freedom Coalition's Road to the Majority conference in Washington. "You know, in his role as president, I think we should pray for Barack Obama."

But not just any prayer, he suggested, telling attendees that "we need to be very specific about how we pray."

"We should pray like Psalms 109:8 says. It says, ‘Let his days be few, and let another have his office,'" Perdue said, to laughter and applause. "In all seriousness, I believe that America is at a moment of crisis."

The next two lines of Scripture: "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow" and "Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places."

Asked if he regretted his remarks in an interview afterward, Perdue answered: "Of course not."


Nick Gass and Burgess Everett, “Sen. Perdue offers prayer for Obama: “Let his days be few,” Politico, June 10, 2016


A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.
Benjamin Disraeli, Speech in the House of Commons, March 3, 1845


Senator Perdue’s chuckled prayer is not new, I learned in The Atlantic:
Perdue didn’t make this up. In fact, this verse—sometimes labeled “the Obama Prayer”—has been circulating for years among conservatives. Gawker’s John Cook noted the prevalence of the reference on internet message boards and in CafePress t-shirts and bumper stickers back in November 2009. Other cases have popped up over the years, from the Manatee County, Florida, sheriff’s office to the Kansas House, where the speaker forwarded an email involving the psalm.
Trash talk slops so easily over into thuggery. Flash back to April 13, 2016. Talking Points Memo was carrying this report:
Death threats -- including threats that describe death by hanging.

References to where you live.

Not-so-subtle allusions to your family.

Warnings that your personal information will soon become public -- or perhaps it has already.

These are just some of the reports coming in from low-level GOP officials around the country about the threats they claim to have received from pro-Trump forces. As Trump accuses other politicians and the party at large of denying him delegates, ominous messages believed to be coming from freelance Trump backers -- usually hiding behind anonymity -- have injected fear and anxiety into the usually low-stakes delegate selection process at the local and state level.
A week later, Politico carried a long story on death threats being phoned to Colorado convention delegates after Trump won none there. New York Magazine reported,
At the RNC's quarterly meetings in Florida, party officials traded stories of Trump-inspired death threats. “A Trump supporter recently got in my face and threatened ‘bloodshed’ at the national convention and said he would ‘meet me at the barricades’ if Trump isn't the nominee," one party chair, who wished to remain anonymous, told Politico. Several other GOP delegates reported similar threats.

These stories highlight a central challenge to Trump's rebranding: If you spend ten months campaigning as a pseudo-fascist demagogue, many of your supporters are gonna be actual fascists.
Steven Rattner, a Wall Streeter, has reminded his friends:
For too many, those new dynamics have been painful indeed. In Michigan, where Mr. Trump won big, wages in manufacturing have fallen from a high of $28 per hour in 2003 to $21 at present, after adjustment for inflation, a stunning 25 percent decline.

Meanwhile, the number of manufacturing jobs in the state has fallen from almost 900,000 in September 1999 to just under 600,000 at present, a picture that is repeated across the country.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Obama has put forward constructive proposals to help those displaced workers. For its part, the Republican Congress has been behaving like Nero.

Take, for example, the administration’s 2011 proposal of a $447 billion package of measures including payroll tax cuts and the creation of an infrastructure bank that would have led to the creation of thousands of construction jobs, as well as other substantial economic benefits.

Designed to be bipartisan and fully paid for by higher taxes on rich Americans and some corporations, the American Jobs Act was nonetheless dead virtually upon its arrival on Capitol Hill.

That’s not all. During his administration, Mr. Obama put forth proposals for larger tax credits for child care; community college investments; expansion of the earned-income tax credit; changing retirement plans to be portable across employers and available to part-time workers; and tax credits for manufacturing communities.

All these — and many more — were ignored by Congress. Even seemingly obvious steps, like continuing federal emergency benefits for the large number of long-term unemployed, have been blocked. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 19 states — mostly with Republican governors — have declined Mr. Obama’s Medicaid expansion plan.

In its most recent budget, the White House put forth a robust plan for wage insurance, a concept with much support among economists. Under it, a worker who lost his or her job and was forced to take a lower-wage one that paid less than $50,000 per year would receive half of the lost wages for two years, up to $10,000.

Like many of Mr. Obama’s proposals, that wouldn’t be a game changer for working-class Americans, but it would have been a constructive piece of a more comprehensive solution.

The Republican congressional leadership has refused to even hold hearings on the Obama budget.

To be sure, Mr. Obama was successful in achieving passage of some of his initiatives last year, such as making permanent the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit and modest assistance for older Americans adversely affected by trade. And Mr. Obama deserves substantial credit for the drop in joblessness on his watch.

But that’s not sufficient progress. For one thing, Mr. Trump’s support tends to be concentrated in areas with low labor force participation. For another, with real wages declining for many Americans, the enactment of relatively minor initiatives is small beer.
The Republicans killed everything that would save their victories because they figured a sucker now is a sucker forever. In a remarkable Huffington Post article, the novelist Richard North Patterson summed the the establishment’s smugness:
This poisonous contempt is the party’s due bill for all the years of diversionary rhetoric designed to win votes from working-class Americans. But the establishment’s true agenda — lower taxes, free trade, deregulation and fiscal discipline — did nothing to improve their lives.
The morning after the Indiana Trump win, The New York Times’ editorial board rued that all most Republicans seem to be doing is climbing on board:
Republican leaders have for years failed to think about much of anything beyond winning the next election. Year after year, the party’s candidates promised help for middle-class people who lost their homes, jobs and savings to recession, who lost limbs and well-being to war, and then did next to nothing. That Mr. Trump was able to enthrall voters by promising simply to “Make America Great Again” — but offering only xenophobic, isolationist or fantastical ideas — is testimony to how thoroughly they reject the politicians who betrayed them.
But as we have seen in Mississippi and North Carolina, Republicans will go to the mat to defend themselves from the gays and their weird, cross-dressing allies. The Republican convention in Georgia’s third congressional district censured Governor Nathan Deal for vetoing that state’s lovingly-crafted discrimination law. He is in trouble, anew, for vetoing a law to let colleges become shooting ranges.
Religious freedom, as practiced by conservatives, isn’t. It can’t be when the same elected officials block building permits for mosques one day, and vote for laws guaranteeing conservative evangelicals special legal rights to discriminate based on whom they dislike.
Gore Vidal famously remarked, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” This need for a thumb in the eye, a spiteful interview, the provoking of intemperate words and acts followed by claiming shock and hurt and self-victimhood- these are all, increasingly, elements of legislative and electoral SOP. As Michael Gerson put it in The Washington Post, “The Republican Party is not engaged in a policy argument; it is debating the purpose of politics.”
The Raleigh attorney John Russell put it nicely in The News & Observer:
Part of the new Republican creed is humiliation. They must rub their enemies in the dirt. Make no mistake, in passing HB2, they meant to rub the LGBT community in the dirt. But they also meant to rub Charlotte in the dirt. The city is too rich, too tolerant, and its mayor is a Democrat. Over two centuries ago, Lord Cornwallis couldn’t conquer Charlotte. He fled, pronouncing it a hornet’s nest of revolution. Now, Republicans organize Charlotte’s bathrooms. I can see the ghost of Cornwallis riding with them down Trade Street, policing potties. From a bony steed, he menaces citizens without their papers. Ah, Mecklenburg, revenge is sweet!

Charlotte is a special target, but all cities must feel the lash of these Republicans. Raleigh can’t draw its election lines, and neither can poor Greensboro, which also can’t have a historic district. Asheville can’t manage its water supply. Wilmington must abandon its film industry, which has been tortured in stages until it is finally dead. Apparently nothing enrages these Republicans more than movies.
How vacuous has the GOP become? Consider this report from late April, 2016:
On Wednesday, at a “Millennial Town Hall” at Georgetown University, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) fielded a tricky question from a young Republican.

What “reasons for optimism,” the student asked, could Ryan offer to conservative millennials disgusted by the leading GOP presidential candidates?

Ryan’s response was telling. He encouraged young people to ignore the “political personality,” and instead “Look at the ideas. Look at the platform that is being advanced.”

“We win ideas contests,” Ryan declared triumphantly.
But how does one run a party whose nominee- and most of whose primary voters- have the forty-year-old script?
Matt Taibbi believes the Republican Party is already brain dead, and Donald Trump is the man to pull the plug from the wall:
[T]his was the inevitable consequence of the basic dynamic of the party, which by the end was little more than a collection plate for global business interests that were, if not foreign exactly, certainly nationless.

There was a time in this country – and many voters in places like Indiana and Michigan and Pennsylvania are old enough to remember it – when business leaders felt a patriotic responsibility to protect American jobs and communities. Mitt Romney's father, George, was such a leader, deeply concerned about the city of Detroit, where he built AMC cars.

But his son Mitt wasn't. That sense of noblesse oblige disappeared somewhere during the past generation, when the newly global employer class cut regular working stiffs loose, forcing them to compete with billions of foreigners without rights or political power who would eat toxic waste for five cents a day.

Then they hired politicians and intellectuals to sell the peasants in places like America on why this was the natural order of things. Unfortunately, the only people fit for this kind of work were mean, traitorous scum, the kind of people who in the military are always eventually bayoneted by their own troops. This is what happened to the Republicans, and even though the cost was a potential Trump presidency, man, was it something to watch.

If this isn't the end for the Republican Party, it'll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word "American" by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut – the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

A century ago, the small-town American was Gary Cooper: tough, silent, upright and confident. The modern Republican Party changed that person into a haranguing neurotic who couldn't make it through a dinner without quizzing you about your politics. They destroyed the American character. No hell is hot enough for them. And when Trump came along, they rolled over like the weaklings they've always been, bowing more or less instantly to his parodic show of strength.

Trump destroys their supposed governing philosophical ideas. Republican thinkers like to trot out that theirs is the party of free markets, including trade and immigration, and limited government. But now, with Trump, the Republicans are the party that will build a wall on the border with Mexico, keep out Muslims, adopt protectionist trade policies and nationalise healthcare. The party that was supposed to be dominated by religious social conservatives is now the party of a secular, serial philanderer who is pretty relaxed on social issues. A supposedly serious party is now led by someone who routinely repeats conspiracy theories – from believing Obama wasn’t born in the US to, just two days ago, coming out with a National Enquirer-style accusation that Ted Cruz’s father plotted with JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Indeed, as Governor Kasich noted in an April interview with The Washington Post’s editorial board, his party has no ideas, and neither did he:
“If you don’t have ideas, you got nothing, and frankly my Republican Party doesn’t like ideas,” ­Kasich said. “They want to be negative against things. We had Reagan, okay? Saint Ron. We had Kemp, he was an idea guy. I’d say Paul Ryan is driven mostly by ideas. He likes ideas. But you talk about most of ’em, the party is knee-jerk ‘against.’ Maybe that’s how they were created.”

Kasich derided the idea of a carbon tax — “I’m not big on tax increases” — and when challenged on the math behind his tax-cut plan, which many analysts say would increase deficits, he mocked the pretenses of experts.

“The Center for a Responsible Budget — what have they ever balanced?” he asked. “When there is certainty, both on the regulatory side, on the tax side, and on the spending side, you basically get economic growth. And look, if we find out that we’re getting off the path, then we’ll have to adjust.”
Donald Trump is simply a reversion back to the GOP’s 1950s state, when the critic Lionel Trilling observed there were no conservative ideas in circulation, “"irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."

The party stumbled across a few in the post-1964 era, and developed them into an articulable world view under Ronald Reagan- the heyday of conservative think tanks. After half a century, conservative orthodoxy has come to look- more than anything else- like a speech by President Warren Harding. A rival, William G. McAdoo, said they left “the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea;  sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly as a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork.”
The conservative economist Tyler Cowen, considering bright ideas of recent times that haven’t worked as planned, includes the plight of the Right:
Conservatism is finding that the demographic groups that believe in conservatism no longer scale to form a viable national party. Trump will soon find the same to be true for his white working class coalition. The Republican Party needs a new ideology or constituency that can scale to compete with Democrats.
Notwithstanding this hollowed-out core, in January 2015 George F. Will declared, of the 2016 Republican field that eventually numbered seventeen:
“This is the strongest, most diverse Republican field since 1856 when there first was a Republican field.”
(In May, Mark Danner displayed Will as yet another naked emperor- albeit one who has cultivated his own Sunday morning reality show cult for decades on ABC:
We are told again and again: [Trump’s] is the most improbable political story in decades, perhaps in history. And yet that a reality television megastar, as Trump might put it, could outpoll sixteen dimly to barely known politicians, some new faces, many also-rans, seems less than shocking. Did tens of millions ever cast their eyes on the junior senators from Florida or Kentucky or Texas, or the governor of Ohio, not to mention the ex-governors of Arkansas or Florida, or the ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard, before they chanced to mount the stage for a debate with Donald J. Trump last August, a television event that drew the unheard-of viewership of 24 million? Those 24 million tuned in to see Trump. Only one man on stage had a name as famous and by then it was in such disrepute that he had seen fit to replace it with an exclamation point on his campaign posters.
And this is how Charlie Pierce at Esquire sums up the cream of that crop- and the voters who picked them:
They recognize no limits to their power, no curbs to their desire. There are few frontiers in democratic government that they will not work to violate, or to twist to their own purposes. And they absolutely will not stop. Ni shagu nazad, as Stalin said to his army. Not one step backwards.
The Nobel laureate in economics, Paul Krugman, contends the GOP is virtually incapable of change:
Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.
New York Times columnist David Brooks, who who has veered, for years, between mindless cheerleading for the GOP and Ross-Douthat-lite religious penitence for being clueless all year, confessed in April:
I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.
I became a Republican as a teen because I disliked one-party rule, under which North Carolina had sometimes suffered, and sometimes prospered, for a century. No one has a monopoly on being right. No party has all the correct solutions, all the time. To insist otherwise is, at heart, to reduce democracy to a dumb-show.
In 1972, a friend- son of the Cleveland County manager, and an ardent Democrat- and I went to our respective county party headquarters to volunteer. The old white guys taking up space at Democratic Party headquarters- there hadn’t been a Republican governor elected in the whole 20th century, after all- told my friend to buzz off.
That fall, a Republican senator and governor was elected, and a generation of young Republicans saw the possibilities of two party, competitive government. My friend and I were among them. I take that back: I was. He volunteered for the Democrats because they controlled the county commission his dad worked for.
The Republicans, after forty years of growing fat and numerous, have resorted to the old tricks for staying in power when they have no more ideas beyond tenure in office: gerrymandering, voter suppression, and making vote-buying easier for their patrons. They are where the Democrats were when my high school friend went to volunteer:
Jacobson finds that young people who self-identify as Republican are to the left of older Republicans on pretty much every conceivable metric, including whether they approve of President Obama, consume conservative media or believe in man-made climate change.

Millennials are now the largest generation in history, and their voter turnout rates will probably increase with age. Research suggests that political affiliations developed early in life tend to stick. None of this bodes well for the future of the Republican Party, regardless of which candidate it offers up in November.
Red State’s Erick Erickson, whose quixotic bid to get a third-party candidate in the race does not obscure the clarity of his moral thinking, put the GOP’s situation well in The Resurgent:
Seventeen years after Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for covering up an affair, they are handing their party over to a man who has openly bragged about his affairs. On the day the Republicans first meet in Cleveland, Donald Trump will be taken to court for allegedly defrauding hard working Americans through Trump University.

What voters have already learned about Donald Trump during the primaries should give them pause. Many of his business dealings have left others worse off while he has played the bankruptcy courts to keep going. While investors in various Trump enterprises lost money, Trump made fortunes.

On the campaign trail, Trump was more a pathological liar than Bill Clinton ever was. He smeared his opponents, their wives, and their families. He embraced 9/11 trutherisms that George Bush was to blame for the attacks, he peddled malignant, false stories about Ted Cruz’s father, and few Republicans ever called on him to account. Many gave him passes on the lies they would never give to Bill Clinton.

Republicans owe Bill Clinton an apology for impeaching him over lies and affairs while now embracing a pathological liar and womanizer. That apology will not be forthcoming. In fact, for years Republicans have accused the Democrats of gutter politics and shamelessness. Now the Republicans themselves have lost their sense of shame.
One of my favorite political scientists sees the future as I do:
"American democracy has still got sufficient slack in the system that Trump is unlikely to destroy it," said Cambridge University politics professor David Runciman via email. "But thinking that no one can destroy it is a big mistake. Perhaps most dangerous for American democracy at the moment is a Trump defeat and then a feeling that the ship has righted itself and it's business as usual. The anger Trump is channeling is not going away; it's likely to ratchet up during another Clinton presidency."
Political affiliations are a marker of- at one and the same time- our individualism and our membership in communities. Americans will stretch their partisan loyalities to the breaking point, and tug some more, because our national DNA is British at its core: there is a government party and an opposition party. There are only two, because you either have power and want to keep it, or you don’t have it and want to get it. All those multiparty states are houses of cards, with revolving door governments as coalitions rise and fall.
When I lived in Britain, from 1978 to 1980, I was intrigued by the existence of a third choice. The Liberal Party was a rump of its former majority status- lost after World War I in the rise of Labour as the dominant alternative to the Tories. But they provided a valuable, even honorable alternative to the extremes of left and right (even Churchill was a member from 1904 to 1924; as returned to the Tories he noted, "anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat”). But in an era of party radicalization, left and right, the middle is a lonely place to be, and centrist parties can be a good place to spend one’s career out of office and influence.
Today, Republicans- well, some of them- sit at a crossroads, mostly wringing their hands and calling out for a sign, a guide to having it both ways. They wish, somehow, to defeat Trump and stay in power, or in their comfy spots among the chatterati. The former Bush 2 speechwriter, Michael Gerson, is one of them:

It is humorous — in a sad, bitter, tragic sort of way — to see Republican leaders, and some conservative commentators, try to forget or minimize Trump’s history of odious proposals and statements. The argument seems to be: “I say tomato. You say Mexican immigrants are rapists. What’s the big difference?” 

And all this has taken place without (apparently) securing any concessions or guarantees from Trump himself. He now knows that he can violate any Republican or conservative principle and still get a round of crisp salutes, even from his strongest opponents. This is the white flag of ideological surrender....Pursuing the short-term interests of the GOP, gained by unity, may damage or destroy the party in the longer term by confirming a series of destructive stereotypes. Republicans stand accused of disdaining immigrants; their nominee proposes to round up and deport 11 million people. Republicans are accused of religious bigotry; their nominee proposes to stop all Muslims at the border. Republicans are accused of a war on women; the Republican nominee, if a recent New York Times exposé is accurate, is the cave-man candidate. 

All this is a particular blow to conservatives, among whom I count myself. Conservatives latched on to the GOP as an instrument to express their ideals. Now loyalty to party is causing many to abandon their ideals. Conservatism is not misogyny. Conservatism is not nativism and protectionism. Conservatism is not religious bigotry and conspiracy theories. Conservatism is not anti-intellectual and anti-science. For the sake of partisanship — for a mess of pottage — some conservatives are surrendering their identity.

Another WaPo columnist, Jennifer Rubin, is grinding glass in her molars:
[M]uch of what conservatives — especially tea partyers, Freedom Caucus rabble-rousers, holier-than-thou outfits such as the American Conservative Union and Heritage Action, values voters, etc. — have been arguing for years and using to club Democrats and insufficiently rabid Republicans does not matter any longer. The next time a pro-gay-marriage, big-spending Republican comes along, on what basis will the amen chorus on the right have to oppose him or her? When we hear from the Republican National Committee that Clinton is dishonest and nontransparent, go ahead and laugh. And let’s consider that the mere declaration of opposition to abortion, no matter how insincere and recent, will suffice with gullible evangelical voters.

You don’t have to be inflexible on any of these topics to appreciate that Donald Trump has eviscerated the standards by which many on the right assessed candidates. (Poor Jeb Bush. All he did was favor traditional conservative positions for years on end, only to be called a squish by the talk radio crowd, which now genuflects to Trump.)

Trump does not want to shrink government — he wants to expand it by creating an enormous bureaucracy to track down and deport illegal immigrants, micromanage trade and regulate where American companies can hire people. He gets stumped whenever asked what programs or departments he would eliminate.

Trump does not want to get rid of government-run healthcare; he wants to, I guess, rename it but cover “everyone.” (No complaints now, Republicans, about runaway costs of Obamacare or about centralized health care.)

Look on the bright side. For years, Republican opportunists have preyed upon fellow Republicans for insufficient reverence for conservative ideals and for “betraying” conservatives. Now there are no ideals to betray! In one fell swoop, Trump has made legions of conservative activists into hypocrites and eviscerated the power of groups as far-flung as FreedomWorks, the Family Research Council and National Right to Life. Social conservatives no longer need be courted if someone who is thrice-married, vulgar, pro-gay and pro-transgender rights, and a donor to Planned Parenthood can become the face of the GOP. What, then, was the reason for the right’s anger at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former House speaker John Boehner? They were ideologues compared with Trump.

Many conservatives, Right Turn included, who found the all-or-nothing style of politics personified by people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to be counterproductive and unrealistic, need not worry about conservative intransigence, I guess. Nevertheless, when a party stands for nothing and sacrifices intellectual honesty to the whims of an authoritarian egomaniac for the sake of winning the White House, you have to question what “winning” means. Trump enacting Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) agenda does not seem like much of a victory. Oh, and if he cares so little for conservative ideas now, imagine what he’d be like if he got elected.
Bummer, dude. Or, as the blogger Driftglass put it recently,
[T]he one simple phase which none of our nation's deeply concerned Conservative thought-leaders and professional smiths of words still bring themselves to say is this:

The Liberals were right about the Right all along.


The 1990s saw the last of the World War II vets seeking the presidency- Bush and Dole- leave the stage. 2016 is the last hurrah of the Boomers. The three last candidates standing this year-Sanders, Trump and Clinton- are 75, 70, and 69. They and their cohort fought a few rounds in their prime, during the first Clinton presidency (when the Silent Majority re-emerged as Reagan Democrats), and a few before that, in the Vietnam era, when all three came of age.


In a speech given in 1872, Benjamin Disraeli described William Gladstone’s government as “a range of exhausted volcanoes. Not a flame flickers on a single pallid crest.”


That is the state of the Republican Party in 2016. Long bereft of ideas, all they can do is rumble and hurl rocks from time to time. Ranged about them is a desolate landscape devoid of life, and everywhere there is the angry stench of sulfur.

Tomorrow: Epilogue