Republicans run on two things and two things only: Lies and Racism. Really, it’s mostly racism and it’s been that way for decades (more than 50 years at this point). But since the creation of the Tea Party by the Koch brothers it’s been almost exclusively racism with the paper-thin veneer of “economic anxiety” covering it.
The press has been working nonstop to maintain that fiction and even after Trump ran the most openly racist campaign since George Wallace, they spent over a year insisting that “economic anxiety” was at the heart of it all. They finally let that lie quietly die a shameful death as white nationalism took hold of the GOP but the press can’t seem to connect the dots from the present to the very recent past.
For instance, with the messaging on their tax cut for billionaires flopping, the GOP is running on open racism. They’re not even bothering with “economic anxiety” garbage anymore:
Now, in the closing weeks of an all-important midterm election season, even Republican leaders and candidates are recognizing that making the economic anxiety argument isn’t a vote-winning strategy; indeed, it never was. So, instead, desperate GOP candidates are pivoting to an increasingly harsh — and increasingly racist — appeal for white voter support.
As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes in a recent column, the GOP — rather quickly and readily — abandoned its plans to campaign on the benefits of the tax cuts their lawmakers authored, as well as their economic policy priotities writ large, during the midterm. Instead, many opted to follow Trump’s race-baiting playbook.
But it’s not Trump’s playbook at all. Trump is merely repeating what he learned from Fox News over the last twenty years or so. And most of the really nasty stuff has been since Obama was elected. ThinkProgress has put the symptom before the disease. They’re not connecting the dots. That is a huge mistake.
As Bob Cesca puts it, Republicans and their voters live in the eternal now. Nothing they’ve said or done in the past matters or even exists. This allows them to believe one thing today and the exact opposite tomorrow. Today, Russia is our friend and no one hacked our election. In two weeks, Russia will be our mortal enemy after stealing the midterms for Democrats.
The only way a political movement can continue to function like this is if the press allows it. And the press is extremely accommodating in this regard.
You know the story. After the collapse of the Bush administration, millions of Republicans suddenly declared that they were “Independents.” Then they became the “Tea Party” and spewed all of the same Republican hate and rage and, most importantly, talking points and dogma. The press loved every second of it and gave them all the airtime they wanted, never bothering to mention that the “Tea Party” looked, acted, and sounded exactly like Republicans.
It was the political equivalent of Superman putting on a pair of glasses and telling everyone he was Clark Kent. While still wearing his costume, cape and all.
And for eight long years, we watched the right become increasingly more racist. And more violent. We first heard widespread talk of “Second Amendment remedies.” Right-wing militias doubled in number and then doubled again. Domestic terrorism spiked as did hate crimes. The entire time, the Republican Party rode that racial hatred back to power.
Sure, the lie they campaigned on was that the economy was failing and that the deficit was exploding but the only reason their voters believed it was because the president was black. We know this because the economy is doing about the same as it was under Obama (for now) except slightly worse and white Republican voters suddenly think it’s an economic golden age for America. But the more important detail is that white Republican voters who were once frantic over Obama’s “growing” deficit (even though it shrank by a trillion) no longer care about the enormous deficit the Republicans just created.
Then there’s the alt-right, an explicitly white nationalist movement, that congealed from the slime of the white nationalist far right and helped elect the most racist president in generations. Literal Nazis have been marching in the streets and the right refusing to reject them. The Muslim ban. The nativism. The antisemitism. White Republican voters lustily cheering the torture of brown children. And on and on and on.
The racism isn’t new. This is who they are. This is who they’ve been since the Civil War and before. The party they infest changes every now and then (once upon a time they were Democrats) but the racism is always there. They can’t give it up because it defines them, now more than ever.
After Trump is gone, many will go back into hiding, perhaps rebranding themselves as “Independents” again and then possibly “Tea Party 2.0.” The complicit media will seize on this lie to both rehabilitate the right and to absolve themselves of their role in enabling the rise of fascism and white nationalism.
But the GOP will still be fueled by racism even as it embraces the new fake movement that rises up to repudiate “Trumpism.” That’s because there is no such thing as Trumpism. There never was. The only thing Trump did was be better at shamelessly feeding the right’s hate than anyone else. That’s it. Otherwise, he’s indistinguishable from Fox News. Once he’s gone, Republicans will probably stop the trade wars at the behest of their billionaire masters but little else will change.
Their candidates will continue to campaign on racism just like they did before Trump. They’ll probably be more explicit since Trump did discover that there’s a bottomless appetite for white nationalism on the right but that doesn’t play well outside of deep red gerrymandered districts. White Republican voters will still howl their hatred of brown skin whenever they think they can away with it and whine about “free speech” when they land themselves in hot water.
The press will dutifully go right back to complaining how “both sides” are to blame for how angry everyone is as if the right hadn’t tried to overthrow democracy and turn America into a fascist ethnostate. And when the next Republican demagogue comes along and runs another jaw-droppingly racist campaign, the press will once again be shocked, shocked, that the GOP could allow such a thing to happen.
Pay attention to how little urgency the media puts into the, as of this writing, eight different bombs mailed to prominent liberal figures just this week. A few months ago, yelling at Republicans in public was the gravest sin imaginable. Now, the attempted political assassination of Democrats won’t garner nearly the same level of media outrage. In a few months, it will be like it never happened but the left will still be the villains any time Antifa punches a Nazi in the face.
We have to hold the press accountable. We have to start demanding they tell the truth about Republican racism and violence and stop burying the past, especially when it just happened right in front of the entire world. If not, the next Trump may not be a mentally unstable simpleton. The next one may be a Putin or an Erdogan. After that, what the press does won’t matter anymore because most of them will either fall in line or be murdered.
I’m a stay at home dad, father to a special needs son and a special daughter, a donor baby daddy, a militantly pragmatic liberal, the president of the PTA, a hardcore geek and nerd and I’m going to change the world. Or at least my corner of it.