09 August 2016

The Republican auto-purge

Anyone who thinks that public denunciations of Donald Trump by present or former Republican elected officials and appointees are going to seriously damage his presidential campaign is most likely making a big mistake. Trump is the anti-establishment candidate, after all, and every condemnation of him by an establishment figure will only increase his credibility among his base constituency. From what I hear from such people, Trump's GOP critics are sore losers and crybabies, and their comments can be treated accordingly. If the critics want to say that Trump is a traitor to party principles, his fans consider the critics traitors to the party itself, all the more so since opposition to Trump is, for all realistic intents and purposes, acquiescence in Mme. Antichrist's election. For that part Republicans have only themselves to blame after a quarter-century of indiscriminate execration of the Clintons. How do they expect to convince anyone that a minimum of four years of Hillary is more desirable than four of a duly nominated Republican candidate? With Trump, the Republicans seem to have won a race to the bottom with the Democrats, each having taken the position, in effect, that the other party is so unbearable and intolerable that their constituents have to accept anything the party gives them. Taking GOP propagandists at their word, the Republican base can't understand objections to Trump as anything but betrayal. These supposedly principled conservatives, neocons, etc. may think of Trump as an incipient authoritarian, but theirs seems like the truly authoritarian argument. It may not come with the threat of violence we now identify with authoritarianism, but it is an argument from authority, founded on a belief that yes, they are the establishment, and therefore their opinions should mean something to people. Theirs is a demand for deference, made to people who feel they no longer deserve any. Of course, anti-Trump Republicans have every right to speak out against the nominee, and to put "principle" or "country" or anything else before party, and Trump's fans are mostly reactionary trash whose bigotry spills over any barriers Trump himself may erect. But with that being said, those critics especially who think that by denouncing Trump, and even by denying him victory, they are saving the Republican party in the long term are more likely doing the opposite. They have invited the Trumpets to blame them more than anything or anyone else if Trump loses. They will have "rigged" the election against Trump by their betrayal of party and candidate. If Trump wins, he's sure to purge them to whatever extent he can by primarying elected officials and replacing appointees. But if Trump loses -- not if he wins, as some fear -- it may mean the end of the Republican party, if his defeat convinces his fans that the GOP will never truly represent them.

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