If Donald Trump manages to secure the nomination, he would be the super rich, polar opposite of last election’s nominee Mitt Romney.
Romney campaigned on the social Darwinist idea that the government should be run like a business, and Trump is somehow surging in the same party only three years later on the populist idea that businesses should not be running the government. Trump is a 1% defector, and a traitor to his economic class, whose protective personal and corporate tax-evading philosophies have been a cornerstone of Republican agendas for a century.
As a result Trump’s success as the Republican frontrunner makes absolutely no sense, as his economic beliefs put him perfectly at odds with the Republican Party’s sacred, fiscally conservative platform: he calls for raising taxes on rich people, expanding the safety net, and he has the most vocal wealth redistribution ideas besides Bernie Sanders to end the corporate oligarchy plaguing America.
Touting his own self-financing lack of corporate corruption, Trump says that he will not take any superPAC money, or even accept a presidential salary if elected. He also pledges to punish corporations that ship jobs overseas with steep tariffs and wants to rewrite international trade agreements so that America “wins” again. What that means beyond abstract, egotistical boasting remains to be revealed, but his economic plans are radically anti-business and revolutionary for a contemporary Republican. If this were 2012, Trump would be ridiculed and ostracized as a RINO, and he flaunts the GOP establishment’s dislike for and mistrust of his campaign as his political legitimacy.
It may be absurd given his character flaws, but Trump’s frontrunner status has made him a bona fide, legitimate candidate. In ironic publicity the more he insults the Republican Party, the more the Republican Party supports him, and he has earned the center podium in two consecutive debates. Trump is the ultimate candidate-gone-rogue, and the GOP has no idea yet how to blunt his popularity. Amusingly, Grover Norquist’s once monolithic, now apparently forgotten Taxpayer Protection Pledge is drifting toward political irrelevancy as even the Republican Party is infiltrated with populist ideas of wealth equality. The doublethink designation of the 1% as job creators is also, thankfully, being thrown to the curb of history.
This is not all positive, though, as it is apparent that fiscal conservatism is being replaced in the Tea Party’s narrow attention span by xenophobic nativism against Hispanics and Muslims, but it is undeniably a momentous shift in the Republican base’s economic sentiments.
This revolution has been perhaps inevitable because the modern Republican Party has been for decades a peculiar and hypocritical alliance between the Religious Right, whose priority is to create a fundamentalist, Bible-loyal society, and the laissez-faire economic coalition of the 1% and their decidedly unbiblical, neoliberal, Big Business industries of coal, oil, pharma, banking, and the military industrial complex.
It is ironic that America’s purebred capitalists have heretofore commandeered American Christianity and made the Religious Right a staunch ally of their unambiguously immoral agenda of wealth inequality preservation, but the irony has reached a zenith within the prosperity gospel movement. Religion itself has become a Big Business industry, and this is increasingly true as the nation trends toward general religious apathy. Religions are growing more insular, exclusive, and wildly profitable as individual religion-capitalists use Internet crowdsourcing to become digital televangelists. These digivangelists betray their own religious flocks by joining the 1% and becoming the Republican golden donors and tax code beneficiaries their religious texts metaphorically warn against.
The term “commandeer” is negative, and I mean it in the sense of brainwashing and puppetry. The Republican Party has cared little for the Religious Right’s social concerns because even though the Christian faction of the GOP provides the actual electoral power, they do not provide the campaign money. Instead, the GOP caters to the corporation-people who write the checks. In this way the Republican Party, as its name suggests it would be able to do, has gamed the Republic by sustaining Republican careers in government representing Christians it does not care to accurately represent.
Look at the legislative accomplishments of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan cemented the paradoxical, unnatural marriage between Christian social policies and unchristian economic policies: Republican administrations, legislatures and even conservative Democrats have passed tax cuts, deregulations, free trade agreements, draconian cuts in social programs, and eternally committed more than half of US discretionary spending toward the military-industrial complex, all while doing very little for its religious base beyond token efforts of verbal support for the social issues important to them.
Even Ronald Reagan, despite his Religious Right divinity, did not care much for Christianity, and both he and wife obsessively consulted White House astrologer Joan Quigley. The Reagans were so obsessed with Quigley’s astrology that Reagan’s Chief of Staff Donald Regan claimed that “virtually every major move and decision” the Reagans made received through her consultation. Not a very Christian decision-making process to have. And these moves and decisions were to invest his domestic political capital in adopting voodoo economics, not Biblical sociology.
However, the religious base is finally holding the GOP establishment accountable for its lack of commitment, and the culture war that the fundamentalist-minded Tea Party cries wolf over is increasingly ignoring Obama and liberals to instead focus on purifying the Republican Party.
The Tea Party caucus in Congress has threatened John Boehner’s Speakership so many times that he is resigning, and the Tea Party base in Republican primaries is supporting unashamedly anti-establishment candidates Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina to be the Republican nominee.
The anti-Washington fervor is so great that even Jeb Bush is touting his anti-establishment cred, despite the fact that his familial background makes him arguably the most establishment candidate ever to run for President. Trump currently has the lead, though, and he is publicizing, perhaps dubiously, his alleged devotion to the Bible because Christian faith is paramount to the Republican litmus test for presidential candidates.
If Trump wins the nomination, the fundamentalist Religious Right undoubtedly will fall in line behind him, even though his excessive wealth, narcissism and combativeness would seem to discredit his Christian faithfulness. A Trump nomination would also mean that the Tea Party will have its first presidential candidate, a radical so bombastic and offensive that he is the GOP’s nightmare.
Because the Tea Party is effectively becoming its own separate political party, Trump has become a destructive wedge between the neoliberal, supply-side GOP establishment and its religious, socially afraid and suddenly mutinous Tea Party base, and he may be the straw that breaks the GOP’s back.
The deepening divide between these two GOP ideological halves is a self-fulfilling, counter-intuitive boon to Trump’s success in that the more that GOP elites try to contain and eradicate the cancer that Trump has become, the more conspiratorial and anti-establishment the Tea Party becomes.
Trump has been described literately as a Republican Frankenstein’s Monster all summer, but it is turning out that the entire Tea Party is an army of monsters turning against their Republican creators. Besides Boehner they have unseated an astonishing number of career Republicans, including Boehner heir apparent Eric Cantor, and are now being led somewhat brainlessly by a frontrunner with baffling, unorthodox and seemingly contradictory ideological positions. Trump’s regressive, racist nativism is juxtaposed with his progressive, economic populism in a campaign full of wild juxtapositions.
Among these is that Trump is simultaneously trumpeting fascism and democracy. He is simultaneously a conservative culture warrior and a liberal society equalizer. Again, Trump’s success makes no political sense, and, unfortunately for the GOP, the Republican National Committee has no leash on him or the fascist-libertarian movement behind him.
Forget the guy at Trump’s recent campaign event accused of being a liberal operative, Fox News would better spend its airtime denouncing Trump as the liberal operative. It is hard to imagine that a liberal operative could do more to deconstruct the Republican Party than what Trump is currently doing, and because the GOP field of presidential candidates is so large, there is a good chance that the nomination race will go all the way to the Republican Convention floor. The convention is a long way away, but Trump may at that point still have a plurality of support, and, if the Republican Party orchestrates a convention floor coup against him, he very well may run third-party and destroy what little electoral chance the GOP has left in winning.
Because Trump, in all seriousness, is entirely unelectable in the first place, Republicans may be in an impossible 2016 catch-22 where they are defeated if Trump wins the nomination, and they are defeated if Trump loses the nomination and runs on his own. The best thing for the Republican Party would be if Trump wins the nomination and then loses by a landslide so that the GOP establishment can reverse course towards political sanity, but if Trump loses the nomination and Republicans still lose the election the Tea Party will claim that the GOP lost because Republicans were not radical enough and obstruct the Republican establishment even more. Good luck to the new Speaker of the House.
Whatever the result of the 2016 election it is obvious that America’s bi-party political system is ending, and that the Tea Party is embracing its role as a third party with or without Trump as its presidential candidate.
Image via Politico