By James A. Kidney
A year or two ago, I whiled away a half hour watching a British comedy series on one of the streaming channels about a fictional prime minister forced to
fornicate with a pig on national television to keep his job. I found the episode too absurd to be funny, and promptly forgot the name of the show. I didn’t watch any more of the series.
This was long before the Republican Party leadership came to embrace Donald Trump.
The mostly forgotten television episode came to mind as I sought to determine what it is that the Republican Party stands for now that it is about to name Trump its presidential nominee, likely with the nearly complete support of both the party leadership and its rank-and-file.
Trump is against much of what the party claims to favor. He is reliably contradictory on other issues the party stands for (try to pin him down on specifics about tax cuts or abortion). He constantly puts party leadership in the position of defending the indefensible or wishing Trump’s juvenile insults would go away even as they are bleated repeatedly on cable TV.
Hillary Clinton (with Bernie Sanders) is right to say that all Americans should be afraid that Trump, with his immaturity, lack of intellect, absence of curiosity, thin skin and ill temper, could be President of the United States. Trump’s candidacy is a threat to the country that goes well beyond party. Yet, the Republicans are falling in line to support him.
This is the same party that nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney. Say whatever you will about those candidates, no one had reason to believe they would behave erratically and irrationally if they achieved the White House. One could disagree with all of the policies they favored and still sleep comfortably, reasonably sure the country was safe and on a steady course, rightward, for sure, but within the norms of rational political dialog.
Not so with Trump. Yet, the Republicans persist in saying he would be a better president than Hillary Clinton, or even the two former governors running as the Libertarian Party candidates. They seem ready to reduce the nation’s leadership to an international laughing stock, electing Milton Berle (I’m old) or Soupy Sales (still too old?) as president.
Exactly what principled purpose cherished by the Republican Party warrants the reckless notion of electing Trump president?
What, in other words, does the GOP stand for? What drives these people?
Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, often viewed by the gullible political press as the rational Republican, says he can “work with Trump” to pass a GOP congressional political agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the same thing.
What are they talking about?
Yes, Trump says he will kill Obamacare, cut taxes for the very rich, like himself, and strengthen the military. All three of these positions appeal to Trump because they are based on fictions that Obamacare is failing, tax cuts for the rich create jobs, and that our military is weak. Trump thrives on fiction. So does the GOP, which has been bundling these lies for at least 50 years and selling the resulting poison to a gullible public.
Another big ingredient in the snake oil is cutting federal spending to cut the deficit, claiming this, along with the aforementioned tax cuts, will stimulate the economy – despite all evidence to the contrary since at least 1929, or 1880, if you wish.
That seems to be the agenda on which Ryan, McConnell and Trump agree. But one doesn’t have to burrow very far to find serious differences even on these issues.
Trump says Social Security and Medicare are “untouchable” when it comes to deficit reduction. Republicans want to trim benefits, at least for the better off elderly. Combine Trump’s position with increased military spending, and chances for a serious budget/deficit reduction diminish substantially.
Trump also wants to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall at the Mexican border. If these goals actually were to be accomplished, billions of dollars would have to be budgeted to do so and the GDP could fall by about two percent. (See articles here and here.) These expenditures and tax losses would dwarf whatever cuts could be made in discretionary programs by abolishing favorite GOP targets such as the EPA and the Commerce and Education departments. Drug and food protection, national parks and infrastructure would have to be cut to unsafe or intolerable levels.
Or taxes would have to go up.
The GOP leadership response to this is that Trump would need to obtain appropriations from Congress, which could reject the deportation program and building a wall. Maybe. But if Trump were elected, he would have a popular mandate for his programs, irrational as they are. Congressmen and senators (other than Democrats) would be risking their offices to vote against funding these notions. When did that last happen?
Plus, Trump doesn’t have a very firm grasp of the separation of powers. He might decide to spend down the Treasury without congressional approval, hurling childish insults at congressional Republicans and any judges who tried to stop him. (It is still unlikely that he could complete a coherent sentence.) Anyone know if Trump can order the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to increase the press run? Maybe with a new $1 million bill with Trump on one side and Trump Tower on the other? Admittedly a facetious question, but the byzantine ways of Washington have many loopholes and warrens within. Trump might find congressional approval an avoidable inconvenience on many issues. He could make President Obama look like a piker on this strategy since, unlike Law Professor Obama, Trump professes no understanding of the Constitution.
We haven’t even touched on trade issues. Republicans have been strong supporters of free trade agreements. Trump trashes them all – no exceptions.
Both parties claim to be against the practice of companies that move from the U.S. to obtain lower taxes, but only Trump has threatened to keep their products out of the country or tax the imports into non-sellers. In fact, taken at his word (never a good idea), Trump has a lot of distaste for corporate America’s practices in manufacturing and finance. Corporate America is about all that’s left to finance the GOP, but Trump is alienating them. Trump doesn’t care.
Foreign policy? Trump wants to overturn bedrock positions held by the United States since World War II. He would undermine NATO by seriously considering whether to abandon it, even if he finally does not. He seems sympathetic to Putin and is praised by North Korea’s leader – the only national chief that may be as childish as Trump. Limiting nuclear arms? Hey, doesn’t everyone have a right to bear arms?
Republicans have been hawks on Europe and the need to protect it from Russia since 1917. None of what Trump says he would consider in foreign policy comes close to meeting traditional Republican norms.
Add to all of this Trump’s xenophobia, racism, narcissism, anger, etc. and you have a candidate who bears no resemblance to past GOP nominees and very little to the GOP leadership, which at least puts a rational patina on ideas proven wrong almost forever.
So what is the answer to question posed above? What does the GOP stand for in the wake of its embrace of Trump?
The answer is (trumpets, please): Capturing the White House, no matter who occupies it, as long as that person is a self-identified Republican. It matters not what the occupant promises. No Republican cares what the occupant is likely to do – the party doesn’t even know in Trump’s case. Why be concerned about the impact of the occupant on the nation or the world? No matter what the risk of destruction, the country will go down under a Republican banner. Hallelujah! Success at last!
If the price of obtaining the White House were for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to fornicate with a pig on national television, they would do so.
They already have.
It still isn’t funny.