Sunday, August 02, 2015
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion
Stay tuned. But my money’s on the monster.
You know, you can say what you like about Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Sen. Jim Webb and that dude from Maryland whose name escapes me right now, but at least for the moment they’re campaigning like grownups. In contrast, look at some of the wacky antics of the Republicans:
John McCain calls Donald Trump’s supporters “crazies.” Trump shoots back that McCain’s really not a war hero because “he got captured. I like people who didn’t get captured.” Lindsey Graham responds by telling Trump to stop being a “jackass.” Trump turns on Graham and calls him an “idiot” and a “lightweight.”
Rick Perry calls “Trumpism” a “mix of demagoguery and nonsense,” whereupon Trump says Rick Perry’s “only wearing glasses to try and look smart.” Ted Cruz calls Mitch McConnell a “liar,” whereupon McConnell tells Cruz his mama’s so ugly they’ve got to tie a pork chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her.
OK, I made that last bit up. But it does seem as if the party that at least tried to market itself as serious adult leadership for America during the Reagan years is acting these days like a bunch of poorly socialized 13-year-olds sniping at each other on Twitter.
The coarsening of dialogue between the Republican candidates has been described by some pundits as “the Trump effect.” Some candidates see Trump’s poll numbers increase with every bullying sneer and insult and think, “Hey, I need to get me some of that.”
But The Donald is merely reaping the harvest that’s been sown over the past 20 years by talk radio and the Internet, where the competition for ears and eyeballs has become so intense that wingnut politicians seem to be straining their brains trying to find something to say more horrible and outrageous than the last thing.
It’s what the Internet calls “trolling”: trying to shock and enrage in order to get attention, even if it’s of the negative kind. It’s an environment in which supposed “pundits” like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin get air time and book contracts because “they make liberals angry.” It’s a climate of drama and hysteria, in which every political defeat simply must be portrayed as the exact same thing as the Holocaust. Or slavery. Or both.
Witness, for example, Mike Huckabee’s ridiculous claim that the multilateral Iran nuclear deal is, and I quote, “marching Israel to the door of the oven,” a line which even the Anti-Defamation League called “completely out of line and unacceptable” and the Israeli ambassador said was “inappropriate.” But hey, it got headlines — and, Huckabee is no doubt praying, the same bump in the polls that Trump gets whenever he comes out with something that makes people look at each other and go, “Did he really say that?”
For years, the Republican Party has turned a blind eye to, and occasionally even embraced, the crudest attacks on its opponents, from Congressman Dan Burton referring to then-President Bill Clinton as a “scumbag” on the floor of the House to Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” and demanding that he be allowed to watch her have sex if the health insurance for which she worked and paid was required to cover birth control.
All this time, of course, these same Republicans would fall onto their fainting couches and clutch at their pearls in distress at the mildest harsh language directed at them. It’s more than a little ironic that many of the same people who cry like little girls over “name-calling” now embrace Trump, the candidate who’s made it his campaign strategy.
The rhetorical monster the GOP has nurtured is now fully grown and, as monsters do, it’s escaped the lab and is attacking its creators. Add to this the fecklessness of the so-called party leadership as exemplified in the utterly ineffectual Orange John Boehner and the equally helpless Mitch McConnell, and you have the perfect recipe for the current disarray in the GOP.
So who will benefit the most from the chaos? Obviously, whoever ends up with the Democratic nomination. Right now, that still looks like Hillary Clinton. On the Republican side, however, you’ve got two candidates — former Ohio governor Jon Kasich and John Ellis Bush, aka JEB! — trying to position themselves as the grownups in the race.
Will either emerge to give Mrs. Clinton a serious run, or will they be eaten by the GOP rage monster, leaving the nomination to one of the “crazies” who’ll alienate the general electorate and hand the presidency to the Dem nominee?