Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tomorrow's Autopsy Today

Ezra Klein laments the existing and likely enduring threat to American democracy that Trumpism represents.  He builds off Julia Azari's piece on weak parties and strong partisanship.  This sentence is critical:

If partisans have lost so much faith in their party establishments, then why are they so much likelier to back whomever their party nominates? The answer, in short, is fear and loathing of the other party.

This is the strong partisanship that Azari mentioned.  The GOP can't perform their basic function, which is to coordinate a broad spectrum of political interests into a cohesive whole.  This allows a demagogue to hijack the party and then rely on that high level of partisanship to possibly win an election.  Trump found the cheat-code at the heart of the GOP: racial panic.  It's not about economic pain and dislocation, so much as it's about the fear of those things.

As I've been saying for years, the GOP media environment is soaking in apocalyptic fear-mongering.  That creates the environment for a demagogue.  Partisanship allows that demagogue access to millions of voters that he otherwise wouldn't have.  Consider this quote:

“We’ve got this online media where the profits are driven by controversy and clicks,” Sarah Rumpf, a former Breitbart writer, told Vox. “It’s just an activism problem in general, where it’s easier to fundraise and easier to get members when you can declare an emergency, when you can declare a crisis, when you can identify an enemy.”

And that is where demagogues come from.

What is ultimately worrisome is whether or not - in defending Trump - those voters have now internalized the racism, sexism and xenophobia that defines Trump.  Trump won the nomination as an ethno-nationalist.  The question is whether he can turn the GOP into an ethno-nationalist party.

Klein summarizes:
So here, then, is the key failure point in modern American politics, and observing it in action requires looking no further than the Republican Party: Voters’ dislike of their own party has broken the primary process, but fear of the opposition has guaranteed unified party support to the nominee. That means whoever manages to win a flawed competition dominated by the angriest, most terrified partisans ends within spitting distance of the presidency.
Party primaries were traditionally bulwarks against demagogues rising in American politics. Now they are the method by which they will rise.
Here is the frightening takeaway from 2016, even if - as I believe - Clinton wins.  There is nothing structural on the GOP side to slow or reverse this process.  Trump is too old (and will likely be too unpopular after losing) to win the nomination in 2020.  If you're a Republican wanting to win the nomination, would you pattern your campaign on Donald Trump or John Kasich?  The "coming civil war" in the GOP has all the power on the side of the Trumpenproletariat and none on the side of Paul Ryan and certainly none on the side of Jeff Flake.

The most likely result of tomorrow's election is Clinton winning reasonably comfortably - about 4% of the popular vote - Democrats winning the Senate by a few votes and the House remaining in Republican hands.  Those House Republicans will be full of the fearful, angry rabble that created Trump.  They will not wish to govern or compromise and the faith we have in our civic institutions will be further tested.  Important work will go undone, because the Republican party of Bob Dole and even Ronald Reagan has ceased to exist.  What we have instead is a group of people who are terrified of the changes being wrought in their country, so they are engaged in a multi-decades long tantrum that is paralyzing our government.

Clinton will likely win tomorrow. But we are still, in so many ways, already losers.

No comments: