Friday, March 18, 2016

The Party of Palin

The Trump tidal wave is about to wash the Republican brand out to sea in its wake. The group that is so proud to wrap themselves in the title, "party of Lincoln", is about to become irrelevant. I'm not saying that the party will disappear, but it will no longer be able to make a claim to the lineage of Lincoln. The Party, which so proudly adopted the southern strategy in the 60's and doubled down on that with the Lee Atwater tactics of the 80's, is about to fully reap what it has sown. 

In the last election cycle, I thought that Sarah Palin was the ultimate payoff for what had been done to the Republican brand over the past 40 years. I was incorrect. She was merely the town crier for what would be the ultimate invasion. As the Vice Presidential candidate, her jingoistic, vapid and simplistic slogans electrified the crowds, however she was not the main voice of the Party. The crowds ate it up though. So much so that John McCain became the warm up act for the red meat that the crowd hungered for from Sarah Palin. When a supporter said that Obama was a Muslim, McCain immediately said that he was not. That was clearly not what the crowd was looking for. They wanted blood. Sarah gave it to them, but unfortunately, she was not at the top of the ticket. 

Those of us who fancy ourselves as political observers should have taken more notice of the Sarah phenomenon. For while she and John didn't win the election, it was clear that at the end what the crowd wanted was more of her and less of him. The foreshadowing was clear, we just chose to laugh it off. Sarah Palin became a punchline of sorts because she had no substance to back up her lack of substance. Her family life became fodder for the tabloids, she quit her job in government and tried to become a reality star with terrible results. She even started her own pay TV channel, which apparently no one outside of her family subscribed to. She basically made herself irrelevant, but the blueprint that she left behind was there for someone to pick up and run with.  

So now we have someone who runs on the same sort of empty, jingoistic slogans, but has the semblance of substance behind him. Perhaps not since the days of Huey Long have we seen this type of appeal be this successful. "Make America Great Again" is just an updated version of  "A roof over every head and a chicken in every pot". The promises have no basis in fact and there is no way to accomplish them. First of all, just like the people who wanted to take America back, I ask the same question, whom and what do you speak of? Take America back from whom and what time period are we speaking of when we refer to the greatness of America? It must be a rhetorical question because it has no logical answer. 

The problem with the Republican party is that it has courted the angry white voter for some time. It has used the dog whistle call to let them know that they have a home in the Party. They have created or accentuated the idea that "America" is being stolen, watered down and lost to... (pick your minority group) for so long that they don't really know how to do much else. Every election cycle, they pick an issue (integration, abortion, immigration, gay rights, welfare, health care) and frame it as an "us against them" issue. Everything has been black and white, for lack of a better term. They blow their whistle and wait for the angry American to show up at the polls to maintain their position in the pecking order. 

The biggest aid to the call to arms in the last 20 years has been Fox News. Fox News broadcasts propaganda and alarmist rhetoric as fact. According to the Murdoch mouthpiece, real Americans and the American way of life are under attack every day from the forces of evil. Is the President a Muslim? Fox News can't be sure. Will the President open up camps to indoctrinate our young people? Fox News can't be sure. Will the Democrats bring about Armageddon if they control the White House and Congress? Fox News can't be sure. Is there a war against Christians? Fox News is pretty sure there is.  Is global warming real? Fox News is very sure that it's just a hoax cooked up by the people trying to ruin this country. That type of nonsense "journalism" broadcast into the homes of millions every night has made America a less intelligent country, and it has also made us an angrier country. 

Until now, the Republican running for president has always been able to maintain the cover of "compassionate conservatism" while still managing to blow the dog whistle call to the minions. Sarah Palin had no such pretense of maintain. Pat Buchannan was not afraid to paint the country as conflict between good and evil, but he lacked the disarming charisma and charm of Palin. His argument came across as scary to too many, even in his own party. Palin never looked scary. She was however spewing the same kind of rhetoric that excited the voter who believes that their way of life is under attack. 

Donald Trump has never claimed to be a compassionate conservative. I take that back. Donald Trump has claimed to be everything under the sun. His opening salvo in his run for the nomination was to claim that Mexicans are rapists and that he was going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. Many in the media laughed at the idea that he could be taken seriously. What many, including myself, missed was that the angry voter, that the Republicans had courted for so long, had grown tired with pretense. The rise of the Tea Party after the election of Barack Obama should have been a warning to the Republicans that their voters were growing wary of pretending to be part of system. They didn't want incremental change, they wanted to blow the whole thing up. The Republican party thought that they could control the Tea Party, but as we have seen on numerous occasions, they can't. 

Donald Trump doesn't really stand for anything. That has allowed those angry voters to latch on to his brand of populism. His followers don't want to work within the system, they want to start something new. In poll after poll, the Republican primary voters have spoken about the appeal of an outsider. They are looking for someone who is not a Beltway veteran. They want someone who speaks to their frustrations and who can shake up the system. They are looking for a transformative figure who will lead them to the promised land of relevance. They want to matter. They want their voices to be heard. They don't care about gay rights or immigrant rights or abortion rights or welfare rights, they only care about their right to be heard. They believe that they are losing the war for America. They believe as Fox News has told them over and over that their religion, their guns, their families, their very way of life will be lost if they don't make a stand. 

The saddest part of this story is not that their are so many Americans who believe that they are under constant attack. The saddest part is that they have put their faith in someone who is so unworthy of it. I think the perfect ticket for the GOP in 2016 would Trump/Palin. It makes perfect sense. She  opened the door and showed the way and he went barreling through. It would only be fair that he join up with the heart and soul of the new Republican Party, The Party of Palin. God have mercy on us all.