Friday, August 5, 2016

Perpetual State of Outrage

Earlier this week I wrote about the highly unlikely possibility that Donald Trump would drop out of the race.

But unless he has an awakening on the scale of Saul on the road to Damascus or Senator Paine (Claude Rains) in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, he will stay in the race and drag the party, willingly or not, over the event horizon to oblivion.

I think that I was doing a bit of wishful thinking about casting the GOP into oblivion, which means “the state of being completely forgotten or unknown.”

The Republican Party isn’t going to go away; it will always be with us in some form or other, just as every political party has redefined itself as time goes on.  They seize political opportunity where they find it, and appeal to voters that they think will keep them in power, and seemingly have a reflexive anti-matter reaction to anything the Democrats do purely by nature.  Donald Trump is the embodiment of the anti-Obama lizard-brain reaction that came about when a large number of white Americans suddenly realized that a black man was president, regardless of his basically centrist views on most policies, including passing a healthcare bill that had been drafted and proposed by Republicans when Bob Dole ran in 1996.  And now the party has nominated this internet comment thread with feet as their standard bearer.

The problem for the Republicans is that once they take on a certain mindset, they have a hard time shaking it.  That can be a problem when they adopt a permanent solution for a temporary problem.  In 1964 they nominated Barry Goldwater as the anti-Kennedy/Johnson states-rights champion, egged on by the passage of the civil rights laws.  (That was the first time I heard someone say “I want my country back.”  Nothing is original.)  That became the mantra of George Wallace, who helped get Richard Nixon elected, and then became the benign country-club “nice people” classism of Reagan and Romney: “Oh, we love our blacks; we just don’t think they’re quite ready for suburbia yet.”  (Now the Muslims are the new blacks.)

If Hillary Clinton wins the election in November, the Trumpified GOP will not fade into oblivion.  Rather, they will continue to fight the last election much as they have been contesting the election of Barack Obama and they battled against the election of Bill Clinton.  They will hold on to their base of Trump voters — without them, they couldn’t fill a medium-sized baseball stadium — and do their best to keep them outraged about every little thing that President Clinton does or doesn’t do.  I wonder when it will dawn on them that it’s a losing strategy; every time they’ve done that, going back to FDR, they’ve assured the Democrat of a second term.

Keeping up a perpetual state of outrage takes a lot of energy; going around mad at the world can wear you down and make you totally unwelcome in polite society.  But they must think it’s the way to win an election or two.