Donald Trump matters because Trump’s candidacy is the most boisterously obnoxious evidence to support the growing empirical case that the Republican Party can no longer function as a national political party.
The Republican party has been taken over by a group of people who hate government and have no interest in helping government serve the people. Today the Republican party has fully embraced the notion that the government is the problem and that it’s their duty to stop it. Yet contrary to the believe that the government is always wrong, Republicans today have no problem doling out tax breaks and kickbacks to wildly profitable companies like ExxonMobil.
So with that as the basis of the party’s platform, it’s no wonder that someone like Trump could do well. Trump doesn’t know the first thing about government or governing, but that’s not what he’s selling. Trump is saying, “Look. I’m not going to go to DC to govern. I’m going there to kick some ass and get stuff done. The way I do it in the corporate world.”
It’s not much different than the argument George W. Bush made in 2000. He was the governor of Texas for a few years. Other than that, Bush worked for his father’s political machine and he cashed out big on his Texas Rangers investment. In 1989, Bush invested $800,000 in the baseball team then sold his share in 1998 for $15 million.
Running for the presidency, Bush positioned himself as the CEO candidate. Even though his corporate career consisted of a bit of bungling around in the 1980s, Bush promised to bring his capitalist skills to the Oval office and revolutionize Washington – get things done. Bush did get things done. His presidency consisted of massive terrorist attacks, war and war profiteering and ended with the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression.
George W. Bush represented the continued Republican party degradation that really began with President Ronald Reagan. Reagan successfully planted the seeds and cultivated hatred toward the federal government. In addition to slashing regulations, taxes on the wealthy, and a full assault on social programs, the Republican party’s message to it’s base for the late 35 years is that the federal government is the problem.
It’s the perfect message. Democrats tend to be left of center and supportive of government action to help people with education, health care, retirement, whatever. So the GOP labels the Democratic party as the party of Big Government while blasting the very notion that government should exist in any form other than that which aids capitalistic endeavors.
And underlying all of what the Republican party does lies capitalism. The view of capitalists of government is one that sees government’s responsibility is to help capitalists and capitalism. The capitalists seek low wages, no environment regulations, high profits and no taxes.
To masquerade some of those less politically palatable ideas, like low wages, ending public education and destruction of the environment, the Republican party will often focus on social issues, like abortion or gay marriage. It’s an effective technique to draw the voter’s attention away from those policies that may be against the voter’s own economic self-interest.
And Trump manifests all of what the GOP is today. It’s the party that loathes brown people, whether it’s the immigrants cleaning your hotel room or black folks killed by the police, like Sandra Bland. It’s the party that never wanted to lose the marriage equality argument because it drew so many small-minded people out to vote Republican. It’s the party that will never overturn Roe v. Wade because without abortion the Republican party would cease to exist.
Unlike Bush, Trump’s not pretending he’s going to do anything positive while in office. He’s going to pick a war with Mexico. He’ll probably bomb Iran. Trump is going to go full Trump all over DC, if he’s elected president. And no one knows for sure what that will look like, but it won’t be pretty.
Fortunately, or unfortunately if you write about politics, Trump won’t be the next president, but the fact that he’s leading by a lot in the polls, and has been for awhile, certainly says something about the state of the Republican party. That problem stems from the fact that the Republican party lacks core planks in its platform that appeal to more than 50 percent of the country. To get elected Republican politicians have to lie about their real intentions once elected. And so whoever is the best liar wins. Right now that’s Trump.