THE REPUBLICAN MONSTER

The Republican establishment has enjoyed tremendous political success since officiating an unholy wedlock joining crony capitalists masquerading as job creators to those pretending to be particularly pious. The party dominates not only the federal House of Representatives (which convenes every now and then to vote against Obamacare and hold Bengazi hearings) and Senate (which seems to believe that a ninth Supreme Court Justice should be paid for by the private sector) but also many statehouses (whose to-do lists have featured crushing public service unions, gerrymandering congressional districts, and introducing a bold new beverage to Flint, Michigan). The political pendulum has swung so far to the right since Ronald Reagan rode the Iran hostage-taking to victory in 1980 that the only truly moderate Republicans to have occupied the White House over the past three-and-a-half decades have been Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. In its determination to prevent a third, who has been married to each of the others in one sense or another, the Republican party elders changed the rules for nominating their presidential candidate this time around.

“Elders” might be a misnomer. Perhaps “Owners” would be more appropriate. The Democratic and Republican parties are private organizations, and those organizations make their own rules about how delegates to their nominating conventions are selected. When I was younger (so much younger than today), it was quite common for state delegations to national nominating conventions to be dominated by a local official and his political cronies, and conventions often included the nomination of such “favorite sons” (never daughters) who would hold their votes as chips in the smoke-filled room in which a nominee would emerge and patronage would be determined. Such deal-making is how Earl Warren went from Governor of California to unsuccessful Vice-Presidential candidate to Chief Justice of the United States.

The primary and caucus process which has become as regular a feature of February sweeps television as the rose ceremony on The Bachelor is a relatively modern innovation. More modern still is proportional representation, in which delegates are allocated in rough proportion to the results of the primary or caucus of each state (or territory; I’m still waiting for a tight battle to be resolved by the delegates from American Somoa). As a vestige of the good old days, Elders/Owners (including select elected officials) still get all-expenses paid trips to the conventions as so-called superdelegates, without having to go through a primary or caucus selection process.

Proportional representation now appears to be the rule everywhere for the Democrats. The Republicans, however, decided to go in a different direction. They didn’t like the manner in which Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum dragged out the nominating process in 2012 and wanted to hasten the coronation of a front-runner as the party’s presidential nomination. This was a calculated political decision. It wasn’t that Governor Huckabee or Senator Santorum had much chance of winning the nomination, but rather that their continued participation forced the front-runner to tack to the right throughout the spring, and allowed the Democrats to use that as political ammunition as the general public began realizing that there would be an election that fall. This time around, the GOP elite were going to see to it that their party’s presidential candidate would be able to stop throwing red meat to the key constituencies of Greed and God before anyone was paying attention. I wasn’t there when the decision was made, but I like to imagine that there was at least one holdout left in the so-called party of Lincoln suggesting that maybe the party would have a better chance of winning the presidency if it actually moderated its positions. When the laughing died down, someone might take that troublemaker aside and explain that it wasn’t moderation that has won so many recent elections in Congress and in the States.

Democracy is to be avoided, as it may lead to Democrats. If The House of Representative were chosen on a proportional basis, the republicans wouldn’t have taken it over in 2012. Far better to take a step backward and change the rules so that whoever emerged as the early leader, whether that would be Jen Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, or some other Republican out of central casting could coast to the nomination by riding the electoral crest to victory in winner take all primaries throughout the spring.

Thanks to those rule changes, this year’s March Madness will not be limited to college basketball. Starting March 15th, many Republican delegates will be selected on a winner-take-all basis, in which a plurality of votes garners a state’s entire delegation or a winner-take-all “trigger”(leave it to them to bring firearms into it), in which a majority wins all the marbles (or, given the caliber of the leading remaining candidates, all the delegates who have lost their marbles). As an ancillary “benefit”, the convention floor will be more unified in support of the nominee.

The rules riggers failed to take into account that, after decades of whipping its base into a frenzy with televised lies and outrage, the early front-runner might well be determined by televised lies fueling outrage. And, quelle surprise, that front-runner is the outrageous and dishonest former host of a highly rated faux reality television show. Evidently, not everyone in the party regards Donald Trump as a winner, even though that’s not only what the candidate insists but also what my monitor says whenever I type “whiner” or “weiner”. Fear that Mr. Trump might be something else panics the Koch brothers and the Club for Growth [1] . They crave a reliably Republican President they can count on to rubber-stamp the Republican Congress’ “Old Deal” return to the Gilded Age, back before dangerous radicals like Upton Sinclair and Samuel Gompers wrecked our economy with the unnecessary health and safety regulation that destroyed our nation’s ability to feed itself for generations [2], and opposition to the sweatshops and child labor that might have helped us stay competitive with foreign sweatshops and child labor.

The money men of Citizens United would love a Mitt Romney clone (which, come to think of it, may be what the 2012 nominee actually was), but they’ll willingly accept Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz if that’s what it takes to prevent another 20th century. The social Neanderthals whose votes the economic elite have depended upon are also concerned, albeit for a very different reason. They trust The Donald even less than they did The Mormon to appoint Supreme Court Justices sufficiently committed to upholding the rights of the homophobic, unborn, and Caucasian [2]. They want to go back to the late 1800s for their own reasons. For them, pre-Oberefell vs. Hodges (2015), Lawrence vs. Texas (2003), Roe vs. Wade (1973), and Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965) isn’t nearly backward enough; they’re aiming for a return to Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896).

This concern that President Trump may not deliver what he promises (as if there were any reason to doubt his integrity or honesty) is all playing out against a backdrop of polling data that shows the each of the still standing southern Senators to have a significantly better chance than the current GOP front-runner of defeating Hillary Clinton in the general election. The prospect of Trump succeeding in the general election but failing them thereafter has both religious and financial fanatics scrambling for some way to slow down his campaign’s momentum. I don’t envy them the task of digging up any dirt on The Donald more damning than what he actually says.

On the Democratic side, many seem to be hoping that Mr. Trump, having left the boardroom of The Apprentice, will star in this fall’s version of “The Biggest Loser”. Only a meltdown on the order of Chernobyl or Sarah Palin could threaten the GOP’s gerrymandered lock on the House of Representatives or give the Democrats any hope of the Senate majority needed to bring highly qualified judicial nominees an up or down vote, thereby shining a spotlight on Republican Senators taking the wrong side [4].

The Democrats should stop dreaming about 1964 and 1974, when Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon led the Democrats to landslide victories. It could go the other way. Recent history has repeatedly demonstrated that there is no such thing as an unelectable Republican. Those relishing a general election campaign against Trump need to wake up, smell the overall primary turnout (which strongly favors the GOP), and think about 1984 and 2004, when the country re-elected Republican Presidents that too many Democrats foolishly regarded as having been unelectable in the first place. I know, because I was one of them. I recall wanting Ronald Reagan to wrest the 1976 presidential nomination from unelected incumbent Gerald Ford because I couldn’t imagine that the nation would be stupid enough to put someone “like that” in the White House.

Coincidentally, 1976 was the last time a major party’s establishment tried to coalesce behind an “anyone but” movement in opposition to an unexpected front-runner. Back then, it was the Democrats, who couldn’t believe that Jimmy Carter was racking up so many delegates. The first presidential ballot I ever cast in full view of poll watchers [5] was for Jerry Brown in the 1976 Rhode Island primary, whose campaign the party establishment encouraged in the hopes of denying Carter a majority of delegates and creating a brokered convention. The party went as far as to create and distribute “ABC” buttons; deciphering that message was as easy as “Anyone But Carter”.

Much as the Democratic Party machinery may have wanted to select its own candidate, following the not ready for prime time conventions of1968 and 1972, there was nothing odious about the prospect that Governor Carter might become President. Today’s Republicans have much more to fear. Accordingly, there is even greater demand by party faithful for an open convention this time around. That’s why Mitt Romney took the stage at the University of Utah to present carefully pre-leaked remarks in opposition to the builder whose ego makes Howard Roark’s seem modest in comparison.

The Republican establishment, having turned its back on the principles of honesty and representative democracy is now hoist by its own petard. Under the current rules of engagement, the Trump tsunami is close to achieving critical mass and not just because New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has squeezed his way into Trump’s bandwagon. Christie’s abandonment of whatever scruples he once had [7] presages overwhelming victories in upcoming primaries for a campaign that takes jingoism to an unprecedented extreme [8].

There remains, of course, the question of why Donald Trump has been winning, and will likely continue to win, pluralities in state after state. Donald Trump is both more interested in holding office than in doing the job (like Marco Rubio). He is also a dangerously authoritarian sociopath (like Ted Cruz). To modern Republican voters, that’s a twofer.

Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch are modern-day Drs. Frankenstein, the genie of dishonest outrage is proving very difficult to put back in the bottle, and Sinclair Lewis was right, even if the title of his great book was wrong. Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are all the proof anyone needs that it can happen here.
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1. A thin sliver of the upper-tier of the top one-percent, whose members are distraught that their wealth might be even slightly trimmed, not to be confused with a much more larger and egalitarian male-dominated growth club whose members fear a different type of haircut.
2. until Monsanto saved us 
3. key Republican voting blocs
4. The Democrats really are dreaming if they think that a Republican minority wouldn’t filibuster a Supreme Court nomination just because the Democrats didn’t. They let Clarence Thomas replace Thurgood Marshall (which is like Tyler Perry taking over a role from Morgan Freeman, except that Perry speaks more frequently and sensibly than does Thomas). Any Republican Senator who didn’t join a filibuster with the Court in the balance would be inviting the sort of primary challenge that has already put too many of them in office.
5. I’m hoping the Statute of Limitations has run on my enthusiastic, albeit underaged, support for JFK in 1960 and George McGovern in 1972. If not, I plead being from Chicago, where even the dead vote (in alphabetical order, no less). Living Chicagoans who vote only once are regarded as slackers. 
6. Three-fifths is a fortuitous fraction; Supreme Court Justices nominated by Republicans gutted the Voting Rights Act and at least one of its leading Trump alternatives preaches adherence to the constitution’s “original intent”.
7. probably for breakfast
8. Buzz Windrip’s major domo Lee Sarason would have balked at “Make America Great Again”.