Trump is the GOP

I have read John McCain’s statement that says that Donald Trump’s brand of bigotry does “not represent the views of our Republican Party its officers or candidates.”

That is in a way a very interesting statement. It really calls into question what the Republican Party actually is. The Republican Party has traditionally been a very hierarchical organization. At the top are the rich. They provide the money that supports the party and the candidates. Under the rich are the high party officials and candidates who take the marching orders of the monied and convert them into policy that by and large makes the rich even richer. Under the party officials and candidates are the rank and file. These are the voters. They span all groups but they tend toward being white middle aged men who are unlikely to be college educated and are not terribly successful. They are not well informed on issues. They watch Fox news because it presents a world view they find comfortable. They vote Republican in much the same way that poor white people in the old South followed the lead of the rich to their own detriment instead of joining with poor blacks to enact social change. This is sort of like being on the bandwagon in sports. I feel like I am a winner because the team I root for is winning.

The Republican Party was not always shaped like this. There was a concerted effort post Watergate to reshape the party in order to be able to win national elections. The two key issues in reshaping the party were Christianity and racism. After extensive research, it was determined that post Watergate splitting the country along religious lines was the only way that Republicans could muster enough votes to win the White House. A part of the this effort was re-emphasising the “southern strategy” using racism to get southern white people to vote Republican while casting the Democratic Party as (to quote Newt Gingrich) “the party of Welfare.” This is code for the idea that lazy black and brown people want to live off the efforts of hard working good Christian white people.

In this time the Republican party has consistently courted low information voters who tend to make voting decisions based on emotion often against their own economic interests. They have trotted out highly divisive social issues to spur these voters to action like abortion and gay marriage. As this trend has continued the Republican base has become more about feelings than thought. This shift has created a vulerablity in the base. Trump identified these trends and doubled the emotional output of his campaign. It is not about the issues or thinking. It is purely about the anger of his base being left behind by the economy and directing that anger toward various scapegoats.

My point is that this really is the GOP. Trump has distilled the efforts of the past three and half decades by running a campaign nearly devoid of thought appealing purely to anger, frustration and hate. The GOP elite may be appalled, but the party has been hijacked using its own methods by a slicker carnival huckster who deals in a tastier version of hate and bigotry.