GO DONALD GO
This liberal rejoices, crosses fingers as Vulgarian wins Florida
I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I’m over the moon about the Super Tuesday returns. But my story isn’t one of another schadenfreude-y liberal who delights in GOP despair. Mine is more of…a love story.
A whole lot of years ago, a good friend and I were flopped on the bed in her dorm room when she said “I pray every night for my dad to hit rock bottom.” Her father, a prominent surgeon, was also an alcoholic who nightly yelled for a while before falling asleep in his dinner plate.
My friend, her mother, and her sister dragged him to the couch, took off his shoes.
I was unfamiliar with Alcoholics Anonymous, and didn’t understand. Why “rock bottom”?
“Because I love him,” she said simply, and explained her certainty that her dad would never recover from his addiction unless he hit bottom. “Every so often, he swears he’ll do better. But ‘better’ only lasts a few days. I don’t just want my dad to stop passing out during dinner. I want my dad back.”
These last weeks, her words — addiction…rock bottom…recovery — keep jangling in my brain. They are brash, insistent metaphor, a comparison so apt I’ve been yearning, almost praying, for Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee.
Because, I say simply, I love my country. And I believe we’re in an addiction situation, and rock bottom is required.
When there’s an addict in your midst, the whole dinner table is out of whack. And even my most conservative pals, the ones who are still Republicans, agree that, for years, their party has been downright addicted to fear and hatred. From homophobia to xenophobia to racism, the GOP’s greatest hits have rallied a whole new set of voters. Hating that which is “other” is now the calling card of the party that once tried to promote itself as the Big Tent — before hitting on the irony that exclusion was a much easier sell.
For the GOP, the high has been the votes. And the hatred-sowing has been brilliantly effective at the vote-getting. Mmm, feels good. Let’s do some more.
The fact that the Republican aristocracy — from politicians to pundits — finally, finally started having a huge, collective cow about Donald Trump says to me that his nomination might be the “rock bottom” that jolts the party into awareness. That just maybe, it’s ready to take the first of AA’s Twelve Steps of Recovery:
“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable…”
For addicts, there might be years of downward spiral before they make that admission. The spiral is filled with denial, as addicts wag the blaming finger at the symptom (I should really stop falling asleep in my food), rather than the disease (My drinking is a huge problem).
For what feels like forever but is actually only a handful of election cycles, the Republican establishment’s reaction to the most hateful, bigoted, dangerous elements in their party has been the equivalent of waking up in a puddle of vomit and seeing the puddle as the problem.
“Hoo boy, that’s no good!” the addict shakes his head. “How’m I gonna get the puke out of the carpet?”
For months, smart people have been making the case that the Trump phenomenon is the logical and predictable outcome of years of GOP hate-’n’-fear: GUYS, YOU HAVE AN ADDICTION PROBLEM. Mitt Romney and his ilk have so far covered their ears. Get that guy out of here! the Establishment drumbeat increased, right to this past week’s panicked crescendo.
Never mind that Republicans have long been firing up the base by proposing deportation plans no less Draconian than Trump’s and creating policy that’s no less misogynistic than The Donald v. Megan Kelly’s menstrual cycle. The GOP has been cool with moral hypocrisy — hey, Newt Gingrich and ignorant xenophobia — ‘sup, Sarah Palin. And of course, ever since they abandoned the Democratic party over civil rights, wacko racists have been flinging themselves up from their bunkers to vote GOP. For the past year, the Republican elite have been mostly silent, if not antagonistic, on the topic of the violence cops do to black men.
But suddenly a Donald Trump rally gives everyone the vapors?
The GOP of recent years has mocked higher education, defended unbridled greed, and suggested that “every man for himself” is pretty much the gist of the United States Constitution. Now their frontrunner is a man who sees nothing in himself to improve, whose greed is his chief selling point, and whose “moral code” is simply win. Who suggests that they asked for it is an appropriate response, when his supporters kick the shit out of those who would protest peacefully.
No, Donald Trump is not an exception to the Republican platform — he is its unvarnished and unapologetic handiwork. Yet: He’s making us look bad, say the establishment.
Dudes. The puke is not your problem.
“I don’t want my dad just to stop passing out at the table. I want my dad back.” My college roommate, age eighteen, understood our situation today better than any chorus of GOP talking heads. How deep in denial must these guys be, to think the real problem here is not the addiction, but its unsightly manifestation?
And why do I, a liberal, give a damn if the Republican party destroys itself? Wouldn’t it work well for my politics if these guys just keep flailing around, bender after bender?
But see, I love my country.
“I can’t talk to my dad about it,” my friend said. “So I just pray for rock bottom.” She continued, “I loved our family so much.”
The two-party system requires both parties show up and be functional. When one party is lost in its addiction, the whole table is adrift. Liberals these days feel untethered to me, lost in the echo chamber of our own ideas. My people wander around on Facebook agreeing with each other. We’re not challenged, and we’re not thinking very hard. We’re just Hillary v. Bernie-ing ourselves into a stupor.
A family isn’t functional because everybody agrees, but because people disagree with decency, and in relationship with one another. There’s conversation, there’s arguing, there’s apologizing. Sometimes there’s stomping off to our rooms, sure, but sometimes there’s coming together for the good of the whole. People are present. People are talking.
For far too long, it’s been nigh on impossible to engage in thoughtful disagreement with most Republican politicians. I want thoughtful opposition back. I want to hear smart people disagreeing with decency on the size of government, on personal responsibility, on America as world peacekeeper. Maybe we learn from each other. Maybe legislation even gets passed, and we get a Supreme Court justice. Maybe government is more than posturing and obstruction. I miss — yeah, the metaphor’s corny but I mean it anyway — our national dinner table.
So, like a family member who loves an addict, I’m hoping for the worst. Not because I want my addict to come to harm. But because I want it to recover.
I believe without qualification that Republicans love this country. Since many of them now believe that Trump-as-nominee will hurt America deeply, I’m cautiously optimistic that that’s the exact bender from which the GOP finally wakes up and says, “This addiction has gotten way out of control.”
I don’t think anything short of his nomination will do the trick. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio? Those guys aren’t any less hateful or bigoted; they’re just not puking on the carpet. The establishment’s frenzy to elevate one of them is simply the equivalent of “getting better.” It might last a few weeks. (Either of them, good god, says the misguided #NeverTrump movement, missing the point entirely.)
So please, I pray, according to the logic of my old friend — whose father did hit bottom out our junior year, and who is now almost 30 years sober — please hit rock bottom. Let’s get started with this recovery thing. I understand millions of addicts have found that it works. And I want my country, our ability to have a conversation, back.
I’m hoping tonight’s the night.
Step Nine: Made direct amends wherever possible….
“We’re sorry, peace-loving Muslims, that we vilified you. We’re sorry, Mexican immigrants, that we called you rapists and thugs. We’re sorry, gay brothers and sisters — calling you bestial was over the line, no matter what we think of who you love. We’re sorry, women. We’re just really, really sorry.”
— — —
Hi, I’m the Republican Party, and I’m addicted to fear and hate. It has been one election cycle since I preyed on people’s most base instincts in order to get votes. It took nominating a man who courted white supremacists, suggested we kill the families of people we don’t like, and talked about the size of his penis during a televised debate, to make me realize I was powerless over my addiction…
I know it’s not exactly what The Donald means when he says it, but I’m convinced: Donald Trump, Republican nominee, is the way to Make America Great Again.