Following the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launches the Global War on Terror. The United States invades Iraq, and although there is nearly universal approval in Congress, the effort is clearly the will of the Republican presidential administration. Prior to the invasion, experts recruited to sell the war are given talking points and appear on cable news under the false auspices of being independent thinkers. Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame are bullied by the administration — for telling the truth about the questionable nature of key evidence in the case for war.
Along the way, journalists start to complain about the autocratic nature of the Bush administration’s relationship to the press — which, they feel, lacks precedent. Several reporters comment publicly that the administration appears inflexible and convinced that it has all the answers.
Meanwhile, the administration continues to garner support for its policies through one-sided rhetoric amplified through the continual propaganda of Fox News.
The GWOT engulfs such a tremendous percentage of national security resources that the FBI does not feel it has the people to investigate other domestic issues. Too many people are tasked with terrorism.
What they want to investigate in particular, as early as 2006, is rumblings of fraudulent practices in the mortgage security business.
By 2008, the federal budget surplus is a distant memory, the country has been at war for years, and when an interviewer confronts Dick Cheney with a poll that found that two-thirds of the American people think the Iraq War, in retrospect, was a bad idea, Cheney replies, “So?”
John McCain accepts the Republican presidential nomination and is tasked with the dubious honor of convincing the American people that, even though the current president has a 30% approval rating, Republican leadership is what the country really needs. To improve his pedigree, he accepts a younger female running mate, Sarah Palin. She is folksy and affable, but over time she proves herself to be so ignorant as to be nearly incapable of forming complete sentences when she goes off script.
She becomes enormously popular with the Republican base.
Meanwhile, on the left, a president is elected who has written a book that is, as much as anything, about the power of dialectic in national politics. To make a point that he advocates bipartisanship, he invites Rick Warren, a pastor hailing clearly from the “other side,” to lead the prayer at his inauguration.
From the outset, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says Senate Republicans’ goal is to make this person a “one term president.”
Glenn Beck comes to the fore on Fox News, and the Tea Party emerges. Michelle Bachmann, a member of Congress who believes in the imminence of the rapture, rises to prominence and popularity.
By 2012, fairly moderate candidate Mitt Romney stumbles when given the task of first winning his party’s nomination and then winning the national election because he has to so dramatically change his message for the two audiences. He veers far to the right to win the GOP base, then tries to appear centrist to win the popular vote. He fails.
Following Romney’s decisive defeat, chairperson Reince Priebus calls for an “autopsy” of the election, and comments that the Republican party must become more inclusive. The GOP wins seats in the mid-term election, and by then this soul-searching effort has vanished from view.
Emerging stars in the Republican party are Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, the latter of whom is judged to be universally disliked by his peers when he shuts down the federal government over unwavering partisan budgetary demands. By the next election cycle, he is second in the running for the presidential nomination.
Out among the masses, philippics against “libtards” accumulate.
By 2016, the Republicans nominate a wealthy celebrity with a history in the real estate business. He is a crass bully who is openly racist and misogynistic. No major newspaper endorses him. No living president voices support. Many prominent Republicans, including the most recent prior presidential nominee, denounce him. Policy experts and members of the Republican establishment denounce the candidate repeatedly in open letters with dozens and dozens of signatories. Lifelong pundit George Will leaves the party in protest.
The candidate makes one insensitive comment after another, is revealed to be connected to tremendous business failures, significant legal trouble, disingenuous treatment of small business owners and minorities. His momentum continues unchecked. Eventually the candidate is caught in a gaffe big enough that the party, in a decision completely without precedent, stops funding the campaign of their own nominee.
People may breathe easy with the thought that Trump’s march toward the White House may finally have been stopped, but the fact remains that this is the person that the Republicans wanted most to be in the White House.
To be clear: Trump is what most of the voting Republicans wanted.
He is not a fluke, but simply the next advance along a vector that has been plotted for decades.
You simply cannot say, GOP, that you do not have a unique problem. There is not partisan symmetry here. The problem is in the Republican party. And I think this year’s election is instructive of the choice. You can engage the problem or you can watch your party implode, the way this candidate has imploded.
If the party implodes, it will implode the logical reason that it has not built itself on clear-minded statecraft, but, instead, something much more like the id.
You don’t get very good civilization from the id. You get much better quality of civilization from the sincere, intelligent pursuit of truth and goodness.