It’s Just a Bunch of Racists
The modern Republican party is made up of a coalition of several groups. You have your small government types, who simply want lower taxes on the rich and justify them through the debunked but popular theory of trickle-down economics. You’ve got your social conservatives, who want a Christian Godly society based on some version of what they believe are Biblical tenets, and that aims to control the bodies and lives of women, as does the Bible. You’ve got your cultural conservatives, who want to protect their guns and rural lifestyle against the threatening waves of modernity. And you’ve got your racists who belong to all of those groups and desperately want to go back to a mythical Golden Age of white domination. These last can be small-government types — think of how the ACA is denigrated essentially for redistributing money from whites to non-whites — or cultural conservatives- who love to control the bodies of women of color much more than those of white women. Since 1949, when Truman “lost China” to the Communists, the Republicans have claimed the mantle of patriotism, which they kept through the Cold War and into the Bush 43 era. That is your modern GOP.
Donald Trump’s campaign has shown that every one of these components — save the racism — is a fraud. Even more poignantly, Trump has demonstrated exactly how persistent racism animates all the other aspects of the party, and is in fact the only glue holding it together. Trump’s campaign has illuminated every supposed tenet of the party, from tax cuts to internationalism to economic policy to patriotism, as a giant fraud perpetrated for political gain, and the responses of leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and John McCain make that abundantly clear.
Take the current Khan-Trump Feud (with Trump, you have to write about this stuff as if it were Kimye vs. Taylor, because that’s the only way it makes sense.) Humayun Khan was an American hero who sacrificed his life for his country, the United States. Trump’s belittling of his service and Roger Stone and others’ repeated efforts to tie the Khans to radical islamist terrorists, as they always insist on putting it, makes it clear that GOP respect for Veterans and our fallen is only for political gain. We saw some of this with Cindy Sheehan in 2004, and with Max Cleland in 2002, but it is only now when Trump has forced the GOP leadership to take a stand against an American serviceman who died for his country, that the hypocrisy and fraud is so clearly articulated. That’s why Khizr Khan was such an inspired choice to speak at the DNC: in addition to his righteous indignation, his articulate and heartfelt words, his family’s story is the perfect fault line through which to expose the fraud of the GOP focus on USA! USA! If love of country is subsumed by racism, then it isn’t love of country. It’s just racism.
For a long time the Republican party was the party of isolationists. The original America First movement aimed at keeping America out of the brewing war in Europe, and it curried favor through racist and anti-Semitic means. However, the Cold War gave Republicans — who had lost five straight presidential elections from 1932–1948 — the cudgel of internationalism with which to batter the Democrats. Thus in 1948 was born the modern GOP focus on a strong international presence, which ran through Reagan and his Evil Empire to Bush I and the Gulf War to Bush II and the Iraq War. Now, however, Donald Trump has undone that tenet of the GOP. He wants to pull back from American commitments abroad, weaken or disband NATO unless it becomes a classic Mob protection racket, and while he says he is going to make the military great again, other than defeating ISIS — without ground troops, as he has also promised — it is unclear what that greatest-ever military is going to do. America First is not an accident, even if it is unclear if Trump himself knows the derivation. It is the unravelling of the GOP focus on foreign policy, and it comes with a healthy dose of anti-trade rhetoric. The party of free trade is now the party of walls and protectionism. Few in the party, other than the much-maligned Establishment, seems to care. And all of this is sold based on the idea that we need to pull back in order to avoid importing the terrorism with which the Middle East and Europe now struggle. It is built on racism, and that seems to convince 43% of the voting population that it is a good idea. It’s all racists.
And on the central fixture of the post-Reagan GOP, small government that leads to tax cuts, Trump has implicitly and quietly upended the GOP orthodoxy. If you listened to his convention speech, he promised to strengthen the military, bring back jobs, end trade deals, build infrastructure, and repair suffering towns and cities. He wants to build his beautiful wall on the southern border — a multi-billion dollar enterprise — and has said he wants to round up the 11 million or so illegal immigrants in the country with a special police force. Putting aside, if we can, how shockingly un-American that idea is, it will cost $1 trillion to get done. He wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but since Obamacare saves a lot of money, it’s unclear how that would help the exchequer. All of these programs will cost money — lots of it — and yet he pays lip service to enormous tax breaks. Yet that too is a fraud: either he pays for his domestic and military spending or he raises taxes. The usual GOP “magic asterisk” of imputing massive growth in GDP to tax cuts for the rich isn’t going to cut it, as it hasn’t cut it in decades. The only thing holding these proposals together is that they are racist and ethno-nationalist in their intent. There is nothing conservative about his program; there is just racism.
The Khan Affair has helped expose just how hollow the GOP’s promises are. If patriotism isn’t really about Americans dying for their country, but about white Americans dying for their country while fighting non-whites, then patriotism is worthless. If international engagement is really about denying Muslims entry into the United States and allowing Vladimir Putin to have his way in Europe, then it isn’t internationalism, it’s the fortification of a white America against the tides of non-whites spreading out in the era of globalization. It is to keep them out that Trump is pulling back. Economic policies aimed at restoring the rural areas of America are not inherently bad — and something the Democrats might want to consider — but to do it while attacking Black Lives Matter and threatening to round up millions of immigrants means that there is more than “economic anxiety” at work. And cutting taxes while raising spending demonstrates exactly how hollow the deficit hawkery of the GOP has always been: it only matters when it is used as a big stick to bludgeon Democrats; when Republicans are in charge or the deficit goes down by 2/3 under Obama, it no longer matters. Every single one of the major pillars of the GOP are fraudulent, and Donald Trump and the meek acquiescence of all the Quislings in the GOP leadership have proven it.
So what is left? What gives Trump his popularity as he exposes the fraud that is the GOP? Racism, pure and simple. Every one of Trump’s plans has, at its core, a racial component that benefits whites over those with darker skin, whether they are Muslim immigrants fleeing the hell of Syria or Mexican immigrants looking for a better life in the United States or African-Americans fed up with brutal police oppression. There is no other thread that holds the GOP together anymore. None. Not patriotism, which is conditional on skin color. Not international engagement, which could leave us open to more immigration and trade from non-white countries. Not domestic spending, which is aimed squarely at benefitting the whites in America at the expense of everyone else. And not social policy, which is targeted at keeping African-Americans and other non-whites in a state of subservience to the “Real America” of the rural white.
It has been clear for a long time that the GOP is a fraud, always inventing new justifications for retrograde policies. But I have to admit I thought it was a fraud because it was a party run by rich people who wanted lower taxes and convinced voters through cultural and social cues to vote against their economic interests. It has taken Donald Trump’s openly and unabashedly racist campaign to expose what it really is: the GOP is just a bunch of racists.