Over the past month and change, I’ve watched various factions within the Republican Party have a meltdown over Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries. While he was once seen as a fringe candidate, someone who was running for to stroke their own ego and gain publicity, his winning primaries and delegates to the point where he is likely to be the party’s nominee is causing real panic. There’s now talk of a brokered convention, or massaging the rules to deny him the top spot on the ballot. The party establishment is horrified by him, not just because they think he’s not a “true conservative,” but because he’s saying things that are outrageous. In “normal years” those would be a campaign killer, but instead it only builds his popularity with primary voters. They shouldn’t have been surprised by that.
Why not? Because they’ve been saying and condoning for decades everything Trump has been saying. While you can say that it goes back to Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” and it does, it really kicked into overdrive in 2008. That’s when a black politician with a funny name won the Presidency. It threw everything they believed “should be” into chaos. For the past 7 years, we’ve had them blatantly obstruct any legislation, encourage birthers, use fear of terrorism to enact blatantly discriminatory state laws, and do everything they can to deny the legitimacy of this presidency. I said several years ago that the only apparent differences between the KKK and the Republican Party was that Republicans weren’t dressing up in white robes and hoods, and burning crosses on people’s lawns. Just look at any Donald Trump rally today, and despite the pious hand wringing by “respectable” conservative pundits, it’s increasingly obvious I wasn’t off the mark. It’s not just Trump, though. Listen to any of the Republican candidates, and you’ll find them railing against immigrants, suggesting a ban on a religion, and in general playing to the bigotry of the Republican voters.
The only “shock” is that he’s not using the usual code words and dog whistles to say it. He’s stripped their “plausible deniability” from them, and dragged it out into the open. There’s nothing subtle about it, and his supporters are now openly saying things that they used to just say with their friends and family. The Republican Party establishment has been playing on the for years, in order to keep what remains of their base demographic voting for them. They’ve been playing with fire, and thinking it’s a controlled burn. Well, it no longer is, and they’re learning a lesson that most of us learned in childhood: If you play with fire, sooner or later you’re going to get burned.