The headline in the Washington Post editorial ran this way:
It’s time for Republicans to renounce Donald Trump’s candidacy
And like chastened children, all too eager to please, leaders in the Republican Party stepped forward after Trump’s comments on momentarily halting Muslim immigration as a temporary safety precaution and did just as instructed. Meanwhile, in a new Fox News poll in South Carolina, of which half was taken after he made his statement on halting Muslim immigration, Trump went up by eight points. All of which says everything you need to know about why so many Republicans and conservatives across the land have developed such a loathing for their own party’s leadership.
Among those doing some version of what the Washington Post and other Establishment — and liberal — elites demanded:
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
Former Vice President Dick Cheney
RNC Chair Reince Priebus
New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn
South Carolina GOP Chair Matt Moore
And that’s before you get to the inevitability of Trump’s GOP presidential rivals, who were in varying stages of fulmination. Among the responses there was “unhinged” (Jeb Bush), “offensive and outlandish” (Marco Rubio), and “outrageous divisiveness” (John Kasich). Notably, Senator Ted Cruz did not join in. Then there was the response from South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham, who told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota the following:
He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.… He’s the ISIL man of the year.
Graham added the GOP should “tell Donald Trump go to hell.”
Allow me to respond.
Dear Republican Party Leaders:
I have noted with interest all of your reactions to Donald Trump’s statement that for a moment, there should be a pause in allowing Muslims to enter the United States.
To say I am disappointed in your responses would be to understate. Let me be candid.
Long before Donald Trump entered the race for president, the leadership of the Republican Party had steered the party of Lincoln and Reagan onto the rocks. There’s no need to rehash the details in the intra-party disputes over de-funding Obamacare, the Obama executive amnesty, the debt ceiling battles, immigration and the rest. You are familiar with them all.
But suffice to say, the heedless, feckless nature of this stewardship has split the Republican Party wide open.
Collectively and all too frequently individually Republican leaders and their media allies have gone out of their way to sneer, snark and insult the base of the party. Hard working, tax paying, not to mention regularly praying Americans of all faiths. Let me provide a few examples.
Remember this Newsweek cover story from March of 2009? It had a picture of Rush Limbaugh, with a photoshopped strip over his mouth that said, in capital letters:
The subtitle: “A Conservative Case Against Limbaugh.” The author? That would be a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, David Frum. Among the pieces of wisdom imparted by Frum were these:
President Obama and Rush Limbaugh do not agree on much, but they share at least one thing: Both wish to see Rush anointed as the leader of the Republican party.
After describing Obama in positive terms (“This president invokes the language of ‘responsibility,’ and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him”), Frum went on to contrast Rush in harshly negative terms, using words like “aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic,” and as “a man who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as ‘losers.’” Frum went on to conclude of a then-recent Rush appearance to a wildly enthusiastic CPAC crowd that: “Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word—we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.”
Yesterday, discussing Trump and this latest dust-up over his statement on Muslims, Rush, in a fashion, was responding to the kind of attacks he has received from Establishment Republicans like Frum not to mention liberals over the years. In part, he said this, and I have put in bold print a point that cannot be emphasized enough as he spoke about a Washington Post headline:
Headline: I Asked Psychologists to Analyze Trump Supporters. This Is What I Learned. This is the Washington Post. They don’t know. They haven’t the slightest idea why anybody would support Donald Trump, especially after these Muslims comments. They just don’t have the slightest idea and it scares the tar out of them. So they have to come up with some explanation. They have to come up with something to tell themselves, to have it all make sense. And they come up with reasons that they tell themselves that comfort them, that assure them there’s really nothing to worry about here. That whatever’s going on with Trump really, really is way, way out there and such an outlier.
And the way they are beginning to do that is to say that all Trump is, is me. I kid you not. They have never understood this program from day one. They have not understood the bond that exists between me and you. They don’t understand why you like this program other than to assign reasons that are insulting to you. You’re stupid, you’re mind-numbed robots, you’re racist, sexist pigs, whatever, that’s how they comfort themselves because other than that they can’t explain it, they can’t for the life of them understand it.”
Rush went on to point out of his audience that
It amazes me — it always has amazed me — the audience of this program. If you really want to be honest about the audience of this program, forget the way the traditional ratings are taken. We measure it and so forth. Well in excess of 20 million people — unique people — in a week listen, and the dirty little secret about numbers in this program is 12 million people listen during a three-hour program.
Stop right there. Focus for a moment on the cold, hard, reality in the Frum/Rush stories. There is someone who served as a senior aide in the George W. Bush White House, a decidedly Establishment GOP White House — a White House that came to be because of a 537-vote margin in Florida and a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court — insisting that it would be a serious mistake not to silence or at least separate the GOP from Rush Limbaugh, predicting disaster if the GOP did not do this. “Enough” as Frum put it. The following year, in 2010, the GOP swept to a major victory, regaining the House after a humiliating loss in2006 — when the Bush folks were in charge.
Party leaders — hello? This episode with Rush was and is but one small tea leaf in understanding where the Republican Party has gone off the tracks — making Donald Trump so wildly popular and, yes indeed, electable.
All too often the leadership of the post-Reagan Republican Party has met the description of Margaret Thatcher when she said this of her own British Conservative Party:
At the level of principle, rhetorically and in opposition, it [the Conservative Party] opposed these [socialist] doctrines and preached the gospel of free enterprise with very little qualification.… But in the fine print of policy, especially in government, the Tory Party merely pitched camp in the long march to the left.… The result of this style of accommodationist politics… was… a “socialist ratchet” in which the British Labour governments moved Britain left, while a Tory government might loosen the corset of socialism… they never removed it.”
Ronald Reagan gave voice to this sentiment in terms of America and the Republican Party when he bluntly told the New York Times in an interview published December 16, 1976 that the party must return to principle. The interview came a month after the defeat of the Establishment GOP favorite President Gerald Ford by Jimmy Carter, and the Times headlined the interview as follows:
Reagan Urges His Party to Save Itself By Declaring Its Conservative Beliefs
Among other things Reagan said that too many in the GOP leadership of the day had become “fraternal order” Republicans, a description that matched his earlier statements that the GOP should stand not for “pale pastels” but “bold colors.”
In short? Too many in the current GOP leadership have become “fraternal order” Republicans. Worse still, the snarking contempt exhibited by today’s so-called Republican leaders like Senator Graham for good and decent Americans seriously concerned about everything from the personal safety of their families to their economic security to basic values of family and faith has become a signpost of out and out bigotry. Graham has become the personification of the New Xenophobia — directed specifically at the hard-working, faith-believing base of the Republican Party. Ironically, in his castigations of those who have responded enthusiastically to Donald Trump because they see him as fearless, successful, and patriotic — unwilling, in Reaganesque fashion, to bend to GOP Establishment political correctness — Lindsey Graham has become the very symbol of the Bigot in Chief.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Republican Party Leadership? You have a problem on your hands. A very big problem. And please don’t insult the intelligence of conservatives by laying all of this at Donald Trump’s door. Let’s not kid anybody. If Donald Trump did not exist — and the front-runner were the guy now running as number two in a number of polls? That being Senator Ted Cruz? Quite a number of you would be apoplectic. Why? Because if there is anybody who is actually holding office who embodies the anti-Establishment fury of the Reagan Republican base it would be Ted Cruz. Please. No one is fooled.
I hate to say this. Truly I do. But the Republican Party leadership is now increasingly seen as in thrall to power hungry and financially greedy lobbyists, insiders, and consultants. There is a genuine debate to be had about Trump’s suggestion that there be a pause in the admission of Muslims to the United States. Why not suggest a temporary halt to all immigration to the United States? Thus avoiding any alleged discrimination based on religion? After all, no non-American has a constitutional right to enter the United States — period. Why not have a debate of just why exactly Founding Father and President John Adams signed the Alien Enemies Act of 1798 — an act that was directed at French immigrants, later British immigrants during the War of 1812, and eventually used by Franklin Roosevelt to suspend the naturalization process of thousands of Germans, Italians and Japanese. This being a law that is still at this moment on the books — waiting — as is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 — for repeal by any Republican out there in the House or Senate. Are there Republicans — hello Senator Graham — who are still angry that President Jimmy Carter used the McCarran-Walter Act during the Iranian hostage crisis to “invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today”?
Look. I don’t question that you are all good people. In particular, I want to say to Vice President Cheney that you have suffered infinitely far more slings and arrows than deserved. You have given wonderful service to this country, and knowing that you were “in the room” on 9/11 was then and is still now a considerable relief. Speaker Ryan — like you, I am a fellow Jack Kemp alum. Your dedication is appreciated.
But in all candor? The unbelievable hysteria and outrageously disgusting, disgraceful, blatantly condescending not to mention flatly untrue attacks on Donald Trump and his supporters by multiples of Republican leaders are not simply just bizarre but seriously damaging to the credibility of the Republican Party leadership at large. If you swallowed dynamite you could not possibly be more damaging to yourselves.
Way too many conservatives and Republicans have come to believe that the leadership of the GOP — no names named here — has sold out party principles for a mess of lobbyist and liberal media porridge, the latter illustrated in spades by obeisance to that Washington Post editorial demanding GOP leaders denounce the leading candidate in the GOP race. An editorial that was quickly followed by multiples of you bending the knee as demanded. The cries that Trump supporters are, to use Senator Graham’s words, nothing more than a bunch of “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigots” are nothing more than Exhibit One that the party leadership in the post-Reagan era has become devoid of integrity, principle, and even simple human decency with respect to the base. The base being defined as good and decent Americans who are deeply concerned about the well-being of their families.
And you, GOP leaders, as that business with that Newsweek Rush Limbaugh cover six years ago so vividly illustrated, are so far out of touch with the people whose votes you need that you might as well be on Mars.
Let me close by quoting Rush — the man with that massive audience of millions — from his monologue yesterday.
You know what’s ironic about this, is the base of support that Trump has is exactly what the Republican Party claims it wants. There’s all kinds of independents. There’s all kinds of women, and through all different demographics and age brackets. Conservative Republicans are not the majority of Trump’s support base. They’re large, but it’s not the majority.
There are a lot of blue-collar — known as union, known as taxpayers, known as laborers, known as the middle class — who make up Trump’s support. Trump’s support is broad-based. It covers practically every demographic. There’s Hispanics in his coalition. There are Jewish people in his coalition. You don’t read about it ’cause the media doesn’t want to confront that. They have to tell themselves that Trump’s base consists of people who would star in Deliverance.
Indeed. Ronald Reagan himself could not have said it better. But unfortunately, as these good Americans surge into Trump rallies brimming with enthusiasm to — in a slogan once associated with Reagan — “Make America Great Again,” Republican leaders have left the impression that their ties to lobbyists and their need for liberal media huzzahs are so important — the be all and end all of their holding their jobs — that it requires them to label Trump supporters as, to borrow from Lindsey Graham, “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigots” who are are “outrageous,” “divisive,” and… oh yes, thank you Jeb… “unhinged.”
Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, none of this garbage is remotely conservative. And I would respectfully suggest that maybe, just maybe, something positive about America — and Donald Trump and his supporters — could be learned if all of you in varying positions of leadership in the Republican Party spent more time with Trump supporters and less time trying to please lobbyists, cynical consultants, and those at the Washington Post and other liberal media outlets consumed with what can only be called Trump Derangement Syndrome.
With respect and thanks,
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