The Republican Establishment and the Mainstream Media claim they are bewildered by the rise of Donald Trump. That claim, Neal Gabler writes, is as believable as Claude Rain's claim, in Casablanca, that he is "shocked, shocked" to discover that gambling is going on in Humphrey Bogart's place of business.
But here is what no one in the GOP establishment wants you to know, and no one in the media wants to admit: Donald Trump isn’t the destruction of the Republican Party; he is the fulfillment of everything the party has been saying and doing for decades. He is just saying it louder and more plainly than his predecessors and intra-party rivals.
The media have been acting as if the Trump debacle were the biggest political story to come down the pike in some time. But the real story – one the popularity of Trump’s candidacy has revealed and inarguably the biggest political story of the last 50 years — is the decades-long transformation of Republicanism from a business-centered, small town, white Protestant set of beliefs into quite possibly America’s primary institutional force of bigotry, intellectual dishonesty, ignorance, warmongering, intractability and cruelty against the vulnerable and powerless.
Starting with Richard Nixon's southern strategy, the Republican Party actively sought the support of bigots and extremists. As it moved further and further right, its ranks were peopled by those who actively promoted intolerance:
The sainted Reagan blew his party’s cover when to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 he spoke at the Neshoba County Fair, just outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been brutally murdered in 1964. He wasn’t there to demonstrate his sympathy to the civil rights movement, but to demonstrate his sympathy to those who opposed it. This was an ugly moment, and it didn’t go entirely unnoticed in the media. In fact, David Brooks would later be moved to defend the speech, which invoked the not-so-subtle buzz words “states’ rights,” and to act as if Reagan had been slandered by those who called him out on it.
When the Elder George Bush chose Lee Atwater to direct his campaign, the genteel Mr. Bush was giving Atwater permission to make coded bigotry part of the campaign. In a now infamous interview, Atwater explained what was at the core of the Southern strategy:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
The media let all of this pass. And they continue to let it all pass:
Accurate reporting means taking sides when one side is spouting falsehoods. I am still waiting for the media to correct the GOP pronouncements that Obamacare has cost us jobs and sent health care costs skyrocketing – both of which are screamingly false. I am not holding my breath.
Mr. Trump did not get to where he is all by himself. His enablers have inherited the wind.