Sunday, February 28, 2016

FrankenTrump: The GOP's Hate and Nonsense Debt

Josh Marshall explains on Talking Points Memo.

It's a build up of what we might call 'hate debt' and 'nonsense debt' that has been growing up for years.

This crystallized for me after the last GOP debate when Trump told Chris Cuomo in a post-debate interview that the IRS might be coming after him because he's a "strong Christian." Set aside for the moment how this unchurched libertine was able to rebrand himself as a "strong Christian." What about the preposterous claim that he is being persecuted by the IRS because he is a devout member of the country's dominant religion? Republicans simply aren't in any position to criticize this ludicrous claim because they have spent years telling their voters that this sort of thing happens all the time - to Christians, conservatives, everyone the liberals at the IRS hate. And this, of course, is just one example of hate and nonsense debt coming due. Shift gears now and they're "RINOs."

Take Trump's plan to deport 11 million people living in the US illegally or build the planned Trump Taj MaWall. As John Kasich has futilely tried to explain in debate after debate, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, this is simply never going to happen. Such an effort would be more on the order of a post-War World II population transfer than anything remotely like a conventional immigration enforcement action, costing probably hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps even constituting something approaching a war crime. As for the Wall, of course, in the real world net immigration across the US-Mexico has actually gone into reverse in recent years. More are leaving than coming. But in the Republican/Fox news world, hordes of feral Mexicans are still streaming across the Southern border - them and a layering of ISIS death squads who fly from Ankara to Belize and then walk to the Arizona border.

But this is just the hate and nonsense debt coming due from 2013. You can either let the status quo go on or you can devise a way to regularize at least the majority of people who are here illegally. There's no other option. Unless you just want to say 'No Amnesty' and pretend the problem will go away with 'self-deportation' or some other such nonsense. And that of course is precisely what Republican congressional leaders did. All Trump did was say openly, clearly, more coherently what Republicans were already saying themselves, while saying out of the sides of their mouths that somehow they'd get to the mass deportation later.

The truth is virtually Trump's entire campaign is built on stuff just like this, whether it's about mass deportation, race, the persecution of Christians, Obamacare, the coming debt crisis and a million other things. At the last debate, Trump got pressed on his completely ludicrous tax cut plan. He eventually said growth (which if you calculate it would need to be something like 20% on average) would take care of the huge budget shortfall created by his tax plan. But Republicans can't really dispute this point since all of Republican campaign economics is based on precisely the same argument. What about Obamacare? Can Marco "Establishment" Rubio really get traction attacking Trump for having no specific plan to replace Obamacare when Republicans have spent the last five years repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare without ever specifying a plan to replace it with? On each of these fronts, the slow accumulation of nonsense and paranoia - 'debt' to use our metaphor - built into a massive trap door under the notional GOP leadership with a lever that a canny huckster like Trump could come in and pull pretty much whenever. This is the downside of building party identity around a package of calculated nonsense and comically unrealizable goals.

Until now GOP elites have managed to maintain a balance or needle-threading sleight of hand wherein the GOP had become the functional equivalent of a European rightist party (UKIP or French National Front) yet masqueraded as a conventional center-right party (UK Conservatives or French Republicans) - all under the go-along leadership of the people The Washington Post editorial page imagines run the GOP. But the set up was already under extreme strain, as evidenced by the 2011 debt default drama, the 2013 Cruz shutdown and the end of the Boehner Speakership in 2015. Trump is very little different from the average candidate Republicans elected in 2010 and 2014, in terms of radical views and extreme rhetoric. All he's done is take the actual GOP issue package, turn it up to eleven and put it on a high speed collision course with RNC headquarters smack in the middle of presidential election year.

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