The GOP’s Faustian Bargain With Donald Trump
Until death do them part, Trump and the GOP are bound by white nationalism and a desperate need for relevance.
The election of Barack Obama to the presidency marked a turning point for the GOP. It was the party’s day of reckoning.
For decades, the Republicans had capitalised on white nationalist, evangelical voters, stoking their racism through a deceitful use of euphemisms designed to reinforce racial divisions in the country. Election cycle after election cycle, they abandoned their policy platform, knowing none if it would work (Americans are still waiting for all these tax cuts to trickle down), in favour of an electoral strategy focused on negative emotions and fear.
Obama’s accession to the presidency changed the face of America and forced the GOP into an inescapable quandary
This strategy culminated with the nomination of Sarah Palin on the 2008 GOP ticket, and the welcoming of the tea party in the party’s mainstream. Because 2008 feels like a century ago today, here is an excerpt of Palin’s acceptance speech at the RNC to illustrate the argument:
[Obama] is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word “victory,” except when he’s talking about his own campaign […] What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer — the answer is to make government bigger, and take more of your money, and give you more orders from Washington, and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world […] Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights. Government is too big; he wants to grow it. Congress spends too much money; he promises more. Taxes are too high, and he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan.
— New York Times
Obama’s accession to the presidency changed the face of America and forced the GOP into an inescapable quandary:
- Either fold their hand, accept Obama’s victory and engage in constructive, bipartisan policymaking, which would lose the white supremacist vote and risk the split of the party; or
- Go all in, fight Obama on every front and embrace the very worst aspects of their electoral base.
We know the choice they made.
When the GOP got the Senate back in 2014, McConnell, abusing his power as majority leader, started obstructing Obama at every turn. When Joe Biden tried to convince him to let a bill go to the floor, McConnell replied: “You must be under the mistaken impression that I care.”
For the last two years of Obama’s presidency, the GOP found relevance in their stubborn, baseless opposition to the first black president because it pleased their base and lined their pockets.
As LBJ once said:
If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.
And then Donald Trump happened.
Embodying all the lowest, vilest instincts humans are capable of mustering, Trump came to the front of the national stage and seduced the white nationalist, white supremacist, evangelical voters with his “tell it like it is” racism and vanity.
In for a penny, in for a pound, the GOP welcomed Trump as its saviour, its beacon of relevance.
The 2016 campaign once again showed how the party had completely abandoned any policy platform, running on two simple arguments, both rooted in racism and bitterness:
- Destroy Obama’s legacy
- Build a wall
By 2020, there was no platform at all, just a hope that white nationalism would win the day.
The 2020 Election sounded the death knell of Trumpism and, by extension, of the Republican party. Just like he has done his entire life, Trump cozied up to soulless losers, freerode on their money and influence, and brought them to bankruptcy.
They know that their fight to overturn the election is pointless, but they are faced with an unavoidable truth, one they cannot lie away: the GOP’s end is near.
This is why none of the party leaders have acknowledged Biden’s victory. This is why they all cling to Trump like oysters on their rock. He’s the last shred of relevance they have.
And when Donald Trump is your only hope, you haven’t got much to go.