As much as a certain subset of Republicans like to think that President Donald Trump came out of nowhere and took their party by storm, denigrating its good name and perverting its agenda, the GOP has been heading toward such a candidate for decades — they set the stage and Trump merely took his place.
Years of lying to keep their seats and sell their policies have caught up with the Republican Party,Lucian K. Truscott IV recently wrote for Salon, and the journey which arguably began with Ronald Reagan’s supply side economics has culminated in a president who fully embodies all that is despicable about the GOP.
The only thing Republicans have learned from Donald Trump is that they no longer have to lie strategically. They don’t need a rationale behind a lie. Trump has taught them that all lies, all the time is the way to go. They didn’t even bother trying to defend the Trump/Ryan tax cuts of 2017 with lies about increased revenues and lowered deficits. They just sat back and threw money at their rich donors and let Trump sign the tax cuts into law, and then of course immediately went after Social Security and Medicare for blowing up the deficit.
Lying about their policies was soon followed by lying about their opponents — not in a typical “twist the truth” sort of way but by fabricating conspiracies (remember how the Clintons murdered Vince Foster?) and attacking opponents rather than policies.
It was during Bill Clinton’s presidency that Republican leader Newt Gingrich put into practice his infamous list of words to use against Democrats. Looking for a way to take back the House of Representatives after some four decades of Democratic rule, Gingrich counseled Republican candidates not to attack Democratic policies, but simply to say they were working to undermine America and American values. They were “radicals” and “traitors” set on “betraying” their country. Democrats were “anti-flag,” “sick,” “permissive,” “corrupt,” and “destructive.”
Who could be surprised, then, when the likes of Donald Trump — who wholly embraced the birther movement, which insisted President Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii, and gravitated toward conspiracies while seemingly allergic to truth — arose as the party’s top contender in 2016?
Trump is the perfect Republican, untethered to reality or led by a moral compass of any kind, willing to lie more bigly than any who came before him.
And though establishment Republicans initially seemed alarmed when Trump suddenly was poised to lead their party to victory, some even publicly voicing their disdain for his tactics, eventually they came around.
Republicans don’t have anything to run on that anyone actually likes. Tax cuts for the wealthy? Nope. Killing Obamacare? Not that either. The misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan they got us into and spent us into the poorhouse with? I don’t think so.
What they needed was somebody who didn’t stand for anything, who didn’t care about boring stuff like “issues” and “policy,” who was willing to take every lie they’d been pushing for 40 years and make them his own. They wanted someone at the head of their party and in the White House who didn’t care about who he appointed to his cabinet, who didn’t care if the government stopped doing stuff like taking care of the air and the water and inspecting food and testing drugs for safety, who would let predatory lenders rip off poor people while Wall Streeters ran amok, who wasn’t afraid to take the leash off the racist and xenophobic fringe in the party, who cared even more than they did about getting rich off the fat of the land and fuck everybody else.
That’s what they got in Trump: the perfect Republican president.