Commentary: Trump may have done country a great favor
By now, everyone has seen and heard about the meltdown going on in the Republican presidential nomination process. Every week brings a new outrage, and speculation that this will be the final blow the Donald Trump candidacy cannot possibly survive. We hear condemnation of whole races and religions, outrageous, unsupportable policies, inciting violence, braggadocio, outright fabrications and contradictory statements. No reality can rupture the fantasy.
In truth, the Republican Party started down this road long ago. In 1995, Newt Gingrich killed the Office of Technology Assessment, an organization that provided Congress with unbiased reports on science and technology. Gingrich declared war against civility and compromise in the 90s as House speaker. Remember the baseless accusations against the Clintons, including charges of murder, drugs and profiting from public office? Before then we had Ronald Reagan neglecting to act when AIDS touched thousands of Americans. During his administration, we saw union busting taking away labor’s voice in business. It is obvious that the callous attitude toward segments of society and science were in place well before now.
The rise of the tea party was an early indication of the amount of resentment in American society. The Republican Party fostered a rampant distrust of government. The mainstream media was labeled as the “lamestream” media, voters derided as “low information” because they did not swallow conservative views. If an opinion disagreed with conservative ideology, it was deemed a lie. Conspiracy theories became widespread. Global warming was termed collusion among scientists worldwide, out to garner research dollars. Barack Obama was intentionally undermining American power. The 2008 financial collapse was orchestrated to short circuit Republican candidates and bring Obama into power. Scientific evidence was under attack throughout the country by churches and politicians intent on their ideology. The Republican Congress blocked spending that would have helped with aging infrastructure and created many jobs.
This year has seen a crescendo of hate and innuendo. Several years ago, Trump was convinced of Obama’s foreign birth, but offered no apology when proven wrong. Trump has used fear as a rallying cry, and, at first, no Republicans pushed back. As a campaign announcement, Trump attacked Mexican immigrants, and he announced the infamous wall that Mexico was going to provide. We saw a disabled journalist mocked by Trump, a fellow candidate called out for her looks, a debate moderator accused of being unfair to Trump because her tough questions were a result of hormones, a former POW and war hero degraded because he was captured. Now we have the vision of a Republican debate where candidates compare manhood. From the stage, Trump has called for violence against protesters, even offering to pay legal fees, if someone acted on his prompting.
At first, the Republican Party sought to benefit from this so no one seriously called Trump out on these statements. We might excuse the Republicans for letting this pass as campaign rhetoric, but all the time Trumps’ crowds and popularity were building.
Trump acted on instinct, lacking any guiding principle. The crowds see reflected in him what they wished to see, and he is praised for being unafraid to say what they are thinking. By having no concrete ideas, he can be all things to all people. Simplistic notions about trade and foreign relations appeal to many voters, whether they have any substance or not.
Is there a silver lining in this cloud of hate and fear? We might say that Trump has done the country a service by exposing the ugliness underlying the American temperament. Maybe a figure like Trump was necessary to shine a light on this undercurrent and expose it for the hate and ugliness it truly is. This may be the real consequence of Trump’s candidacy.
It is said that the first step to healing is admitting that you have a problem, and maybe a Trump candidacy was necessary to bring this into the open. The Republican establishment is now in alarm, but this rage was fostered and cultivated over the years by their party, manipulating voters with fears and hot button social issues and promoting a conservative vision they could not fulfill.
The question remains, however, regarding the rage built up and expressed through this campaign. What is the natural conclusion of this fury? Will it dissipate with the defeat of Trump? This sentiment has been building for years, and will not likely disappear or yield to logic. This rage may be the legacy of the late, lamented Republican Party.
Steve Foreman is a Front Royal resident.