The GOP establishment and other Presidential candidates assumed Trump would fail. They assumed Trump would flop. They assumed the public support for Trump was all name recognition. And when he was pulling 20% and everyone else was in the 5-10% range, it made perfect sense to just wait around, hold fire, pick off a few of the weak stragglers, don’t give offense to Trump or his supporters, and then when The Donald manages to blow it and falls out of the race, you’ll be there to scoop the pot and ride to victory.
Everyone stuck around way too long, because with nobody breaking 10%, everyone was equally viable and there hadn’t been any votes yet to say otherwise. Everybody let Trump go and go and go, assuming he couldn’t stick around long enough to make a difference. And now, it looks like we’re down to only three options: the callow youth that’s the de facto “establishment” choice, who barely passes a Turing test and is in desperate need of an OS upgrade; the loudmouth Texas-Canadian who literally no other elected Republican Senator can stand (Lindsey Graham literally said that if you stabbed Cruz to death on the Senate floor, and the trial was held in the Senate, you would walk); and Donald Trump, who is the final boss of the GOP’s multi-decade game of post-reality politics.
This started a long, long time ago. It started in the late 1960s when Kevin Phillips posited the plan to pry away racist Democrats down South and use them to craft a Republican majority. It moved down the field substantially in 1988, when Lee Atwater built the George H.W. Bush campaign around the Pledge of Allegiance and racist fearmongering around crime. (Sidenote: people now bashing Hillary Clinton for her husband’s 1994 crime bill have no memory of the combined firepower of a War On Drugs coupled with Willie Horton.) And then, when Newt Gingrich finally captured the Congress, the controls were put in the hands of the South. From there, the Southern style of politics prevailed in an increasingly homogeneous party: with no substantive policy differences and Congressional districts increasingly gerrymandered to the point of guaranteed victory, the determining factor in Republican primaries became “who can sling the shit” – and in a political environment increasingly propelled by AM radio and Fox News, the GOP went right along.
And in this bubble, they rapidly approached a post-reality state. Never mind opinions; the conservative mind increasingly felt entitled to its own facts, especially in a strange and changing and scary world. When Bush the Younger luck-boxed into the Oval Office despite receiving half a million fewer votes than his opponent, he managed to spin the sucker-punch of September 11 into “He kept us safe” and used the aftermath to build the “live in fear” climate that has permeated the GOP ever since. There’s always something to be scared of – Mexicans, Muslims, the War on Christmas, all the gays that are going to force you to marry them, death panels to grind you into meatloaf for bilingual millennials, whatever. Nothing had to have the most remote basis in reality, which is why we had to suffer through years of “where’s the birth certificate” and “You lie” and all manner of made-up horseshit.
And there are really two places to lay the blame for this. One is on the much-maligned “mainstream media,” which was content to live neck-deep in the Golden Mean of false equivalence. Opinions differ, both sides do it, look a white girl is missing. Disgraceful, but not as bad as the rest of the GOP. The Republican party has known for years – YEARS – that they were running campaigns and elections based on talk-radio bullshit and e-mail forwards, and they did nothing. They were content to keep riding the tiger…and now that they’ve slipped and fallen off, that tiger is hungry.
Thing is…Trump is a reality buffoon. Cruz is a Christo-fascist asshole. Rubio is a shellshocked rookie. Carson is a human Ambien who’s not qualified for elected office above “hospital lounge coffee committee”. Kasich is an afterthought who still can’t break into double-digits in this crowd of insane people. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is an avowed Jewish-atheist self-proclaimed socialist in a world where Ronald Reagan in 1988 and the Heritage Foundation in 1994 are too left-wing for the GOP, and Hillary Clinton is the top-of-the-pantheon evil bitch-queen of GOP nightmares for twenty-five years and counting. In theory and on paper, not one of these candidates – not one – can possibly win an American Presidential election.
I’m too scared to shit.