"Trumpenstein" - How the GOP Establishment Created a Monster


By Peter Horn

The shock and horror gripping the GOP establishment at the rise of Donald Trump is at best disingenuous, for he is a monster of their own creation. It’s not the mere existence of Trump that should have party brass worried though, it’s the fragmentation of their voter base—a large portion of which aligns themselves with Trump’s cheap brand of nationalistic ethnocentrism—and, possibly more troubling still, that portion’s rejection of traditional conservative economic ideals. And they have only themselves to blame.

For years, the GOP nucleus has been steadily drifting right, driven by a confluence of factors: the rise of the Tea Party and the expanding influence of special interest-funded political infrastructure that punishes party-line dissent, a movement away from policy-based solutions and bipartisan compromise in favor of explicit anti-Obama obstructionism, increasingly harsh stances towards immigrants, increasingly hostile anti-Muslim rhetoric and a 24-hour news engine that promotes an “us versus them” extremist mentality using fear-mongering and hyperbole.

For the most part, Republicans bought into this movement. As Obama ascended into the nation’s highest office, they looked around and what they saw terrified them: demographic shifts molding the country into one that was less white, less religious, more socially progressive. A country that looked less and less like the face in the mirror. Obama to them personified this dangerous shift, so rather than adapt to a changing demographic, the party doubled down and veered right, as “us versus them” became “us versus him.”

Meanwhile, in the face of powerful macroeconomic forces such as globalization and the automation of lower skilled jobs, a portion of the party’s voter base began to diverge on economic issues as conservative economic theory came home to roost in the form of lost middle-class jobs and a widening income inequality gap. The GOP’s failure to acknowledge and adapt to this divergence has much to do with the rise of Donald Trump. What’s truly amazing though is not that this split occurred, it’s that it took this long.

The Great Blue Collar Misdirection went something like this: convince low-income, under-educated voters to support GOP candidates promoting economic policy that runs counter to these voters’ best interests using a smokescreen of social conservatism, the “protection” of their Judeo-Christian beliefs and the myth of trickle-down economics.

And the ploy worked. For decades, the portion of the Republican voter base who would directly benefit from increased funding to social assistance programs and a progressive tax structure voted for candidates who advocated cutting these social programs, whose tax plans catered to big business and the ultra-wealthy and whose free market trade policies further endangered their low-skilled jobs. This degree of blind voter deference caused Republican leadership to grow complacent. Surely they observed this disconnect, but what were these blue collar conservatives going to do? Vote Democrat?

In steps Trump. Weaving together the effective elements from the modern GOP blueprint—anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-climate change… anti-Obama—with a heavy dose of trade protectionism (a longtime Republican anathema), Trump was able to connect with the GOP’s disaffected blue collar base in a way no candidate has in recent history.

In an ironic twist of fate, it was the fraudster himself that revealed the grander fraud. And this revelation, that traditional party doctrines don’t necessarily reflect the interests of the party’s base, has turned the GOP on its head, leaving establishment figures scrambling for an explanation, or better yet, a scapegoat.

As party leaders stood next to a mound of smoldering ashes holding an empty gasoline can, wondering why the fireworks show went so horribly wrong, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proudly announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee would refuse to hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominees put forth by Obama. Rewind three months and Jeb Bush, the one-time establishment golden boy and relative moderate of the GOP primary candidates, sought to temper Trump’s anti-Muslim statements, ceding that those Syrian war refugees fleeing the horrors of ISIS “who could prove they’re Christians” should be allowed to enter the United States. Jump over to Fox News in the wake of one of our nation’s countless mass shootings and efforts related to common sense gun control legislation are painted as a terrorist-sympathizing Emperor in Chief’s attempt to eradicate the second amendment.

The Republican establishment has every right to be worried. The vitriol-spewing, protectionism-promoting, violence-inducing opportunist currently tightening his stranglehold on the Republican Presidential nomination is truly a monster. But they should not act surprised, for he is a monster of their very own creation.

TRUMP: The American Nightmare

By Peter Horn

The quest to unearth the American Nightmare leads you through the nation’s slippery underbelly, past seedy corners framed by slumping silhouettes, through graveyards of shattered dreams and long-forgotten prayers, up a winding trail of revolting excess until your path comes to a dead end, the letters towering over you like a threat: TRUMP.

The irony of your search for the American Nightmare ending in a presidential campaign will not be lost on you, as Uncle Sam’s printed face bulges and swirls into the grotesque, his signature tophat riding a wave of wispy, Clorox-blond hair plugs, his swollen pointer-finger suddenly menacing as his star-spangled overcoat takes on a department store fire-sale cheapness. But the irony will take a backseat to the obviousness of it all, how for years Trump has waved the American flag like a matador at the dull-eyed masses to distract from his utter bastardization of the American Dream.

Trump is the embodiment of our nation’s basest impulses, the modern-day Ugly American with contradiction and hypocrisy sewed throughout every fiber of his corpulent being. The son of an immigrant with a hotel and golf course empire dependent on immigrant labor, who grossly generalizes Mexican immigrants as “rapists and murderers.” The heir to his father’s real estate fortune who advocates an uncompromising brand of bootstrapped free-market capitalism in which programs meant to level the opportunity playing field are socialist and wasteful. The beneficiary of multiple draft deferments with the gall to marginalize the POW experience of one of our nation’s true war heroes.

His dangerous comments on immigration and his tired Obama-birther crusade promotes a xenophobia that is, at its very core, un-American. His America is one where nobility is transferred generationally, a wealth-driven society in which the middle class should be seen and not heard, a melting pot stripped ingredient by ingredient until all that remains is a homogenous broth not unlike the plutocratic social structure our founding forefathers so proudly fled.

It’s greed and the inevitability of entitlement that keeps the pedal pressed to the floor as he rounds hairpin turns at impossible speeds, racing towards the cliff of the next economic cycle in a one-seatbelt convertible with the myopia and selective memory of an addict, the sound of the crash followed closely by the revving of the engine. If the definition of insanity is repeating an action expecting a different result, then there’s a French Cuffed straightjacket waiting for him at the end of this campaign.

Trump crudely equates his personal value to his net worth, which, like his ego, has proven to be inflated. And herein lies the distillation of Trump’s septic American dream: taking all that makes this country unique and (at times) exceptional—freedom, liberty and the opportunity for upward economic and social mobility—and pushing them behind a flashing neon red, white and blue dollar sign.

There are lessons to be learned, even from nightmares. In many ways, Trump is the Presidential candidate we all deserve for allowing the scales of power to be tipped so far in favor of big money and special interests. He is a spray-tanned, vitriol-spewing verdict on the state of our modern political and social strata, and his candidacy should serve as a cautionary tale.

For once we mute the bluster and peel away the layers of hair plugs and veneers, we can see Trump for what he truly is. He’s a vacant McMansion on an unfinished block, a suburban promise never meant to be kept who’s forced to draw attention to the glittery surface for fear one peers beneath. He’s the American flag paper plates crammed into the clearance rack on July 5th. He’s a bloated wolf in red, white and blue-stained sheep’s clothing. He is the American Nightmare.