18 Mar '16    home | previous

The GOP in Disarray

Here are two columns on the Republican Party and the Trump phenomenon, one by Timothy Egan, the other by Paul Krugman, both in today's New York Times.

Egan writes about a change in the Grand Ol' Party (the Republicans) since the early 1950s. Its platform, he writes, was a predictable affair:

The G.O.P. was for less taxes and less government, free trade and free people, a scolding of victims and grievance-mongers.

Egan has a fixed idea about Trump. About this year's Republican convention he writes of

a vanity platform in Donald Trump's image. It's all walls and no bridges. Free trade is gone. Taxes? Who knows. There will be a call for more government, through a bloated military, and untouched benefits for seniors who must be pandered to. Most significantly, it's a party of grudges and grievances, of anger and fear by that formerly detested class — victims. It'll be a personality cult, without a hint of optimism, and certainly no overarching governing philosophy.

Paul Krugman's column today describes the Republican elite as having denied that the "white working class – 'the heart of Trump's support' – is in any sense a victim of external forces." Instead, the Republican ideology has people who are hurting as lacking initiative, as people who have failed themselves. Krugman reminds us of Mitt Romney in 2012 complaining about 47 percent of the voters who would never support him because they "believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of them." And there was Paul Ryan warning of a social safety net that becomes "a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency," or, as Ryan has also put it, people having lost "their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives." Krugman complains that the Republican elite has been "too committed to an Ayn Rand story line about heroic job creators versus moochers to admit either that trickle-down economics can fail to deliver good jobs, or that sometimes government aid is a crucial lifeline."

And now we have white working class people not happy with the Republican "elite" (establishment), and we have the Trump phenomenon. Trump supporters (I submit) might not have been paying much attention to Ayn Rand and other arguments about a lack of initiative as much as they have been swayed by the vision of Trump as a man of strength who can bang heads together and get things done.

Regarding Trump, Krugman writes:

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that Donald Trump has any better idea about what the country needs; he's just peddling another fantasy, this one involving the supposed power of belligerence. But at least he's acknowledging the real problems ordinary Americans face, not lecturing them on their moral failings. And that's an important reason he's winning.

In response to Krugman's article, someone now living in Oregon sends his comment to the Times:

I've told my New York friends and family about such people; that they are real and have real complaints, and no one but Trump is talking to them, but I was always dismissed, and simply told that the people have low intelligence (I'm being kind, they would often use harsher words). I tried to explain why they are frustrated at political correct speech - that it puts them in a vice where on the one hand the implication is that they, white males, are the cause of minorities' and women's social woes, while on the other, they suffer as much as anybody, with the added kick that no one is speaking for them. I'm glad Krugman is getting it because, while I am not one of the Trump supporters, I know all to well they are real people. They are not stupid, they are, more often, simply lost, and have been without a voice.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.