It never should have gotten this far.
Donald Trump’s political career should have been over on July 15, 2015, the day he announced his campaign for President. “When Mexico sends its people,” he said. “They’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
At the very latest it should have ended on December 18, 2015. That was the day he decided that there should be a religious test to enter the United States. “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” a press release put out by his campaign stated, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not only a bigot, but a moron who had no understanding of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
But it looks as if the whole circus might finally be at an end.
Not only will Donald Trump almost certainly loose to Hillary Clinton this November, he might have even damaged his reputation so badly that his long rumored, and dreaded, cable news network might be dead in the water. It’s not so much that Trump’s lewd comments about women and tacit confession to committing sexual assault was particularly surprising. We’ve always known he was a pig. Back in the 1980s, he was even celebrated for being a pig, but this time his remarks hit too close to home. “I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” he said, referring to Access Hollywood host Nancy O’Dell. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
One by one the Republican rats jumped ship. Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan canceled a joint appearance. “Hitting on married women,” former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney Tweeted, “condoning assault. Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.” Texas Senator John Cornyn was no less offended. “I am disgusted by Mr. Trump’s comments about women: our daughters, sisters and mothers.” New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett may on record as endorsing Trump’s candidacy, but Trump’s remarks about Nancy O’Dell crossed the line. “Donald Trump’s are inexcusable,” he said. “I am appalled that he would brag about violating a woman’s physical boundaries. As a husband and father of two daughters, I denounce his comments and the behavior it incites. I believe that Mike Pence would be the best nominee for the Republican Party to defeat Hillary Clinton.”
That Scott Garrett would denounce Donald Trump’s violation of women’s boundaries and not Mike Pence’s – as governor of Indiana Pence pushed through a law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortions – certainly puts the lie to the idea that so many right-wing Republicans have suddenly come around to the idea of supporting women’s rights. Quite the contrary, they’ve exposed themselves as the same old misogynists they’ve always been. Trump’s calling Mexicans rapists or announcing he was in favor of an unconstitutional religious test for entering the United States was one thing. Speaking in a lewd manner about a high-status, married white women was quite another. Mike Pence, Scott Garrett, John Cornyn and Paul Ryan aren’t concerned about women’s rights so much as they are concerned about their own property, “our wives, our daughters.” Trump’s crudely racist remarks about Mexicans being “rapists” wasn’t so much a moral panic about Mexican men raping Mexican women in Mexico. It was about Mexican immigrants coming across the border into the United States and raping “our” (read “white”) women. Last year Trump could have burned a cross on Pennsylvania Avenue and nobody in the Republican Party would have cared, but now that he’s on the record as having all but sexually assaulted a high status white woman, even misogynist rats like Scott Garrett have hurled themselves overboard and jumped into the ocean.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, not surprisingly, has been silent. Christie and Trump are the same type of Republican. They come out of the same “movement.”
It’s ironic, perhaps, that Trump’s sexism is what might be what finally does him in when his run for the White House was in fact made possible by a woman, Sarah Palin. The “Tea Party” phenomenon of 2009 and 2010, the all but openly white nationalist “birther” movement, the grotesque new class of politicians led by Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Paul LePage and Rick Scott, the radical, right wing takeover of the Republican Party were all made possible by Palin’s nomination for Vice President. Palin may been the decisive factor that lost the election for John McCain in 2008, and she may widely be considered a laughing stock, but, unlike Barack Obama, she’s a genuinely transformative figure. It was Sarah Palin who led the “paleoconservative” backlash against the “neoconservative” hold on the Republican Party, who emboldened the small town, knuckle dragging rank and file bigots and misogynists to kick out the Wall Street and Ivy League elites. Sarah Palin’s political career is almost certainly over, but it was her brief turn on the national stage that made possible Trump’s humiliation of the Bush family in the Republican Party primary of 2016. If Donald Trump is the far right-wing’s Jesus, then Sarah Palin is its John the Baptist.
I watched it all in “liberal” New Jersey in 2009 and 2010 with the seemingly inexplicable rise of fat, vulgarian bully Chris Christie. We forget now after Bridgegate that Christie was once the darling of the New Jersey media, who fawned over his every move, who cheered him on as he bullied female high-school teachers, hard working, low paid, middle-aged women who had the effrontery to confront him in public. My only thought was “this thing is the governor of my state? How did it ever get to this point.” But the media couldn’t get enough. Local journalists, pseudo tough guys who have never thrown a punch in their life but like to present themselves as cynical hard asses, ate up Christie’s act the way Christie eats up pizza and donuts.
It wasn’t only New Jersey. All across the United States in 2009 and 2010, public employees and their unions were under attack by a Koch funded “movement.” Christie, Scott Walker, Paul LePage, Rick Scott, and above all Sarah Palin led the attack against the early Presidency of Barack Obama, a man elected by voters fed up with 8 years of radical right-wing government under George W. Bush. The elites had nothing against Obama himself. He dependably shielded Bush from any consequences of his war crimes and protected the Wall Street bankers who destroyed the economy, but they were determined to make sure he would never represent the voters who put him into office, that has Presidency would never be a progressive one.
It wasn’t only the elites and it wasn’t only the Koch Brothers. It certainly wasn’t the American people as a whole. Sadly, it was a small, mean spirited sector of the American people, the one I belong to, middle-aged white men, that gave us Donald Trump. As I watched with horror as we put monsters like Walker and Christie into office, men who would not only cut off food stamps and medical care for children without blinking an eye, but even enjoy doing it, I wondered why every single fucking white man over forty in the “liberal” state of New Jersey seemed to be a racist fucking teabagger. It was so drearily predictable that I’m still half temped to drop my socialist politics, vote for Hillary Clinton, and adopt some kind of “intersectional” identity politics. Maybe it’s not only the ruling class that sucks. Maybe it’s us, ordinary, working and middle-class white men, who suck. Maybe we lack the imagination to think of any more radical alternative to the mainstream than this racist clown. Maybe we lack the moral judgement to reject him when he scapegoats whole groups of people like Muslims or Mexican immigrants. Maybe we don’t know our asses from our elbows.
I’ll hold women and black people responsible for Hillary Clinton later, after she bombs or invades her first country or bails out her first bank, but part of what made a second Clinton Presidency possible, even inevitable, was the radical shift of the Republican Party from a center right, pro-business party with a moderate wing to a flat out white nationalist party slouching towards fascism. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, a lot of people he directly threatens, women, immigrants, minorities, are going to perhaps justifiably vote for Hillary Clinton as the lesser evil, and that’s all on us. Socialist journals like Jacobin regularly defend the “white working class” against the elites, and they often make good arguments. But let’s get real. The form that the rebellion of the “white working class” took against “the system” was not Marxism. It was not anarchism. It was not an honest liberal like Bernie Sanders. It was a right-wing, racist, misogynist clown named Donald Trump, and for that we need to take responsibility.
If Trump is the best that (even right wing) American populism has to offer, then there’s something pretty rotten about America. The Republican primaries of 2016 proved that the elites couldn’t choose the Republican Party’s candidate. We all know they wanted Marco Rubio. Sadly, the Republican rank and file proved that they could pick a candidate who was even worse.