Anti-Politics as a Debt and a Cancer

Part of me actually wants Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination.

Donald Trump

The Trump candidacy is looking ever more likely.

Here are a couple of opinion pieces noting the rise of the anti-politics he represents and why leaders within the Republican Party are now unable to stop him.

First, Josh Marshall, the editor of Talking Points Memo, describes the political ‘debt’ to the truth that the Republicans have racked up in recent years.

It’s a build up of what we might call ‘hate debt’ and ‘nonsense debt’ that has been growing up for years.

This crystallized for me after the last GOP debate when Trump told Chris Cuomo in a post-debate interview that the IRS might be coming after him because he’s a “strong Christian.”  … Republicans simply aren’t in any position to criticize this ludicrous claim because they have spent years telling their voters that this sort of thing happens all the time

… But Republican elected officials have increasingly coddled, exploited and in some cases – yes – spurred their voters penchant for resentment, perceived persecution, apocalyptic thinking and generic nonsense.

… Trump is very little different from the average candidate Republicans elected in 2010 and 2014, in terms of radical views and extreme rhetoric. All he’s done is take the actual GOP issue package, turn it up to eleven and put it on a high speed collision course with RNC headquarters smack in the middle of presidential election year.

Related to this is David Brooks op-ed column in the New York Times.  He called anti-politics the ‘Governing Cancer of Our Time’

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

I’ve written before in defence of politicians and praised the virtues of the Westminster Bubble.  Later in the column Brooks explains why we sometimes need professional politicians: they know how to compromise.

In my view, the great flaw of the purists (be they on the right like Trump, or on the left like Jeremy Crobyn) is that they seem uninterested in governing for the entire country.  It is enough that they win 51% of the vote, so they can impose their will on the country.  They see no reason to make any concessions to people who think differently.

I recall a Matthew Parris column (£) from 2004, before George W. Bush won a second term in office.

George W. Bush needs a second term at the White House. This US presidency is halfway through an experiment whose importance is almost literally earth-shattering. Its success or failure could be a beacon for the future. I want to see that experiment properly concluded … The President and his neoconservative court should be offered all the rope they need to hang themselves. When they do, when they fail, when America’s dream of becoming the new Rome dies, there should be no possible excuse, no straw at which Republican apologists can clutch.

This turned out to be right and the failures of Bush (coupled with the 2008 crash, of course) paved the way for the Obama victory.

For similar reasons, part of me actually wants Donald Trump to win the nomination!  Not only will that make a Democrat victory more likely (both Sanders and Clinton beat Trump in head-to-head polling) but it offers an opportunity for the politics of hate and division to be roundly trounced at the polls (perhaps in a manner similar to the landslide the electorate visited against Barry Goldwater in 1964).  It would hopefully offer the moderates within the Republican Party the incentive they need to wrestle back control of their party from the extremists.

The problem with this approach is two-fold.  The first is that it could go wrong.  If there were a terrorist outrage perpetrated on American soil during the election campaign, it could work to Trump’s advantage.

But also, I think there is a moral virtue in seeing-off the bonkers candidates at the earliest possible moment.   It was assumed that the American people would repudiate Trump at the earliest possible opportunity, in the early caucuses and primaries.  That this has not happened is surely a concern for everyone.

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