Saturday, October 15, 2016

Echoing Trump

Promoting Ted Strickland, challenger of incumbent Senator Rob Portman in Ohio, President Obama on Thursday quipped "People like Ted’s opponent — they stood by while this happened. And Donald Trump, as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building himself, but he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it." And after quoting Claude Rains as Louis Renault, President Obama Thursday in Ohio warned Republicans "So don’t act like this started with Donald Trump. He did take it to a whole new level. I got to give him credit. But he didn’t come out of nowhere."

That's clear not only - as Obama emphasized- by the policies and prejudices of the GOP- but also in the dogged determination of Party officials to continue to support Donald Trump in the face of the obvious threat he presents to continuation of liberal democracy and the republic it undergirds.

On Tuesday, Salon's Gary Legum noted

Journalist Josh Marshall has coined a term that he uses to describe the Republicans who try to make common cause with the Trump campaign and wind up humiliated and dominated by the alpha male at the top of the ticket: dignity wraiths. (They) have to show fealty to Trump by blatantly lying for him in public forums, mounting absurd attacks on enemies, or through even less dignified displays ,like when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was spotted picking up the candidate's to-go order at McDonald's.

Legum  nominates Mike Pence (who might become the de facto president if Trump is elected) as the latest to sell whatever soul he ever had.  Just in the few days since his article, however, someone even more significant has emerged as a "dignity wraith."  Politico's Racchel Bade reports that on Friday a "Republican VIP"

warned of an America with “a gloom and grayness to things” if  Democrats take over. “They rig the system,” he told the crowd, and want a “government for the elites.” “Instead of this fear and uncertainty,” he added, the country should choose a leader who would “secure our borders” and “confront radical Islamic extremism once and for all.”

You could write off as poorly-informed a Republican arguing that a President who has ordered roghly ten times as many drone strikes as his GOP predecessor does not "confront radical Islamic extremism."    And you might excuse a populist Republican (were there any) or perhaps an Ann Coulter, unconcerned about tax rates, for slamming Democrats for allegedly being elitist.

But this is no ignoramus nor working-class warrior, but one who enjoys $350 bottles of wine and is dedicated to redistributing income upward.  "This wasn’t," Bades writes, "Donald Trump talking. It was Paul Ryan, the can-do optimist and avatar of the Republican establishment."

This was not off-the-cuff or a a case of one two many glasses of that Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru. "Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the speaker," Bades adds, "said that Ryan did not use more alarmist rhetoric in his speech Friday than he has in the past."

Nor is it about rigging "the system" because if anyone were to rig the system, it would be the Speaker of the House and former House Budget Committee chairpreson.  As College Republicans (at the University of Wisconsin-Madison), his audience hears "rig"- as they do from Donald Trump- and they think "elections."

What is true of the crude and rude Donald Trump is true of the intelligent, erudite, handsome and healthy Paul Ryan, who condemned the notion of a Clinton presidency three days after being attacked by Trump (video, below).  Dignity wraith, indeed. "The problem" with Trump, Vox's Dara Lind explains

is that his supporters believe what he says. If he says a Trump loss means the election has been stolen, there are millions of people prepared to believe it. And on the day after the election, professional provocateurs on talk radio and the internet may be ready to tell them to reject the results of the election and the peaceful transfer of power that comes with it.

The critical difference between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan is this: after November 8, Trump will on the outside looking in and undermining the legitimacy of the election of Hillary Clinton.  Paul Ryan, likely to remain Speaker of the House, will be on the inside, and celebrated as a "can-do optimist."

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