By Sharon Jones
For years, the cries of the Tea Party were to call out the RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) for abandoning their conservative principles. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and John McCain have been familiar targets. Anyone who even contemplated compromise has been called a RINO.
It seems that the U.S. Representatives that once embodied conservativism hadn’t really moved to the left (or changed at all) and become RINOs, but that a large part of their constituency moved further right as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama. Fueled by the growing conservative media presence and the fears stoked by the Internet, it seems they moved further right than we initially thought. It was never about conservatism or conservative principles but the need for authoritarianism.
Donald Trump shows this need not only in his vitriol that we are all aware of, but in the Republican principles he avoids or negates. Any other Republican candidate would have been branded a traitor to the party should they have taken many of Trump’s positions, but they also didn’t come out with stories of walls and expulsions either. Had they also started out in such a manner, they would have seen the same kind of momentum. The candidates with momentum in this cycle were more conservative than ever before but now authoritarian and populism was what really fit the bill.
From saying good things about socialized medicine to supporting women’s health, Donald Trump has violated some of the conservative holy grails. His past meandering between parties, support of Barack Obama in 2008 and abuse of eminent domain laws, are all things that would be unforgiveable sins were they associated with any other candidate.
His positions have seemed to change weekly. This should have been a tip off to his leanings had his supporters really been about traditional Republican conservatism. They never were.
That he can receive the support of Vladimir Putin, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of the far right French National Front, the Klu Klux Klan, David Duke and whole host of other bad actors without losing support, shows just how hungry his supporters are for a strong man. Things like demagoguery, misogyny, torture, war crimes and violence, don’t faze his supporters. In fact, they are emboldened by them and whipped into a greater frenzy.
The Tea Party, that has so embraced Donald Trump, often claimed that their purpose was to protect the constitution. They often exclaimed that it was under attack by the Obama administration. Now, Donald Trump may freely say that he wants violate the constitution by restricting demonstrations, threatening to track Muslims and revisiting libel laws so he can sue news organizations. The only response to these acts of pure constitutional destruction from his supporters is applause.
Hypocrisy just means that your stated beliefs were never really your beliefs to begin with. The entire Trump candidacy is just one big exercise in hypocrisy.
The Republican Establishment sees this and it is their greatest fear. Trump’s flip flopping could open up a divide within their own party as some of the closely held conservative beliefs are shown to be flexible to him. Will the pro-life movement break away? Such an outcome is plausible.
A third party would be a nightmare scenario from which they might not recover. Every national Presidential campaign has seen the tightrope walk of the eventual nominee catering to the evangelical base and then courting the moderate conservatives once nominated. This time it didn’t happen. It was this time that the true side of the party emerged and it is scary.
While still doubtful that a man so repugnant as Trump could claim the presidency, his very ascent shows the problems now inherent in the Republican Party. It might also be the opening of the door to a new populist party that reflects many of the aspects of the far right parties seen in some European countries.
Whatever happens, we now know what so many of them really wanted all along. They wanted someone that spoke to their fear. In Trump, they finally got it.
Sharon Jones is a contributor to zenruption and has her degree in political science. She has spent years studying authoritarian movements and sees far too many correlations now. Sharon is happy that the majority of the country is still sane.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license