They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
During the Roaring Twenties, Calvin Coolidge proclaimed, “The business of America is business.” On September 26, Donald Trump clarified that Republican maxim after Hillary Clinton accused him of rooting for the housing crisis.
“He said back in 2006,” she said, “‘Gee, I hope [the market] does collapse because then I go in and buy and make some money.’”
“That’s called business, by the way,” Trump replied.
That’s business. Cold and callous, heartless and ruthless, take-no-prisoners. Screw them before they screw you. In six words, the veneer was ripped away and exposed a Leona Helmsley party. The GOP: The Party of Mean.
The post-primary stretch bears out another maxim that succinctly sums up the American body politic: Democrats/progressives fall in love; Republicans/conservatives fall in line.
Initially, some Bernie supporters found it difficult to fall in love with Hillary. Since then, though maybe not star-struck, it looks as if most are finding her “likeable enough.” Meanwhile, the Republican flock has done what they dutifully do: Fall in line. Click heels, salute, and dig the latrine pit despite unused latrines abounding.
Almost. Not this time. Not all Republicans. Not all conservatives.
A sizeable conscience-driven minority have refused to sell their souls to the muscleman who engineered the hostile takeover of their party. Others, like Ronald Reagan’s son Michael, are retracting prior endorsements. The Arizona Republic for the first time in its 160-year history has endorsed a Democrat for president. The Dallas Morning News, it’s first in nearly three-quarters of a century. Ditto the Cincinnati Enquirer. Staunch bastions of conservative intellectualism.
George Will calls their counterparts “faux conservatives.” CINO’s: Conservatives in name only, those who put party ahead of principle and country. Will references social theorist Max Weber who during World War I anticipated the rise of fascist state.
“Charismatic authority,” causes the governed to submit “because of their belief in the extraordinary quality of the specific person . . . . Charismatic rule thus rests upon the belief in magical powers, revelations and hero worship.”
Will concludes, “A demagogue’s success requires a receptive demos,” a populace willing, even eager, to suspend belief and to deny reality, those, to paraphrase P.T. Barnum, born every minute.
Former George W. Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson argues the Trump phenomenon goes beyond the old social wars. Now, it’s about race and class. The Republican Party has become the citadel of resentful, angry white men. With that, crass has replaced class.
Trump triumphed by emasculating his opponents. Low-energy Jeb. Little Marco. Lyin’ Ted. Former POW John McCain disgraced for getting captured. Emasculating a woman, however, is not so easy if not impossible.
We know the script. Trump the fraud. The bully. The conniver. One who promotes a portrait of a self-made billionaire, but, like the Wizard of Oz, has to use a curtain to conceal the truth. The charlatan that orchestrated his rise with mass manipulation not seen since the heyday of mid-twentieth century European henchman. The Big Lie. Horatio Alger he’s not.
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes, “In defending himself and his business record, Trump offered insights into a cutthroat approach to business dealing and the pride he takes in using all means available to maximize his advantages.”
Balz notes Trump was offended by suggestions he is not a self-made billionaire, that he said profiting off the 2008 housing collapse was good business, that he claimed paying no income taxes was smart, that he refuses to release his tax returns, and that he believes stiffing vendors is fair game. Truth hurts.
The new business ethos. Smash things up and let others clean up their mess.
Tom and Daisy. The Donald and the GOP.
One can only assume every Republican leader and candidate, Clear Creek to Washington, not publicly distancing him/herself from Trump shares his values. His are theirs and theirs are his.
NeverTrump or ForeverTrump?
Choose wisely or choose poorly, but choose they must. No ostrich-ing. No head in the sand.
Voters must choose too. Whichever one’s choice, it matters.