Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Faction Paradox

OK, so I don't, as a general matter, blog politics. That said, the recent events in the Republican Party have roused the Poli-Sci adjunct prof in me after a multi-year slumber. With the Republican Establishment (What's left of it, anyway), combining to torpedo the campaign of the party's own front-runner (No, really), the stage looks like it's set for a grim caricature of the disastrous (for the GOP) 1912 election, in which the charismatic insurgent who tapped into the working class's discontent was deprived of the nomination by the Old Guard uniting around a weaker but palatable (to them) candidate.

Now, before I go on, let's be clear: Donald Trump is no Theodore Roosevelt. After Lincoln, TR was, to my mind, the greatest Republican in the history of the Nation. And the Progressive Party platform represents an important road not taken in American political history, and a document the promises of which were only partly realized by the New Deal and the Great Society. TR's "Bull Moose" Party offered a distinctly Republican take on populism and reform worthy of honor, and of being read today.

I cannot say anything remotely like that about the appalling Trump. And that's putting it with, to steal a line from C.P. Snow, the "maximum of charity, which is probably, as usual, uncalled for." Still--leaving aside the obvious differences in the candidates (and, to be fair, I have long winced at TR's convention speech, where he declared "We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord!")--well, this looks a bit like a replay, this time as farce.

In 1912, the Stalwarts (as they called themselves) united around the less charismatic but hardly laughable William Howard Taft. Although Roosevelt had won the primary states, Taft had the delegates and the party machinery.

But Roosevelt had the enthusiasm.

And--here is the point--Roosevelt left the Party, because he felt that he had been treated unfairly, the rules manipulated, the processes tampered with, and the voice of the people ignored.

And he took his voters with him.

Conservative Rod Dreher suggests that Trump garners much of his enthusiastic support from working class white men who feel they are falling precipitously behind. They see Trump, Dreher suggests, as the one candidate who is speaking to their frustration and fears.

Now, the Stalwarts in 1912 waited until the convention to make their play. Here, the Establishment is trying to sabotage Trump before the convention. Now, doesn't this give Trump grounds to rescind his loyalty pledge to the eventual nominee? I mean, not like I expected him to keep it, but this gives him a credible reason for violating it.

And, well, whether he runs as a third party candidate or not, how do you bring his voters back into the fold, if they believe their champion (I know, the mind reels), was shivved by the very Establishment selecting the not-Trump candidate?

Myself, I can't help but view this dilemma as karmic retribution for five decades of the Southern Strategy. Faust's bargain has come due. Trump is the bill collector.

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