The presidential campaign of Donald Trump is a disaster for the Republican Party and America. Not in terms of the polls. The Big Apple billionaire sits high atop the Republican field and has done so pretty much since he announced in June. I’m talking about HOW he became the GOP front-runner.
Folks praise Trump for tapping the hidden anger of the Republican primary electorate. His harangues against political correctness have liberated those sad, put-upon, far-right conservatives suffering the burden of having to be respectful of difference in our diverse nation. And they have shown up at Trump’s rallies by the thousands to cheer on the man and a campaign that peddles in misogyny, xenophobia and racism. I fear the corrosive effect this is having on national cohesion and our political discourse.
What has me back on my Trump-is-destroying-America soapbox is a Buzzfeed story linking the racist, populist appeal of Trump to that of segregationist George Wallace when he ran for president four times between 1964 and 1976.
“The two of them, they have adopted the notion that fear and hate are the two greatest motivators of voters,” Wallace’s daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, told Buzzfeed. “Those voters that feel alienated from the government. Those voters tend to make decisions based on an emotional level rather than intellectual.” Wallace added, “They both understood, my father and Donald Trump, that low-information voters, they tend to feed off of the threats to their livelihood and safety without really considering what that threat really is, or even if it’s real.”
“Both of them use a lot of the same kind of scare tactics and fear,” Tom Turnipseed said in the interview. He was the executive director of Wallace’s 1968 campaign who described himself as a “reformed racist” to Buzzfeed. “That’s why he pushed the Mexican thing, and now he’s throwing the Chinese in there too. He uses that same kind of thing, that fear thing that Wallace did…. As far as the tactics they use, the scare thing, is a lot alike to be honest with you. The way they use the scare thing. In Trump’s thing it’s the Mexicans, the wetbacks that we used to call them, the Chinese too a little bit. Back in Wallace’s time it was African-American people.”
Where Wallace’s daughter drew a line between her father and Trump was on personal attacks. “[E]ven though he used coded language to use racial themes, he never attacked a culture based on their religion and race,” she said. “He used coded language to suggest the racial themes. But he never specifically attacked a group of people based on their religion and their race.” That’s a fine line, but a line nonetheless.
All of this adds to the mounting evidence that Trump’s candidacy is destroying the Republican Party. As Dick Armey said in the dead-on-arrival autopsy of the GOP’s 2012 presidential loss, “You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you.”
The former House majority leader and tea party leader was talking about the party’s appeal to Latino voters. His astute comment now applies to women, African Americans, the disabled, war heroes and Muslims. No doubt others will be added, as every time I catalogue Trump’s offensiveness, he adds another group to the list.
That is no way to win the White House. And in a nation that will soon see no group with a demographic majority, what Trump is doing is a surefire way to guarantee the GOP never wins it again.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj