As a general rule, policy articulation has never been the strong suit of Republican politicians. They are not called conservatives for nothing. Their belief system is rooted in the preservation of the past; and anything new or recent is seen as threatening to them. So for the most part, their electioneering campaigns are all about protecting their heritage with campaign slogans like “take our country back”, “protect our way of life” “cut taxes” etc.
For years, they leaned heavily on cultural issues like abortion, anti-gay marriage/agenda, etc., to fire up their base. They do this even when there is empirical evidence that the country is changing and chances of success for such issues are no longer guaranteed or at least will no longer be easy to achieve. But that never stopped them from promising to achieve these goals for their base no matter what the odds are.
With the election of President Barack Obama, Republican proclivity for making extreme campaign and political promises went into overdrive. Even those who were formerly thought of as moderate Republicans, increasingly had to take more extreme views in order to stay relevant within the party. And thanks to Fox News, anyone who had anything to say now have a megaphone to say it. Compromise became a dirty word and even though they were the minority party, they campaigned and followed thru on shutting down the government when they didn’t get their way.
This increasingly non-compromising stance of the GOP led them and their base to believe that good governing ideas, even those formerly espoused by them, when it comes from Obama, is no longer good. As such, individual mandate – an idea originally championed by conservative think tank, heritage foundation became a bad idea. When the president, in the light of our current economic climate advocated that every young American should attend college, prominent conservative like presidential candidate, Rick Santorum took offense and called the president arrogant. Calling for the repair of our infrastructure became a partisan issue and bi-partisanship is now seen as weakness.
On conservative talk radio and blog sphere, ignorance is celebrated and facts are disregarded in favor of talking points. This ideological irrationality became more prevalent with the advent of the Tea party at the beginning of Obama’s presidency. Even though he inherited the worst recession in a generation, which was handed down to him by a Republican government, the unanimous consensus of the Republicans is that Obama was the course of the recession and he was immediately declared a failed president.
With their electoral gains in 2010, they went even further to the right during the 2012 presidential election. Having declared Obama’s presidency a failed one, they had high hopes of winning back the office. Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee, who had previously enacted a similar healthcare system in Massachusetts, denounced the Affordable Care Act among other extreme positions he took to appeal to their base voters. In the end, such ideological irrationality doomed his candidacy.
With the GOP elites abandoning their core conservative beliefs, they became hostage to the tea party and went along with dumbing down serious social and economic issues facing the country. When they captured the House of Representative in 2010, instead of finding ways to govern, they took pleasure in shutting down the government to appease the extreme elements in their party. In order to win more elections, they kept promising things they know cannot be delivered in the current the political climate.
It is no wonder then that in the current political season, the Republican base has no confidence at all in their elected leaders and have now thrown their lot with a maniacal stage manipulator in Donald Trump. He has no clue what he is doing or saying. He says anything that comes to his mind without recourse to truth or authenticity. He practically has no filters, which makes one wonder about the health or lack thereof of his mental capacity. Yet, from the day he declared his candidacy, he has led the entire field and continues to do so no matter what outrageous things he says. The absurdity of their support is demonstrated in their contempt for billionaire captains of industries who they believe are getting rich at the expense of the poor. However, even though Donald Trump, who has no compunction telling anyone who will listen that he is worth upwards of $10b, belong to this group, these base voters are so credulous that they are not able to decipher or tune out the cacophony of noises coming out of Trump’s mouth. Some of them seriously believe that he is one of them and he’s capable of making their lives better even though he cannot articulate a policy to support his myriads of bombastic claims.
|What is shocking to political pundits in the beltway is that no one in the past can say the things Trump says and survive a week before dropping out. But perhaps we should not be surprised at all. This level of irrationality within the Republican base is rooted in what psychologist call cognitive dissonance. It’s a feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. That’s the situation that Mr. Trump’s candidacy has created for the Republican base. For the past four years, the party has been on war path over the ACA. Yet Mr. Trump has appeared willing to consider a single payer system and said so in a televised debate. Yet he continues to lead the huge field of candidates running for the party’s nomination. The sheer dissonance swirling in the heads of their leaders is probably deafening now. And unless, something changes to jolt everyone to their senses and cause them to tune out the noise, it’s probably not out of the realm of reality that Donald J. Trump might be the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential election. As a progressive, I pray he does.|