A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Trump exploiting GOP scheme that backfired

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., March 21, 22 or 23

Donald Trump’s Republican rivals call him a “con man,” but they’re only half right. They haven’t gone far enough.

For some 40 years, the Republican Party itself has run a con game (and that’s said from a guy who grew up revering Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and thinking Democrat Lyndon Johnson was one of the worst presidents.)

Some may say the GOP (the “Grand Old Party”) in the face of growth of young, female and minority voters has become the Old Party, but there’s more: The rise of a bigoted blowhard was enabled by a classic shell game that’s made Three-Card Monte look like a safe bet.

Trump didn’t cause this; he’s merely riding the tsunami of fear and hate set off by a series of political earthquakes starting in the ’60s.

When LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he said Democrats would lose the South for a generation, and in 1968 Republican Richard Nixon launched his “Southern Strategy” to lure resentful Southerners (and like-minded Northerners) to a newly-reactionary GOP.

After Nixon and Ford, Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter was President for one term, and then the strategy accelerated with Ronald Reagan. He started by saying, “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Since then – fueled by talk radio and Fox News (enabled by Reagan killing media’s Fairness Doctrine) – the Right Wing has:

* obstructed Obama and everything he proposed, refusing to compromise, shutting down the government, and polarizing the nation;
* accepted that “ignorance is bliss,” whether cultivating Tea Partiers who hate government yet want roads and bridges safe and smooth, garbage collected, air and water clean, security maintained, and “keep government out of Medicare,” or denying science when facts are unwelcome;
* appealed to fundamentalist Christians such as Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell, moving faith from compassion to confrontation; and
* demonized taxes, contributing to decades of deficit spending by continuing programs Americans want.
(That’s reminiscent of the line, “All confidence game are aimed at people who want something for nothing,” uttered by con man Candy Johnson [Clark Gable] in the 1941 movie Honky Tonk. “Find out who they are and your fortune is made.”)

Now – even before Marco Rubio dropped out – it’s difficult not to see the Republican presidential candidates as bullies who flirt with white supremacists, consider war a sensible first option, and dismiss women, gays, Mexicans, Muslims, et. al. as Others to be feared, despised or controlled.

Defined by paranoia, distrust and intolerance, the 2016 Republican Party still relies on fatuous, if not imaginary, attacks on guns, religion and families – a con game played on the working class to distract us from the real problem: the rich and powerful. So for years, ambitious loudmouths promised to end abortion, prevent gay Americans from marrying their partners, end the Affordable Care Act, and prevent Obama’s reelection.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans’ base had high expectations after gaining control of Congress. Since promises weren’t kept, it became apparent that the GOP was taking the base for granted or disrespecting their concerns, so disappointment resulted, and angry voters looked more longingly at outsiders, like Trump.

Behind the scenes, wealthy campaign contributors and corporations were a cause or complicit in the scenario, for short-term gains. So jobs and wages were cut (sparking more fury exploited by the GOP to target immigrants, labor, minorities, or educated citizens). Taxes were cut even further on corporations and the elite (meaning government has fewer resources to fund needed programs). And Wall Street, free-traders and companies prospered (despite growing slower than in past economies).

Now, “Establishment” Republicans criticize Trump and try to maneuver toward a contested convention in July, but it’s hard not to suspect they’ll fall into line as New Jersey’s ambitious Gov. Chris Christie did, like compliant goose steppers at Nuremberg rallies in the 1920s and ’30s.

Fearing disintegration (or loss of their power and profits from deals with incumbents), there’s wailing from conservative power brokers such as Mitt Romney (a poster boy for the rich, white Establishment), John McCain (who introduced Sarah Palin to a national audience), or Paul Ryan (whose budget frameworks would dismantle popular social programs).

True, Democrats flirted with collaboration, from centrist Bill Clinton’s support of NAFTA, welfare “reforms,” mandatory sentencing and deregulation of the financial industry to Hillary Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street and costly foreign military adventures. However, Democrats haven’t facilitated a Trump.

The Republican Party for decades has fleeced us like street-corner pirates running con games on card tables. And now its frontrunner has let slip that the Grand Old Party has become a Raiding Party.

[PICTURED: Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman, from]

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