As plenty of left-wing bloggers have chronicled, anti-Trump Republicans are floundering to pretend that Trump is the problem. Before him, the Republicans were sensible, reasonable conservatives; once he’s gone, they’ll be so again.
Case in point, right-wing pundit S.E. Cupp proclaims that because of President Shit-Gibbon (she did not use the phrase), the party of ideas is dead: “Liberty, limited government, low taxes, fewer regulations, law and order, family first, national security — from Reagan on, we were the party of ideas, and Democrats were the party of identity politics. … A time traveler from the Reagan era would no longer recognize the Republican Party, but most Republican politicians feel no embarrassment supporting policies they once condemned.”
Apparently it doesn’t occur to Ms. Cupp that “ideas” does not mean “ideas she approves of.” What she calls identity politics is an idea: that minorities, gays and women deserve full equality with straight WASP men, and that we need to change the system to make that happen. Heck, even Trump has ideas. Building the wall, making immigrants self-deport and raising tariffs are bad ideas, but they are ideas. And it’s not like Trump’s actually rejected the old ideas. Limited government? He’s slashed all sorts of regulations. Tax cuts? We got a whopper? Law and order? He consistently supports police against black protesters (as we know, he thinks white supremacists are very fine people). Liberty? Republicans then and now weren’t keen on it for gays, blacks or women.
Cupp complains Trump’s running a massive budget deficit but St. Ronald ended his term with a record budget deficit (and after hiking taxes on the poor. I was one, so I know). George W. Bush ran up an even higher one. Cupp objects to “apologism for the human rights violations of brutal dictators” but Reagan supported the use of death squads in El Salvador and Saddam’s use of poison gas (back when Saddam was our man in the region). Nixon installed the brutal Pinochet regime in Chile (Clinton, Carter and Obama also supported some nasty specimens). Blind presidential worship? Lots of conservatives under W demanded liberals just shut up and obey W, God’s anointed representative on Earth. W’s claims of executive power, like the right to lock up American citizens without charging them or giving them a trial. That’s as extreme as anything Trump’s claimed. And Trump’s hardly the GOP’s only elected racist.
The big difference isn’t so much that the party’s changed direction. It’s that up until now they had the right-wing media (Limbaugh, Coulter and Fox News) and far right “patriot” groups to provide the racist rants and condemn the Democratic party (even milder syndicated columnists like Kathleen Parker were — well, take a look). The politicians didn’t have to do more than dog-whistle occasionally, like Reagan talking about state’s rights near the town where several civil-rights workers were murdered. Trump’s different because he delivers his racism and sexism without polite euphemisms.
I don’t think he’s really changed the base, either. The resentment that straight WASP men aren’t held up as God’s finest creation goes back more than twenty years. It’s intensified after eight years under the Evil Kenyan Usurper and more than a decade of Fox News but it’s not new. As Roy Edroso has pointed out (don’t have the link), the base was never fired up about being the party of ideas, or about low tariffs and shrinking government (they loved Trump’s calls for a more generous social safety net). As far back as Reagan they loved him mocking hippies and feminists, and talking about the strapping black bucks buying T-bone steaks with food stamps while hardworking whites scrimped on cat food.
Cupp might be completely ignorant of history. Or possibly she’s spewing bullshit so that post-Trump (assuming we don’t get Trump II) she can pretend the Republican Party is the party of ideas again. And she’ll blithely ignore all the Trump lackeys and enablers and give them a free pass. Why not? The media are giving Bannon his.
[UPDATE: Cupp, despite opposing Trump, has no qualms posting a profile of a Trump-supporting woman who’s a “well-educated suburban Mom” … and somehow omitting that she’s an executive on the county Republican Party board]