Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Is Trump Normalizing the GOP?

Image result for mccain and romney

Romney and McCain look like heroes today, instead of villains, thanks to Donald Trump.

A funny thing has happened in the last two years.   Many on the Left are starting to find a new appreciation of their former foes on the Right, such as Mitt Romney, John McCain, and John Kasich.  These Republicans, once thought as far-right extremists, are now seen as moderate, and applauded for standing up to Donald Trump.

Was this all by design?  Or were we just being fooled before?   In the previous elections, I found myself drawn into this sort of mindless hate of opponents of what at the time were my political beliefs - or what I thought they were, anyway.   Both parties offer up scarecrow images of their opponents - caricatures of their policy positions and personal beliefs.   We are told not to just vote for the candidate of our party, but to despise and hate the candidate from the other party.

This is not constructive - and it is what lead us to Donald Trump.   We all like to blame Trump for his particular brand of nasty - mocking John McCain, an actual military hero, as he lays dying of cancer.  But if you connect the dots, this really is what both parties have been pushing for decades now, and it continues today with Trump's antics and the "resist" movement of the Democrats.   Both parties want to tap into visceral hate, not just policy points.  Policy points don't get voters out to the polls.

In that regard, Hillary's campaign was doomed from the get-go.  The GOP has been pushing Hillary-hate for decades.   Although behind closed doors, these politicians are cordial and often actually even good friends, in the public eye, it is more like professional wrestling, where outlandish things are said and each candidate is reduced to a cartoon character.  The actual wrestling match is secondary - the chair throwing and trash-talk before the match is what people came to see.

Donald Trump, who has actually appeared on professional wrestling, took this political theater to a whole new level.  And suddenly, Mitt Romney doesn't seem like such a bad guy - even if his Bain Capital is a bit of a vulture capitalist operation.   John McCain looks like an absolute saint these days - why did we not vote for him?   Oh, right, Sarah Palin.

Palin bears mention in that she is part of this Trumpian political theater.   She was very good at throwing out the clever quip or the fast insult.   But when it came down to policy and politics, she showed herself to be out of her element.  Nevertheless, McCain can't complain too much about the Donald's methods - he took the viper to his breast when he picked Palin as his running mate.

Sadly, we all get caught up in this nonsense from time to time.  I look back as some things I've written here in the past and cringe.   McCain and Romney were not the devil themselves, and Barack Obama, well, turned out to be a lot less than we thought he would be.  His legacy, sadly, is that what little he got accomplished was so quickly unwound.

Ordinary politicians are often boring and uninspiring.  And ordinary politicians often have a harder time getting out the vote.  Odds are, you can't even name your own Senators for your State, or the Congressman for your district.  And without looking at your driver's license, can you name your governor?  Of course not - or you are excused of that is the case.  These are not the larger-than-life cartoon figures that dominate politics today.

Of course, this cartoon politics plays both ways.  If your opponent is a boring policy-wonk like Hillary Clinton, the secret to success is to paint her as a "villain" character, much like in professional wrestling.  Give her a catchy name ("Crooked Hillary") and a back story (the e-mails!) and let the fans fill in the rest.  In retrospect, it was a bad idea to nominate her (and Sanders an even worse idea) as she was so easy to caricature and cartoon as the Wicked Witch of the West.

But then again, maybe some good will come of all of this.  Maybe - just maybe - people will tire of professional wrestling politics and go back to normalcy again.   And there may be some evidence of this, as some "moderate" candidates are beating out their more radical brethren in the primaries.

And maybe we, as voters, will stop being drawn into these reality-show scenarios, where there are "good guy" characters and "bad guys" and instead of rooting for one side or the other, we can instead think carefully about their policies and political beliefs - and their ability to compromise and get things done - and vote accordingly.