Monday, April 18, 2011

Sixty-two percent of Republicans should be having an existential crisis about right now (but probably aren't)

No matter what anyone tells you, for the time being Donald Trump appears to be the Republican presidential frontrunner, according to a Public Policy Polling survey now just twelve points short of capturing an outright majority of Republican voters.

With that in mind, you might also be interested to know that last night Trump unambiguously threw his support behind the, um, implausible theory that Bill Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father.

Trump is, of course, already a vocal proponent of the idea that Barack Obama is 1. a secret Muslim who 2. was born outside of the US.

It would be funny if Trump were some sort of Charlie Sheen-esque unintentional clown. But Trump is winning nearly forty percent of the Republican vote. His views, rather than hindering his electoral chances, have propelled him to the front of the GOP presidential pack. And even now, the main roadblock to further success is not that he's, you know, actually quite insane, but that he's too friendly to Democrats.

Notwithstanding the chance of Trump actually winning the nomination -- very slim, but maybe not as slim as the Republican intelligentsia would have you believe -- shouldn't this be a moment of self-reflection for much of the GOP?

I know a lot of Republican voters who wouldn't be caught dead attending a Tea Party rally, or reading Going Rogue, or watching Glenn Beck's nightly journey into Bizarro World. It's fashionable among these "reasonable" Republicans to pretend that the wingnut faction of their party is just a tiny fringe. Reasonable Republicans argue that the unflagging popularity of right-wing provocateurs isn't attributable to the right wing at all, but to the left's fascination with said provocateurs. They argue that the media mischaracterizes the GOP by focusing on its worst members. They contend that the great mass of Republican voters is moderate, and modern, and motivated primarily by a somber concern about the size and cost of government, and that it would never dream of voting for a wacko like Bachmann or Palin, very much akin to how Dennis Kucinich could never capture more than a tiny fragment of the Democratic vote.

So here's a message for you reasonable Republicans: a plurality of your party appears willing to nominate for President a half-lucid egomaniacal real estate tycoon, a man whose entire platform seems to be centered around a deeply-held conviction that Barack Obama is a Kenyan. Something about this man excites these voters in a way that nobody else in your party yet has.

Who gets the blame for that, if not the party itself, and the people of which it is composed? It's becoming harder and harder for you to credibly claim that your views are being distorted. If any distortion is occurring, it's occurring in your own head, as you continually recast the increasingly off-the-rails GOP as an institution nonetheless worthy of your support. Take a step back: this Donald Trump fiasco is a clue, a clue suggesting that a significant portion of your fellow travelers believe things that are, to use a technical term, utterly nutso. Maybe the time has come to reassess who and what you're supporting.

But we both know you won't.

So by all means, vote for Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney in the primary, as you're no doubt inclined. Do what you can to moderate the lunacy loose in the party ranks -- America appreciates your efforts. But history is clear about one thing: when a Sharon Angle or Christine O'Donnell or Sarah Palin or Donald Trump ends up on the ballot, the vast majority of you are going to look the other way and X the R. At the end of the day, no matter what you believe as an individual, you have two choices as a civic actor: the group that made common cause with crazies and the group that hasn't. Congratulations on always choosing the former.

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