How would a Trump independent bid work?

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Donald Trump is devouring the GOP whole, and Fox News is feeding him.

Back on September 17, as Donald Trump basked in the post-Labor Day glow of being the Republican Party’s undisputed frontrunner, he spoke to a boisterous crowd in New Hampshire and took a question from an especially boisterous fan. “We have a problem in this country. “I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.” — Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, slamming Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers.” — U.S.

While thousands in the UK have signed a petition calling for Trump to be banned from Britain under hate speech laws, 73-year-old Muhammad Ali has now weighed in. But do not make the mistake of treating him as a solitary phenomenon, a singular celebrity narcissist who has somehow, all alone, brought his party and its politics to the brink of fascism. In a statement, the three-time heavyweight boxing world champion said: “I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. Yes, logistically it’s not possible.) The announcement dropped so many jaws that not only did key Republicans denounce the move, but lots of conservative commentators also rushed to deplore Trump’s shortsighted extremism. The Republican rivals rushing to distance themselves from his latest inflammatory proposal — a faith-based wall around the country — have been peddling their own nativist policies for months or years.

As Nathan Lean noted in his book, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, back in August 2006, Fox News guest Mike Gallagher suggested an “all Muslims checkpoint line” at American airports. Talk radio fearmongers and cable television personalities have “created an environment where people are comfortable expressing these kind of sentiments,” noted CNN’s Michael Smerconish this week. Indeed, Trump’s right-wing media cohorts helped him unleash the hounds of bigotry and now some in conservative circles are desperately searching for a harness?

In 31 states, governors — most but not all Republicans — have formed an axis of ignorance, declaring their borders closed to refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria. In August, I suggested that Fox News, via the unwieldy Trump charade, had “eaten the Republican primary season” and that the “slow-motion fiasco is only going to get much, much worse for Republicans.” Trump is now on the verge of devouring the entire Republican Party in terms of its branding and what it stands for in the minds of voters. How can the GOP reach out to mainstream, independent voters next November when Fox News defends, or explains away, Trump’s bouts of birtherism and Islamophobia — while he leads the Republican polls? On Fox News Tuesday morning, the crew blamed Obama for essentially forcing Trump to take the radical leap. (Fox’s Kilmeade did concede Trump’s idea “seems extreme.”) And yes, we’ve seen Fox (and Rush Limbaugh and right-wing bloggers) employ that same backstop technique in the past, like after Trump lied about “thousands” of people in Jersey City, N.J., cheering the September 11 attacks.

Civil rights organizations — the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center — are defending the displaced against blatant discrimination. Indeed, huge chunks of the conservative media signaled to Trump long ago that no matter what lie he concocted and no matter how many people he smeared, they would support his campaign of cultural paranoia. Politically, Trump’s radical move represents a train wreck for the GOP and the conservative movement. “You can either defend the indefensible (Trump’s ridiculous proposal), or spend your valuable time and energy policing your own side,” explained conservative Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller. But serious damage is already being done to the country, to its reputation overseas, by a man who is seen as speaking for America and twisting its message of tolerance and welcome, and by the candidates who trail him and are competing for his voters.

By doing so, Fox gave Trump a national platform where he won over converts on the fringe, many of whom to this day assume Obama’s a foreign-born Muslim. The Republican establishment — a loose coalition of party committees, moderate donors and business interests — once hoped to harness this tremendous new energy to recapture the White House.

And the danger right now is allowing him to legitimize the hatred that he so skillfully exploits, and to revive the old American tendency, in frightening times, toward vicious treatment of the weak and outsiders. The internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, as some Republicans have either forgotten or never understood, was a dark episode in American history. Circle back to this August tweet from Gabriel Sherman, who penned a biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes: “Trump is what Ailes did to the GOP.” But is Trump simply appealing to the Fox News and AM talk radio base of the GOP?

But this lengthy excerpt is useful if you understand the GOP’s populist-nationalists faction represents Trump’s most ardent supporters, and why the Republican Party can’t restrain them: On the other side is a faction that’s best described as populist-nationalists. A version of this editorial appears in print on December 10, 2015, on page A38 of the New York edition with the headline: The Trump Effect, and How It Spreads. The establishment has declared total war on Donald Trump and is starting to pour millions into attack ads and has published hundreds of hit pieces on the insurgent billionaire.

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