Alan Zendell, December 15, 2019
It’s been 154 years since the Civil War ended – or has it? In 2008, I naively interpreted Barrack Obama’s victory to mean we had finally outgrown the hatred and prejudice that grew out of a century and a half of slavery. When Hillary Clinton was nominated in 2016 I naively believed we had turned the corner after three centuries (a couple of millennia if we reach back through world history) of treating women as second-class citizens.
Though I loved what they symbolized about how the country had matured, I wasn’t a particular fan of either Obama or Clinton when I voted for them. Despite Obama’s eloquent and charismatic commitment to the ideals I believe in, the idea of voting largely for charisma scared me – until Sarah Palin left me no choice. Likewise, Clinton would not have been my choice, especially after the Democrats rigged the nomination process for her. When push came to shove Donald Trump left me no choice.
The problem was that my premise was dead wrong. As Roger Ailes and Donald Trump have clearly demonstrated, more than a third of us haven’t changed. That third, the core of the base of Trump and Fox News think it’s perfectly all right for Trump to have picked White Supremacist Stephen Miller to manage his immigration policy. They rose up in righteous indignation against the scandalous realization that a black president saved the country from the near economic collapse of 2007-2008 which resulted from the greed and corruption of the white, male banking industry. Even worse, he overcame massive opposition to begin the process of assuring universal health care for Americans.
Recently, a friend turned me on to a daily newsletter written by Heather Cox Richardson, a History Professor at Boston College who studies and teaches about post-Civil War America. Her December 14th letter spells out the root cause of what we’ve been seeing for three years, namely a revolt against law and the Constitution by a Republican Party that has been hijacked by angry, rich white men. Republicans were once the party that defended the Constitution – that’s what Conservativism with a capital “C” means. Yet today, they deal in lies and distortions, and flout the Separation of Powers mandated by the Constitution to prevent the president from becoming an autocrat.
Why? Professor Richardson explains the modern roots of Trumpism this way: “When a Republican Supreme Court unanimously decided that segregation was unconstitutional in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the way was clear for these men to argue that an active government was not about protecting equality; it was simply a way to give benefits to black people, paid for by white tax dollars.” She further pointed out that this argument had lain dormant since the days of Reconstruction, just waiting for the repressed anger it generated to boil over.
Thus we had the Tea Party, which not coincidentally was founded weeks after Obama took office. The Tea Party may have signaled the beginning of Trumpism. Masquerading as a party fighting to lower the tax burden on all Americans, a summary of the things they fight for reveals their goals as racist, elitist, and misogynistic. Trump’s candidacy was the perfect storm that catalyzed the coalition that would rather undermine our Constitution than share their wealth. The very phrase “for all Americans” is anathema to them. For Trump’s base America means themselves, and any action or statement that secures their wealth and power is acceptable.
As we proceed down the impeachment road, there’s no need to wonder why, with the exception of a handful of individuals who fear backlash from their own bases, the Republican Senate has predetermined the outcome. For the Senate Majority Leader to announce on Fox News that there is no chance that the Senate will convict the president is appalling. It marks a blatant disregard for the most solemn and sacred responsibility outlined in the Constitution. They don’t even have the decency to pretend to be objective.
This is what Trumpism stands for: there are too many non-white people in this country, women have too much power, and the “unalienable Rights [to] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” that Thomas Jefferson described in the Declaration of Independence from the British crown were intended to be the province only of wealthy, white men.
That is how the Republican Party was hijacked, and it is what we will see play out in the farce in the Senate in coming weeks. We can’t prevent it from happening, but we can assure it never happens again. Remember this next November.