November 22, 2019

The GOP Nightmare

To date, the race for the Republican presidential nomination may be summarized as follows:

Trump blustered and bullied, onstage and off. The debate moderators indulged him while the press gave his outbursts free publicity. As a result, Trump’s opponents had difficulty getting their messages heard.

With celebrity and emotion trumping experience and thoughtful discourse, primary voters have followed their understandable feelings of resentment toward the GOP in particular (and politicians in general) and provided Trump a commanding lead.

Candidates considerably more qualified than Trump, including Walker, Graham, Paul, Huckabee, Bush, Christie, and Fiorina, were forced to withdraw from the race.

Growing desperate, Marco Rubio changed his strategy and descended to Trump’s nasty, crude, even lewd campaign style. This strategy proved counterproductive, however, tarnishing Rubio’s image of a principled, “presidential” candidate and perhaps heralding his exit from the contest.

The GOP’s nightmare continues. The party’s Establishment has grown increasingly concerned that Trump will win the nomination. Mitt Romney’s belated and in some ways condescending warning to primary voters to reject Trump is the most obvious indication of that concern.

At this moment, it appears that the Establishment’s only chance to defeat Trump is to cast their lot with Ted Cruz, a candidate they have never liked, principally because his independence of mind makes them uncomfortable. Put more bluntly, he is not as manipulable as they would like.

The nightmare is richly deserved. Time and again, for over a decade, Establishment-certified candidates have pledged to replace “progressive” social and economic policies and then, once elected, have approved and even expanded those policies.

At long last, Republican voters have had their fill of the GOP Establishment’s patronizing arrogance, contempt for conservative principles, and broken promises. And their embrace of Trump has been their way of expressing their feelings.

America, however, deserves a more worthy candidate than anger has driven Republican primary voters to embrace. Trump’s promise to “make America great again” ignores the fact that America’s greatness resides mainly in the Judeo-Christian ethic on which the country was founded. Central to that ethic is treating others with respect, something that, to put it mildly, Trump is ill-equipped to restore. Some examples of his inadequacy:

On April 15, 1989 he reportedly told Larry King on the latter’s show, “Do you mind if I sit back a little bit? Because your breath is very bad. It really is. Has this ever been told to you before?”

He reportedly said on Entertainment Tonight, December 21, 2006, “If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’ We’re all a little chubby, but Rosie’s just worse than most of us.”

Journalist Elizabeth Beck claimed that in 2011 when she asked for a break to pump breast milk for her infant, Trump “got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at [her] and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re disgusting,’ and he ran out of there.”

In August 2012 Trump reportedly tweeted that Arianna Huffington “is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man—he made a good decision.”

Trump opined in a 2012 interview with Greta Van Susteren. “Cher is somewhat of a loser. She’s lonely. She’s unhappy. She’s very miserable.”

In July of 2015, Trump declared to pollster Frank Luntz, “Senator John McCain] is not a war hero.” When Luntz challenged that remark, Trump replied, “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.” He then acknowledged that McCain “is a war hero because he was captured,” then concluded that “perhaps he is a war hero.” A few days later Bill O’Reilly gave Trump an opportunity to explain his tortured thinking—McCain is, McCain isn’t, McCain might be—and to apologize. Trump chose instead to change the subject to McCain’s voting record.

During the first Fox News debate in August of 2015, Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his calling women he doesn’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ He took offense at the question and later told a CNN reporter, “”You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

(The idea that Trump’s view of women is less than positive is supported by this Trump quote in the 2005 book TrumpNation: “My favorite part [of ‘Pulp Fiction’] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.” Also, Harry Hurt III’s 1991 Esquire article quotes Trump as saying, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive].”)

On September, 2015 Trump said of Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” He then added, “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

On November 13, 2015, according to The Atlantic, Trump said of Dr. Ben Carson’s conversion to Christianity, “Give me a break. It doesn’t happen that way. Some people may not like it. Oh, that’s not nice. Don’t be fools. Don’t be fools, okay.” Then he went on to say of the media that reported his comments: “I can leave this scum back here, the press, alone—I won’t need them anymore. They’re garbage. No, they’re scum.”

Again and again during the debates Trump has deprecated his Republican opponents, for example calling Marco Rubio “Little Marco” and Ted Cruz “Lying Ted.” His remarks about Jeb Bush were even more offensive. He has called him “a stiff,” “an embarrassment to his family,” “a desperate person,” “a sad person who has gone absolutely crazy,” and “a nervous wreck.”

One of the few characteristics that exceeds Trump’s diminishing of others is his self-congratulation. Consider these comments attributed to him.

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

“My IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

“Look at those hands, are they small hands? And [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me — and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Perhaps the most tasteless example of Trump’s boasting occurred during his March 8 Michigan acceptance speech. Behind the podium flanking about ten American flags were two table displays of a variety of Trump products. In his remarks, Trump managed to mention them and others, including Trump Magazine, Trump steaks, Trump water company, Trump golf courses, Trump university, Trump on Time magazine covers, and Trump airline,.

The extravagance of both Trump’s denigration of others and his boasting about himself may call to mind the vulgar ravings of “professional” wrestlers. There is good reason for this. Trump had a long association with Vince McMahon and Wrestlemania. Among its notable moments was the “Battle of the Billionaires” which featured a slapping match between the two entrepreneurs with the winner, Trump, shaving the loser’s hair before a cheering crowd. In 2013 Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, an award somewhat less prestigious than Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Comedians could have a field day with Trump’s association with professional wrestling. (Vince McMahon as VP or perhaps Secretary of Defense?) The rest of us, however, would do better to wonder whether the voters’ resentment of the GOP Establishment has gone far enough, and whether it is time for the carnival to be closed and the serious business of choosing a nominee be taken seriously.

Copyright © 2016 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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