It’s New Year’s Eve and 2015 about to make way for 2016. This year will go down in history for many things: Congress finally passed both a long-term highway bill and a budget; marriage equality became the law of the land; SCOTUS affirmed Obamacare for the second time; and the United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba after 54 years; the U.S. and Iran negotiated a nuclear treaty; and a Republican Speaker of the House resigned for the first time in two decades.
The final 2015 polls show Donald Trump with a commanding lead in every state but Iowa. The Gravis poll, released Wednesday, shows Trump and Cruz tied in Iowa. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote the GOP has changed forever. It has because the Party of Lincoln became the Party of Trump. Honest Abe has been replaced by a candidate who fact checkers say tells non-truths 94 percent of the time.
Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican nominated for the office of president, and the first Republican president. Outside the former slave states, Lincoln remains one of our greatest and most beloved presidents. The Republican Party embraced Lincoln for a century but downplay him in the South. In order to win the South, the GOP had to abandon Lincoln. Donald Trump is now taking his place.
Trump is becoming the face of the GOP. He has been the front-runner since shortly after he announced last summer. Trump gets more prime-time coverage than all the other candidates of both parties combined. The only air time another candidate gets is when they are talking about Trump. No candidate in memory has received so much news coverage before the first vote has been cast.
How did this happen? Jeb Bush said Wednesday it is Barack Obama’s fault. He said Obama created Trump. The truth is, the Republican Party created Trump. Since the election of Barack Obama, Republicans have been laying the groundwork for a demagogue like Trump. They just would have preferred the beneficiary of their handiwork was not Trump. They can’t control him, which is part of Trump’s appeal.
By blocking everything Obama proposed and not governing, Republicans created total gridlock in Washington, even shutting down the government. Congress did very little and even passed fewer bills than the “Do-Nothing Congress.” This gridlock and lack of attention to the nation’s problems gave rise to a feeling of discontent and anger in the electorate that crosses party lines. Ironically, that discontent has fallen disproportionately on the establishment Republicans who devised the strategy.
This discontent has given rise to outsider candidates like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz. But, with the possible exception of Cruz, they are no match for Donald Trump. He is the ultimate outsider having never run for office. He is self-funded, a celebrity, and a genius at media manipulation. Trump’s real gift is that he is able to understand the mood and anger in the Republican base, and he speaks to that anger better than any other Republican. He says exactly what so many Republicans think. He uses the words they want to use to describe their frustration that the America they want is slipping away.
The truth is that the rise of Trump was made possible by Nixon’s Southern strategy. The South switched from solid Democratic to solid Republican almost overnight. With such a strong base in the South, Republicans control most state governments as well as both Houses of Congress. The White House is the big prize, but the policies that are popular in the South are not popular in a national election.
Trump has the support of about 40 percent of Republicans. His power, however, goes far beyond that 40 percent. He has forced the GOP to move farther right than it was in 2008 and 2012—two years they lost the White House. Nearly every Republican candidate has tried to out-Trump Trump. No other Republican’s ideas can get through because Trump gets all the air time. This is why he is the face of the GOP—alone at the top.
The leadership of the Republican Party created a monster and it has no way of stopping him. When they sold out Lincoln to win the South, they sealed their fate. When they stopped being a governing Party they turned off their own base. Now they must accept it.
Happy New Year.