Monday, April 23, 2018


Today Greg Sargent notes that appeals to authoritarianism are showing up in quite a few GOP campaigns this year.
... in West Virginia, GOP Senate primary candidate Don Blankenship is running an ad that says: “We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary ... Lock her up!”

... The GOP Senate candidate in Tennessee ... echoes Trump’s attacks on African American football players protesting systemic racism and police brutality: “I stand when the president walks in the room. And yes, I stand when I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.'”

... in the Indiana Senate GOP primary, Mike Braun, the candidate who is most vocally emphasizing Trump’s messages — on trade, the Washington “swamp” and “amnesty” — appears to be gaining the advantage. Braun’s ads basically recast true conservatism as Trumpism in its incarnation as populist anti-establishment ethno-nationalism.

... one of the Indiana GOP Senate candidates has bashed “Crooked Hillary Clinton,” and all three have cast aspersions on the Mueller probe. One called it a “fishing expedition,” and another claimed: “Nothing’s been turned up except that Hillary Clinton is the real guilty party here.”
Meanwhile, AP reports that a top target of 2018 Republican candidates is likely to be Hillary Clinton:
With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP's most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide. The strategy ... has popped up in races in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Dakota....

"I promise you that you'll continue to see it — Hillary Clinton starring in our paid media. She's a very powerful motivator," said Corry Bliss, who leads the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super political action committee ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to shape House races this fall....

The national GOP [is] running digital ads featuring Clinton's comments — and her image — to attack the 10 Democratic Senate candidates running for re-election in states Trump carried.

"She's called you 'deplorable.' Now, she's called you 'backwards,'" said one ad that targeted Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"If Bill Nelson had his way, Hillary Clinton would be president," the ad continued. "Florida won't forget."
If this is what's going on in 2018, why are centrist pundits still harboring fantasies of a Republican "return to normalcy" in 2020?

Yesterday I quoted an op-ed by Joe Scarborough in which he foresaw a Republican rejection of Donald Trump in 2020. I didn't quote the end of the op-ed:
Which brings us to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The former South Carolina governor announced last Sunday that the United States would impose additional sanctions against Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Haley’s declaration enraged Trump, despite the inconvenient fact she was only following White House policy and GOP talking points. Still, the president went behind his ambassador’s back to assure the Russians he would kill any future sanctions. Other White House officials played down Haley’s remarks, describing America’s representative at the United Nations as “confused.”

Haley’s response to the charge was as sharp as it was telling.

“With all due respect, I do not get confused.”

With those nine words, the ambassador declared that, unlike most other members of Trump’s Cabinet, she would not allow herself to be humiliated by a political day trader, whose fitful 15 minutes of fame will come to a close long before a new president takes the oath of office in 2021.

Still, another scenario came to mind this week: How wonderful would it be for our daughters to see this woman — this daughter of immigrants — take a debate stage to coldly cut the Donald down to size, revealing to the world once and for all that this bloated emperor has no clothes?

What a sight that would be.
Even if we accept the notion that a Haley candidacy would represent a refreshing return to moderate conservatism, why are we imagining that Trumpism is going to die in the next two years? I'm going to keep saying it: If Trump falls between now and the next presidential election, GOP voters will want a candidate who will avenge his downfall, and who'll give them the emotional payoff they get from Trump. That's not going to be Haley, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, or John Kasich.

Trumpism isn't receding in the GOP -- it's increasing. This year's Senate and House candidates are more like Trump than the ones in 2016. The voter outrage these candidates are stirring up won't go away, even if some of the Trumpy candidates get their clocks cleaned in November -- remember that many of them won't, because they'll be running in deep red states or districts.

After that, either Trump will consolidate power, which will make Trumpism the winning play for 2020 candidates, or he'll remain under siege, possibly until he falls, which will increase Republican voters' taste for vengeance.

No, we can't purge the GOP of Trumpism between now and the next presidential election. We'll have to defeat the GOP extremists repeatedly before they finally -- I hope -- retreat to the margins.

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