Conservatives lament the moral decay of the GOP under Donald Trump

Two important opinion pieces recently from conservative pundits on the moral decay of the GOP under Donald Trump. People who approve of Trump do so *because* of his behavior in office, not despite it.

First, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post writes, Trump deepens the moral damage to the GOP:

Repetition is the enemy of maintaining proper distinctions. It is a short road from being serially outraged to being slightly bored to being completely inured.

Thus many are likely to find the pardon of former Arizona county sheriff Joe Arpaio to be just another . . . something. Just another public feeding of President Trump’s base; or just an additional shiny distraction from real issues; or just one more cause for head-shaking and shoulder-shrugging; or just further evidence of the tawdry political company kept by the president of the United States.

This would be a mistake. This presidential action is not “just” anything. Following his expression of sympathy for the “very fine people” attending a white- supremacist rally in Charlottesville — who were, he said, defending “our history and heritage” — Trump must have known his next move would be highly symbolic, either as a retreat from prejudice or as its affirmation. What followed with the Arpaio pardon constitutes the most forthright racist incitement of the Trump era.

Trump has called Arpaio a “great American patriot,” employing a definition of patriotism that includes extreme ethnic profiling, terror raids, and cruel and unusual punishment. A definition of patriotism that covers using internment camps in extreme heat, parading women and juvenile offenders for the cameras in chain gangs, and degrading inmates in creative acts of bullying. This is not patriotism; it is the abuse of power in the cause of bigotry.

Others have commented on the legal precedent of effectively pardoning someone for abusing the constitutional rights of an ethnic minority. Done in a manner that employs the pardon power as a reward for political loyalty. Resulting from a process that evidently did not involve the normal review and recommendation of the Justice Department’s pardon attorney.

* * *

Congressional Republicans have often taken a wait-and-see attitude toward the dishonoring and destruction of their party. Now they can hardly deny that Trump’s worst moments are his most authentic moments, or that his definition of loyalty requires defending the indefensible. A few voices — including both Arizona senators and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan — were critical of the pardon. But congressional hearings demanding an account of the pardon’s purpose and process would demonstrate seriousness in the only task — the only path of self-respect and self-preservation — left to Republican leaders: attempting to salvage a party identity separate from racism.

These legal and political ramifications are clear enough. But it is the moral damage that is deepest: the stoking of tribal hatreds; the reckless fracturing of national unity; and the statement made about human worth.

* * *

Arpaio made a career of dehumanizing prisoners in his charge. His pardon sends the signal that some people are less than human. In one sense, this is perfectly consistent. Trump has employed dehumanization as a political tool from the start — of refugees, of migrants, of Muslims. By his pardon of Arpaio, he has metaphorically pardoned his own cruel and divisive approach to politics. It is a further step in Trump’s normalization and entrenchment of bigotry in our public life.

This creates a personal dilemma for many Republicans. How do they explain to their neighbors, and to their own children, their involvement with an institution that has been allied with forces of exclusion (at least at the national level)? The answer is not for all people with pricked consciences to leave, lest only unpricked consciences remain. But complacency is permission. Resistance is required. Any party that swallows the Trump/Arpaio ethic will be poisoned. And gagging, in this case, is a sign of health.

Next, “Bobo” David Brooks writes at the New York Times, How Trump Kills the G.O.P.:

It’s ironic that race was the issue that created the Republican Party and that race could very well be the issue that destroys it.

The G.O.P. was founded to fight slavery, and through most of its history it had a decent record on civil rights. A greater percentage of congressional Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats.

It’s become more of a white party in recent years, of course, and adopted some wrongheaded positions on civil rights enforcement, but it was still possible to be a Republican without feeling like you were violating basic decency on matters of race. Most of the Republican establishment, from the Bushes to McCain and Romney, fought bigotry, and racism was not a common feature in the conservative moment.

* * *

[T]he Republican Party has changed since 2005. It has become the vehicle for white identity politics. In 2005 only six percent of Republicans felt that whites faced “a great deal” of discrimination, the same number of Democrats who felt this. By 2016, the percentage of Republicans who felt this had tripled.

Recent surveys suggest that roughly 47 percent of Republicans are what you might call conservative universalists and maybe 40 percent are what you might call conservative white identitarians. White universalists believe in conservative principles and think they apply to all people and their white identity is not particularly salient to them. White identitarians are conservative, but their white identity is quite important to them, sometimes even more important than their conservatism.

These white identitarians have taken the multicultural worldview taught in schools, universities and the culture and, rightly or wrongly, have applied it to themselves. As Marxism saw history through the lens of class conflict, multiculturalism sees history through the lens of racial conflict and group oppression.

According to a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, for example, about 48 percent of Republicans believe there is “a lot of discrimination” against Christians in America and about 43 percent believe there is a lot of discrimination against whites.

I’d love to see more research on the relationship between white identity politics and simple racism. There’s clear overlap, but I suspect they’re not quite the same thing. Racism is about feeling others are inferior. White identitarianism is about feeling downtrodden and aggrieved yourself.

In the P.R.R.I. survey, for example, roughly as many Republicans believe Muslims, immigrants and trans people face a lot of discrimination as believe whites and Christians do. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 59 percent of those in the white working class believe white supremacist groups are a threat to the country.

But three things are clear: First, identity politics on the right is at least as corrosive as identity politics on the left, probably more so. If you reduce the complex array of identities that make up a human being into one crude ethno-political category, you’re going to do violence to yourself and everything around you.

Second, it is wrong to try to make a parallel between Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter. To pretend that these tendencies are somehow comparable is to ignore American history and current realities.

Third, white identity politics as it plays out in the political arena is completely noxious. Donald Trump is the maestro here. He established his political identity through birtherism, he won the Republican nomination on the Muslim ban, he campaigned on the Mexican wall, he governed by being neutral on Charlottesville and pardoning the racialist Joe Arpaio.

Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not. The choice is unavoidable, and white resentment is bound to define Republicanism more and more in the months ahead. It’s what Trump cares about. The identity warriors on the left will deface statues or whatever and set up mutually beneficial confrontations with the identity warriors on the right. Things will get uglier.

And this is where the dissolution of the G.O.P. comes in. Conservative universalists are coming to realize their party has become a vehicle for white identity and racial conflict. This faction is prior to and deeper than Trump.

When you have an intraparty fight about foreign or domestic issues, you think your rivals are wrong. When you have an intraparty fight on race, you think your rivals are disgusting. That’s what’s happening. Friendships are now ending across the right. People who supported Trump for partisan reasons now feel locked in to support him on race, and they are making themselves repellent.

It may someday be possible to reduce the influence of white identity politics, but probably not while Trump is in office. As long as he is in power the G.O.P. is a house viciously divided against itself, and cannot stand.

19 Responses to Conservatives lament the moral decay of the GOP under Donald Trump

  1. Another view of “identity politics”.

    Blaming Identity Politics Is Like Saying ‘All Lives Matter’
    by Nancy LeTourneau August 31, 2017

    The truth is that identity politics has been a feature of our government since its founding. It’s just that the identity that has been at the center of everything has been white male. The journey to include anyone else has been the long, hard struggle we’ve undergone to take steps to “perfect our union” and expand the “we” to include other identities. We are now at the point in that struggle when some of those who identify as white males are feeling threatened by the inclusion—and are mounting a backlash.

    Need I point out that our current political environment is seeped in attempts to exclude anyone who identifies as something other than white male? Just yesterday the Trump administration tossed out the very idea of collecting data to track the exclusion when it comes to disparities in pay. We are in the midst of attempts to roll back the enforcement of civil rights, abandon affirmative action, suppress access to voting, promote police brutality and send brown people into the shadows. This country just elected a man to be president who mocked the disabled and bragged about committing sexual assault.

    http://washingtonmonthly.com/2017/08/31/blaming-identity-politics-is-like-saying-all-lives-matter/

    • I don’t actually agree with Ms. LeTourneau because there were plenty of white women who voted for Trump. The problem, looked at in its entirety, is not confined to white males.

      I think we get closer to what ails the electorate when we start speaking honestly about white supremacy, racism, and white resentment. We haven’t got good data for what lurks in the hearts of people, but we do occasionally have some insight. And there is a great deal to observe in Donald Trump’s America.

  2. David Gordon

    The moral decay of the Republican Party has been going on for over 40 years starting with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy (although the irony is he did more for integration than is generally acknowledged) to the Reagan Revolution that appealed to the Wallace wing of the Democrat Party that went Republican and also for Trump. This morphed into the anti anything but white movement we saw with the rise of the birther movement (aided by Trump and Arpaio) and the uneducated Tea Party Movement.

  3. I think that both the Gerson and Brooks articles are interesting. They both believe that it is Trump taking down the Republican party, aligning it with “white identity politics” and creating this “moral dilemma” for conservatives who do not want to be racists.

    Well, okay, they can think that, but Tom’s response below is spot on, “Moral decay under Trump, not even, Trump is the logical conclusion to the last 30 years of the GOP.”

    What I see that is beneficial in having this discussion is that we are edging closer to talking about white resentment, not something you are likely to think about if you have a good paying job, a house in the suburbs, an SUV in the garage, etc…

    But what if you are white and you have nothing and no real prospects for improvement? Black advancement over the last fifty years has certainly been an issue for many disadvantaged whites, but not one that has been widely acknowledged by middle and upper class whites. These “downtrodden” folks haven’t had much of a voice, it’s not like they are guests on MSNBC. Dylann Roof wrote about white resentment in his so called manifesto that he hastily typed out before he murdered nine black people during a bible study meeting in a church basement. But we like to think of Roof as an aberration, a sociopath, and not representative of any significant number of believers.

    So, Brooks thinks that there is a distinction between white identity politics and simple racism but believes there is “overlap”. It’s an interesting question.

    This is a fairly good definition of racism, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

    What could white identity politics be other than simple racism when construed within the context of the entire history of this country? “White identity politics” and white supremacy are essentially synonymous. And, white resentment is fueled by a belief held by many disadvantaged whites that this is a white country and they are entitled to be taken care of first before any people of color, especially blacks.

    To be continued…

    • Continued from 3:53 pm…

      There are only a few reasons why someone would have voted for Donald Trump:
      1. Die hard Republican. Period.
      2. One issue voter (ex: pro-life)
      3. Make America White Again voters
      4. Low information voters who believed his con
      5. Wealthy voters wanting more wealth

      Whatever the reason, the important issue here is that every choice involves race. You would have to be a resident of an underground silo to not have been exposed to Donald Trump’s racism (and misogyny) prior to the election. It was clearly an issue. So, you had to either be in agreement with him or believe that his racism was secondary to your reason for voting for him (ex: tax cut). You are either racist or complicit with racism. There is not third choice.

      In my opinion, and that’s all we really have here are opinions, there is no “white identity politics” separate from simple racism because complicity counts. Furthermore, this isn’t necessarily a Republican only problem within the electorate. Trump lit a fuse under the white supremacist movement, to be sure, but he also stoked white resentment and became their “voice”. We may not have a head count, but there are a lot of those folks out there, a lot.

      And, one thing I have learned over the past few years is that black people do not see white resentment as a partisan issue. They just see it, and they live with it everyday.

      • “There are only a few reasons why someone would have voted for Donald Trump:
        1. Die hard Republican. Period.
        2. One issue voter (ex: pro-life)
        3. Make America White Again voters
        4. Low information voters who believed his con
        5. Wealthy voters wanting more wealth”

        You are not listening, Liza. Many, many voters voted for Trump because he was not Hillary. Add to that tactical mistake made by Hillary’s gang in ignoring large segments of traditionally democrat voters. I realize he reason you did not list either of these as a reason many people voted for Trump because it did not fit your follow on analysis. That “analysis” required that the reasons all be explained by racism, and unfortunately, these reasons don’t meet that criteria.

        “In my opinion, and that’s all we really have here are opinions, there is no “white identity politics” separate from simple racism because complicity counts.”

        So the final answer is: If you voted for Trump you are a racist. It is simple, straight forward, and gets you where you want to be in condemning them for their vote. Also, using the word racist might silence them because of the shame. The only problem with your reasoning it is that it is wrong. No one fields a perfect candidate, and most times we have to vote for the lesser of two evils. In this case, the greater evil was clearly Hillary and her minions. Regardless of what happens with Trump, beating Hillary is worth it because it kept her grubby hands off the Supreme Court, the Treasury, the Justice Department, etc., all of which would have been abused far worse than anything Trump has done.

        • If you voted for Trump to deprive Hillary Clinton of the presidency, then you are a one issue voter. You might have hundreds of reasons for your choice, but you had a single issue. Trump’s racism, and his intent to pursue policies that were detrimental to people of color, were either secondary to your one issue (making you complicit) or you were in agreement. There is no third choice.

    • Continued from 4:18 PM

      David Brooks states that, “White identitarianism is about feeling downtrodden and aggrieved yourself” where racism is about feeling others are inferior. I have to conclude that he is looking for a way to exclude himself and perhaps other upper class Republicans from owning his party’s alignment with white supremacy that opened the door for Donald Trump.

      In this country, “white identitarianism” is white supremacy and those downtrodden, resentful whites are only a subset of white supremacists who are either admit to their own racism or agree with racism through complicity. Everyone who voted for Trump made that choice, to support a racist for president or not.

    • Continued from 5:26 PM

      Where I seem to have no ideas is how this relates back to the electorate. How do the Democrats respond to the ills exposed by the 2016 Trump voters assuming many of them are independents and unaffiliated and even Democrats?

      Well, all I know is that people are less resentful when they have decent jobs and can provide for their families, etc…And, if I had to guess, that isn’t going to happen by 2018 and probably not 2020.

      But Democrats need to know who is out there. It would be a hell of a thing for 2016 to happen again.

  4. “Two important opinion pieces recently from conservative pundits on the moral decay of the GOP under Donald Trump.”

    You quote columnists from The New York Times and The Washington Post and call them “conservatives”? You can’t be serious. Perhaps they are the to the right of you, AzBM, and maybe when compared to the other journalists on their respective papers they might be a little more conservative, but they are hardly “conservative” by any measure.

    “But congressional hearings demanding an account of the pardon’s purpose and process would demonstrate seriousness in the only task — the only path of self-respect and self-preservation — left to Republican leaders: attempting to salvage a party identity separate from racism.”

    BS! Only a leftist propagandist would, or could, truly believe that. It is just one more effort to cause embarassment to the GOP through self-emollition and weakening of it’s base. You would NEVER, no matter what happened, see the democrats hold such hearings on themelves because the very idea is stupid, self-destructive and shows weakness.

    “A definition of patriotism that covers using internment camps in extreme heat…”

    Either you, or your guest writers, keep citing this, never metioning the number of polls taken among the prisoners that showed the vast majority preferred the tents to the jails…

    “…parading women and juvenile offenders for the cameras in chain gangs…”

    …just as you all fail to mention that working on the chain was a reward for good behavior, and that inmates that couldn’t geton it were disappointed…

    “…and degrading inmates in creative acts of bullying.”

    …what “creative acts of bullying”? This is a vague statement that means nothing. Surely with such in depth knowledge your writer could have cited something!

    “Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace [racism] or not. The choice is unavoidable, and white resentment is bound to define Republicanism more and more in the months ahead.”

    I disagree completely. This is the message the left is trying very hard to make it appear, but the fight is across the board on every facet of governance. If there is a growing sense among whites in the GOP that whites are being more discriminated against, then I would have to say it is probably a reflection of reality. But it is also something the GOP will have to adjust to. It is also the reality that, for conservatives, there aren’t many places to go. Trump may be too much for some Republicans to handle, but the GOP is the only real game in town for conservatives and they are not stupid. They will work around Trump and the GOP will emerge just fine. Either way, the democrats will not dictate what the GOP has to do to save itself. After all, we all know how much the democrats have the best interests fof the GOP in mind.

    “The identity warriors on the left will deface statues or whatever and set up mutually beneficial confrontations with the identity warriors on the right. Things will get uglier.

    There is nothing “mutually beneficial” about it. The media condemns the right, and gives the left free rein to do what it wants. I have read NO condemnation of the people defacing and vandalizing the statues, nor have I seen condemnation of left wing extremists. I agree the confrontation will get worse, but let’s be serious about who will get the blame…

  5. these two republican establishment hacks don’t represent the republican base who could care less what they say. also I see know evidence of voters having a much higher opinion of democrat elitists. hopefully the bernie sanders wing of the democratic party will change voters minds about the democratic party. (if the party gives them a chance)

  6. the pot calling the kettle black! their complaint trump is not a kinder gentler machine gun hand. they just want to hurt the same people differently.

  7. Trump relishes role as chief executive of Harvey response

    The optics-obsessed president didn’t go near the disaster area during his visit to Texas, but the visit gave him the visuals he wanted as he checked in on emergency responders and addressed a local crowd.

    By JOSH DAWSEY 08/29/2017 06:57 PM EDT

    The trip was a surreal presidential journey around the edge of a disaster zone in which the waters are still rising. The body of a Houston police officer who drowned trying to get to work was recovered while Trump was on the ground, and thousands continued to pile into shelters across the state, displaced from their homes for months.

    Read more…
    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/29/trump-texas-hurricane-harvey-242148

    • So Trump is devoid of humanity.

      What else is new?

    • But Donald thinks he saw enough…

      Donald J. Trump‏Verified account
      @realDonaldTrump

      After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey,my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!
      6:12 AM – 30 Aug 2017

  8. Last sentence…Damn, that’s good.

    • This comment was actually intended as a reply to Tom’s comment at 7:11 AM.

      But the NYT piece by David Brooks is really good.

      I read a really interesting article about Dylann Roof a few days ago that has kind of peaked my interest in white resentment and how that fits into the landscape in these times.

      I will just say this for right now. As much as I loathe and detest the 63 million Trump voters, they are not a monolithic group and, to use a worn out phrase, distinctions matter.

      Perhaps more later on this…

  9. For Sure Not Tom

    The moral decay started decades ago when they allowed fat loud mouth AM radio shock jocks to control the party.

    It worsened when they allowed every nut job from the Chemtrail-Kelly’s to Birthers to be treated as if they weren’t lying racist crazy people.

    If half the GOP still think Obama was born in Kenya and that White Christians are the most persecuted group, that’s not even moral decay, that’s a willingness on the part of the GOP to allow misinformation to spread as long as they get elected.

    Moral decay under Trump, not even, Trump is the logical conclusion to the last 30 years of the GOP.