— Jan Brewer (@GovBrewer) February 27, 2016
Surprising? Not to me!
Joanna Allhands, like many of her colleagues in the Arizona MSM, is simply mystified by the success of Donald Trump.
But why? That’s the question I keep asking myself.
We could blame it on our pocketbooks. Most of us feel worse off than we were eight years ago, despite assurances that the economy is on better footing. Wages have stagnated. We’re working longer hours with fewer benefits. And for what?
Or maybe it’s the fear of societal change, sort of what we saw with southern Democrats in the 1960s. National attitudes toward same-sex marriage have changed on a dime. There’s rampant mistrust of police. Racial tensions are simmering. For many, this country feels … different than it did last election.
Allhands is obliquely blaming President Obama and Democrats for the problem, which is generally a safe stance to take in the Arizona Republic but, alas, she is completely wrong. Trump is entirely the product of garden variety American conservatism, which does not concern itself with the labor market or diminished faith in public institutions or generic “racial tensions”.
As Amanda Marcotte writes in Salon:
I don’t agree with Trump supporters on, well, almost anything, but I can’t help sharing in the pleasure they take with the way that Trump’s very existence exposes the smarmy two-faced hypocrisy of the modern Republican Party. Modern conservatism is built on a base of protecting men’s dominance over women, white people’s dominance over people of color and rich people’s dominance over everyone else, but it’s generally considered impolite to say so bluntly. Instead, it’s standard for Republicans to pretend that policies obviously designed to screw people over are meant to help. That puts journalists in this terrible situation of having to pretend that Republicans mean well, since it’s generally considered impolitic to call someone a liar.
Trump doesn’t play that game, at least not as much, and it is nakedly obvious that this, and not his actual beliefs and policies, is what angers many of his detractors. Take, for instance, Jonah Goldberg of the National Review on Fox News recently, complaining that Trump is “completely overturning what the Republican reset was supposed to be about after 2012, which was this idea that it was going to be a more consistently conservative but more inclusive and nicer toned party.”
“And instead it’s going to be a less conservative but meaner toned and less inclusive party,” he added.
To which I must again say, “So what?” People who value kindness and inclusivity already have a party. They’re called the Democrats.
But of course, Goldberg doesn’t actually want a kinder, more inclusive Republican Party. What he and other establishment Republicans want is to be able to pursue nasty, bigoted policies while maintaining an air of gentility that garners respect in the mainstream media. Which is why it gives Trump voters such a thrill to symbolically kick dirt in the faces of folks like Jonah Goldberg by voting for Trump.
I agree with all of that but I’ll add that, in Arizona, whatever passed for a genteel mask of the GOP in 2010 was cleanly ripped off when they passed a law requiring the cops to terrorize Latino immigrants and anyone who looked like they might be one. Signing SB1070 clinched the primary for Governor Jan Brewer and propelled numerous Republicans to easy general election victories. And while “establishment” Republicans and centrists have developed a strong case of collective amnesia about their own roles in SB1070, the internet is forever and yields a bounty of past statements.
Here’s Scott Smith, the former Mayor of Mesa, widely viewed as the gold standard of “moderate Republican” in Arizona, engaging in a shocking level of demagoguery back in 2010:
Smith said he found himself defending the law during a June meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma City – even though he had lobbied Gov. Jan Brewer not to sign it because he was concerned about the burdens it would place on Arizona’s cities.
Mayors from across the country “have no clue what Arizona’s going through,” Smith said.
He said signs recently posted in Arizona by the federal government warning people about the dangers of criminal aliens only serve to illustrate the depth of the problem.
“Think about what those signs represent,” Smith said. “We have basically stated that we, as a country, do not control part of our country. To me that’s unreal. . . . Our government is telling us we can’t ensure your safety over thousands of square miles of our country because basically it’s been taken over by criminals, foreign criminals.”
Smith opposed SB1070, but not because it was morally wrong or anything. He did so because it was “burdensome to cities”, though the article states that Mesa (under his leadership) had already implemented tough immigration enforcement policies prior to the state law. Contrary to whatever kind assumptions you may want to make about Smith and his “establishment GOP” counterparts, these guys have always tried to have it both ways. They want immigrants around to do shitty jobs for low wages but they don’t want them to enjoy the same rights and privileges as white people. (Frankly, this makes them not much different than Donald Trump, who readily employs immigrant labor without regard to their legal status, while unironically campaigning on an anti-immigrant platform.)
At any rate, there’s simply no excuse for people in the media in Arizona to act shocked about the ascendance of Trump when Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, and many many other Arizona Republicans – even some now thought of as “moderates” – have done the exact same racist shtick for years, to great success. It may feel different to them, but there’s nothing materially different about it. It feels to me like they’ve deliberately downplayed or ignored just how awful Republican politicians have been here out of a combination of self-preservation instinct and groupthink and Trump is jarring them out of it. Hopefully.