Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ranting On...Scott Walker's Primary Exit

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
Gov. Scott Walker's exit from the presidential race yesterday would have seemed unthinkable six months ago.  Honestly, at the time I thought the biggest threat to Gov. Jeb Bush would be the Wisconsin governor.  On paper he made complete sense-a conservative with a pedigreed resume he seemed destined for a warm reception in the Republican primaries.  Winning three times statewide in an Obama-state, he had "taken on" the Democrats in the recall election, became the poster child for killing collective bargaining, and forced women to look at a photo of a fetus before being able to have an abortion.  This is a man who was born for the Tea Party, and yet his reception this past cycle has to be considered underwhelming, clearly.  After starting off in a strong position in Iowa, he fell to the overpowering might of Donald Trump.  This is truly fascinating because regardless of what happens with Trump and the nomination (I simply cannot bring myself to believe that man will be a major party's presidential nominee), he has shown a vitriol within the GOP that I don't think they realized was sitting there until this cycle.  While some have started to say this is the "beginning of the end" of Trump, it's worth noting that he's still the leader in the polls, and I think that part of the chatter about him slipping from the lead is more wishful thinking from a media trying to get out of a situation they encouraged without realizing what it would cause.

What Scott Walker couldn't have anticipated a few months ago was that the rules of the election would change.  This election has been different, and while literally every cycle people talk about an election cycle being different, this time it's actually true (last time it wasn't, for the record-the establishment frontrunner stayed the frontrunner for most of the cycle in a way that hasn't mirrored Trump).  Donald Trump is not a sitting senator or a governor, and he is willing to go to places that "legitimate" candidates wouldn't dare to dream of going, principally because he can see the gains.  The comments that he made about Hispanic immigrants, calling them rapists and criminals, and the recent comments regarding the president's religion and place-of-birth are deeply rooted in racism.  There's no way around them.  One can quibble over whether or not Trump is just being outlandish for the sake of votes or whether he actually believes in this racism, but this is a message that is clearly resonating with a frighteningly large amount of the populace, and to denounce it is to ignore similar trends in countries like France and Spain.  Trump is a businessman who wants to win at all costs, even if that means that he has to throw his party down the drain, and don't pretend this isn't doing that; Republicans have had to paint themselves into a racist corner over the issue of immigration, with people like Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin gleefully jumping on Trump's xenophobic bandwagon.  To think that this isn't turning off a generation of Hispanic or Muslim voters (not to mention younger voters in general who work with, are friends with, and married to an increasingly diverse population of people) is something that talking heads for the GOP will insist isn't happening, but it's difficult to imagine that this won't have a lasting impression on voters in November 2016 regardless of the eventual nominee.

Trump doesn't care, and he doesn't need to-his supporters clearly back up his xenophobic and racist remarks, regardless of whether or not there's any truth or substance to them.  His supporters, according to polling from PPP, overwhelmingly (61%) believe that President Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii; more of his supporters believe Sen. Ted Cruz was born in the US than President Obama was, despite clear proof (from the senator himself) that Mr. Cruz was born in Canada.  This is actually, shockingly, a belief shared by a majority of Republicans.  The same can be said for those who believe that President Obama is a Muslim (66% of Trump's supporters, 54% of overall Republicans from the same poll) and who want to eliminate birthright citizenship (63% of Trump supporters, 51% of Republicans overall).  These sorts of beliefs, the majority views of one of the two major party's in the United States, reflect a reality that it's awfully hard not to say is racially-tinged.  If you want proof, there's almost no question of someone like Sen. John McCain's being born in the Panama Canal zone, and no one has batted an eye about, say, Bernie Sanders' birth certificate despite the fact that he, like Obama, had a father who was not American-born (thus making the simple claim that this is a partisan argument difficult to believe).  This entire attack, like those against Ahmed Mohammad (Sarah Palin attacking a 14-year-old is clearly another ultra-classy moment from a woman that John McCain must curse himself every day for unleashing upon the national populace seven years later) is race-baiting, the Southern Strategy for the digital age-the media, particularly networks such as FOX News and CNN, have become so ratings-obsessed they have abandoned any hope of correcting candidates and calling out such things for fear of it being too controversial, but racism is ugly even if you're petrified of using the word, and Donald Trump surely has crossed that line.

The reality is, though, that it isn't just Trump who has decided to campaign off of hatred and lies.  Carly Fiorina may have taken the dishonesty cake from even Trump himself during last Wednesday's debate when she outright lied about seeing a video of a fully-formed fetus sitting on a table during the secret Planned Parenthood tapes.  Despite numerous clarifications and inquests from the media, they have proven that no such tape exists, and yet Fiorina insists that it does and the media is not doing their job by finding it (the media is thus also responsible for us not having a cure for cancer, the lost city of Atlantis, and the eighth Harry Potter book by Fiorina's logic).  Dr. Ben Carson has point-blank called into question whether a Muslim should be allowed to be president, despite the fact that saying such a thing about a Christian politician would have the right destroying the speaker for the alleged "War on Christianity" and the simple fact that the Constitution clearly states the country could elect a Muslim president.  Even Jeb Bush, the frontrunner who has tried to rise above the fray, has been called into question for stating that his brother "kept America safe" in comparison to President Obama despite the fact that, even discounting 9/11 the amount of Americans who died as a result of terrorist attacks under the Bush presidency is more than three times as many as those who have died during the Obama administration.  Perhaps the most admirable campaign currently being run in the GOP is by Sen. Lindsey Graham, and we all have seen how his poll numbers are doing.

It's not like Scott Walker wasn't willing to get into this fight.  Right-to-work and Voter ID laws, two of the hallmarks of Walker's tenure in office, have been shown to disproportionately impact minority voters, and Walker has made stripping funding to Milwaukee's schools and transportation systems a key ingredient of his political life (Milwaukee is by far the most racially-diverse city in Wisconsin).  He ran Willie Horton-style ads against Mayor Tom Barrett during the 2012 recall election.  Walker's problem wasn't that he wasn't willing to stand behind this sort of race-baiting/false politics, but instead that he wasn't able to do it as loudly as Trump.  That ended up costing him in this dangerously strange election cycle.  As I said above, I cannot imagine Donald Trump being the nominee, but it's equally implausible to think that Pandora's Box hasn't been opened up by his role in this primary.

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