“Republican fear-mongering is making this country unsafe for people who have done nothing wrong.”—Sen. Bernie Sanders, July 20, 2016
I realize now that I may have been doing you an incredible disservice by presenting the RNC as I have for the past two days. I have been making a classic American lefty mistake by underestimating them—describing them as, to quote the great Irish News columnist Brian Feeney paraphrasing his countryman Oscar Wilde, “the unspeakable in pursuit of the unelectable.”
The mob who drowned out the last bastion of civilized #NeverTrump resistance in what was once, a long time ago, the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt, may be unspeakable in their beliefs, their words and their tactics, but they are not unelectable, as much as writers like me would like to think they are. In fact, the misrepresentations, doublespeak and outright untruths have been manna from White Jesus to the Republican base at least since the days of the so-called Great Communicator.
“The Russian language has no word for ‘Freedom.’ ” “We did not, I repeat, did not...trade arms for hostages.” “[South Africa] has stood by us in every war we’ve fought.” These statements were made with the kind of precise emotional involvement that Reagan was never able to summon during his career as a ham actor playing pretty boys and the second-banana to a chimp named Bonzo. They were made as the kind of reassuring noises conservatives love to hear from their politicians—in fact, the kind of statements they would rather hear, even knowing they are untrue, then any manner of ugly or inconvenient truth.
And herein lies the problem. American conservatism has degraded to the point that lies like Reagan’s, told strategically and in the end used to cement an overwhelmingly positive reputation—deserved or otherwise. Since the Reagan administration, the lies about Ronnie become more profound, and his cult status has helped to create the kind of culture that allows a man who does nothing but make Reagan-like reassuring noises with no basis in the physical universe.
“I’m going to send very little [sic.] troops to fight ISIS,” then in the next breath “We’re going to declare war on ISIS.” “I’m going to have the best information, which right now, we don’t have.” “There’s something going on [between our black president and cop killers]...look at the body language.”
These are just three random examples from a 48 hour stretch. The Republican nominee represents the worst impulses of the party’s frightened, reactionary id, and after Day 2 of the RNC, there are no more passes where more rational conservatives can attempt to head him off. He doesn’t make sense when he speaks, his positions are fluid, he’s probably worth about half what he claims, his business success is based on systematic racism and exploitation, and he looks like Otto the Orange after a few rounds of chemo and a good bashing by rival fans. But he tells the scared child in the back of every conservative’s mind exactly what it needs to hear. And now he’s got around a 30% of handling the nuclear football.