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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 06, 2016

 

Reaping the whirlwind

by Tom Sullivan


Photo by Evan-Amos (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The party in a lather over Hillary Clinton's email server is poised to nominate a candidate who last week boasted he would issue criminal orders to the military, orders that violate their oaths as soldiers and his own as president. "If I say, ‘Do it,’ they’re going to do it,” he assured us. William Saletan writes, "This wasn’t a gaffe. It was a casual promise of dictatorship."

Donald Trump quickly retracted his statement and acknowledged he would be bound by laws and treaties as president. Next January, if Trump raises his right hand and swears to defend the Constitution, how can his left hand go on the Bible with his fingers crossed behind his back? As he says, everything is negotiable.

It should be clear by now (if it was not already) that the vaunted principles and values espoused by many Americans are equally negotiable. Movement conservatives and their think tanks are finding to their chagrin that Trump's supporters give not a fig for small government and lower taxes so much as they value machismo and promises to exact retribution on disfavored Others. Trump's campaign has proven again that in America our convictions are a mile wide and an inch deep. We are better at boasting about them than sticking to them.

Saletan continues:

These Republican are willing to call Trump a con man and a liberal. They’re willing to use his CNN interview about the Klan as an argument against his electability. But they’re not willing to call out his bigoted statements about ethnic and religious minorities, because on those matters, too many voters are on his side. In the past month, exit polls in seven Republican primaries have asked whether Muslims who are not U.S. citizens should be barred from entering the United States. On average, more than 70 percent of voters have said yes.

Trump’s threat to the republic isn’t just sectarian. It’s also constitutional and military. Last week, to punish “hit pieces” by the New York Times and Washington Post, he threatened to “open up our libel laws.” “With me, they’re not protected,” Trump told a cheering crowd. Cruz, who pledges in every speech to defend the Second Amendment, had nothing to say about Trump’s assault on the First. Meanwhile, Rubio, who’s running as the candidate of national security, has made Trump’s volatility a punch line in his stump speech: “You have a lunatic in North Korea with access to nuclear weapons. We have a lunatic in America trying to get access to nuclear weapons, too.” Audiences laugh, and Rubio smiles. But if he were serious about protecting the country, Rubio wouldn’t treat Trump’s candidacy as a joke. He would speak up when the Republican front-runner, on the debate stage, threatens to issue illegal military orders.
But no. That would require something stouter than cosmetic principles. Or a political philosophy with more moral depth than winning isn't everything; it's the only thing. Among Trump's supporters and his fellow GOP candidates, both are in short supply.

Dan Balz writes this morning:
The sight of establishment Republicans recoiling at Trump strikes some analysts, particularly on the left, as ironic. These GOP critics see Trump’s appeal as the logical result of decades of efforts by the GOP to discredit government and more recently of the party leadership’s passive acceptance of virulent and in some cases racially tinged opposition to President Obama. Having sown the wind, the argument goes, the party now reaps the whirlwind.
And an authoritarian blowhard shall lead them.