The cost of creating Bizarroworld
Josh Barro has an original and insightful take on how Trump was able to rise unimpeded despite his very obvious flaws. He says it's because the GOP has abandoned all mechanisms for weeding out charlatans and con artists and has created a world in which there are no institutions that can credibly hold anyone to account:
If you want to understand how Trump invaded your party, think first about what Ben Carson's campaign, and other campaigns like it, say about your party.
It has become routine for people who obviously never ought to be president, like Herman Cain, to enjoy success in the Republican primary polls for a time and conservative fame — and speaking fees and book sales — thereafter. Sarah Palin has made a similar career without ever technically running for president, raising funds instead for a political action committee that mostly spends money on consultants, giving very little to actual Republican campaigns.
[W]hat does it say about the Republican Party that its voters spent even a week or two seriously contemplating giving the presidency to Herman Cain? Republican insiders should have realized the appeal of scam campaigns was a symptom of a problem with the way Republican voters evaluate candidates — and that eventually, someone smarter than Herman Cain would come along and figure out how to run the scam long enough to win the nomination.
t's not normal for a political party to rent frontrunner status to cranks and charlatans for weeks at a time. Disastrous candidates are supposed to be blocked by validating institutions. Policy experts explain that their proposals do not add up. The media covers embarrassing incidents from their past and present. Party leaders warn that they will be embarrassing or incompetent or unelectable.
The problem is that Republicans have purposefully torn down the validating institutions. They have convinced voters that the media cannot be trusted; they have gotten them used to ignoring inconvenient facts about policy; and they have abolished standards of discourse by allowing all complaints about offensiveness to be lumped into a box called "political correctness" and ignored.
Republicans waged war on these institutions for a reason. Facts about policy can be inconvenient — a reality-based approach would find, for example, that tax cuts increase the deficit and carbon emissions cause climate change. Acknowledging the validity of complaints about racism could require some awkward conversations with racist and quasi-racist voters in the Republican coalition.
Of course, we're now seeing the unintended consequence of the destruction of those institutions and the boundaries they impose around candidate acceptability: In doing so, Republicans created a hole that Donald Trump could fly his 757 through.
Even the alternate universe of Fox News is having trouble holding on to its faux credibility. They've created an electorate that believes nothing that conflicts with their own impressions of reality. These voters are now operating on pure instinct. It's no wonder that a rich celebrity like Trump could come along with a strongman attitude and bowl them over.
I think a lot of the architects of the conservative movement and the GOP cynics who signed on for the votes thought they were actually training these folks to blindly follow the propaganda program they laid out all those years ago. (Read the post below with the Tea Partyer blathering on about the constitution.) But Trump shows that many of them were just tribally affiliated, not actual true believers.
Barro is right that the jokers running their scams, whether briefly or for longer periods, were a canary in the coal mine that something was working on a whole different level than ordinary politics. It's not normal for someone like Ben Carson to ever be a frontrunner or to collect 60 million dollars in donations. It's sign of something gone haywire.