“A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility. Whatever our differences we owe each other that respect...”
— Senator John McCain (R-Arizona)
By now everyone has been pretty well saturated with the blowback from Donald Trump’s refusal to pledge to accept the results of next month’s election. Elected officials, political leaders and talking heads of all stripes have been nearly unanimous in denouncing his statement as genuinely undermining American democracy itself. It’s been pointed out a number of times that this is essentially the third election he’s tried to delegitimize, given his persistence in flogging the birther issue to death for the past seven years.
So far the furor has all been about how this attitude is just a symptom of his own bloated sense of self-importance. Personalities as disparate as Lawrence O’Donnell and Lindsay Graham have all psychoanalyzed this as Trump’s refusal to admit personal defeat: “I can’t lose so it has to be rigged.” Even Republicans have been scrambling to distance themselves from the monster they’ve created. Both former presidents Bush have announced they’re voting for his opponent.
Well, as with everything else about his candidacy it’s not that simple or superficial. This entire distasteful episode in American politics is not just an embarrassing farce. It is now the public façade of the edifice the Republican party has been assembling brick by brick since their Southern Strategy of the 1970s.
They have consistently mined and exploited white middle class resentment toward everything from civil rights advances and the economic decline brought about by their own shortsighted policies to women’s and gay rights. They have filled their big tent with fuming angry tribal leaders spouting venom and promising revenge toward all those others who don’t fit their narrow cloistered vision of white America. Their offensive shifted into overdrive in the 1990s with House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s congressional memo instructing house Republicans to characterize any Democratic initiative, policy or individual as corrupt and perversely anti-American. He got more help than he needed from the emerging media wing of the GOP — Right Wing Talk Radio — that further cemented the image of the Liberal Democrat as anti-American in the public perception. It was a short step from condemnation of liberal policies and Liberals and Democrats themselves to delegitimizing their right to participate in governing. They took that step and more and it is one of the Democratic party’s — not to mention the “Liberal Media’s” — greatest failures that they’ve still never called the Right out on it. Instead they cowered and ran from the Liberal label for the next 20 years.
An appeal was made on this blog back during the 2012 election season to people like Chris Matthews to please ask their Republican guests: “Do Democrats, Liberals and Progressives have a legitimate right to participate in governing the country”? (I just wanted to see at least one of them squirm once they got the significance of whichever answer they gave.) The purpose of bringing that up here is that it highlights the unacknowledged fact that this latest Trumpism is not merely a symptom of an unhinged megalomaniac, it is the unvarnished façade of the Republican edifice: Their conviction that only they are entitled to govern, only Republicans have the right to determine the country’s direction. Any opposition is un-American and so it follows that any elected Democrat somehow stole their seat. This is the reason Republicans are constantly crying about rampant widespread voter fraud when there is no credible body of evidence to support the claim. This explains how a Republican candidate for the United States Senate can publicly state that the Second Amendment gives real Americans the right to shoot their Democratic opponents. There is so much handwringing about how this rigged election talk could trigger a “grievance movement” among his tens of millions of followers who will insist Hillary Clinton is not the legitimate president and is actually a criminal. Wake up. There are already tens of millions of Americans who regard Barak Obama, Democrats and Liberals as foreign agents planted among them to bring down the country. Like the party’s inherent racism, bigotry and misogyny, Donald Trump has simply dropped the dog whistles and spoken it out loud.
As for the Republican mandate to unilaterally determine the country’s direction? Just take a look back at the effects of their six years of one party rule under George Bush.
Speaking of questionable election results.