Thursday, January 07, 2016

status quo lapdogs impotent struggles to explain trumpism


theatlantic |  The willful suspension of disbelief by so many political professionals and analysts had multiple roots. One part was a deep belief that history rules—since rogue and inexperienced candidates had always faltered before, it followed that it would happen again. Another was that nothing has changed in a meaningful way in American politics—there has not been real polarization, only natural “sorting,” and the establishment will rule, as it always does. A third was that there are certain characteristics expected of a president—prudence, civility, expertise—that would eventually cause Trump and the other outsiders like Carson, Cruz, and Fiorina to fall by the wayside.

Those roots remain resilient in the punditocracy and political community. They were and are wrong. Both Trump and a broader phenomenon—call it Trumpism—are stronger and deeper than most veteran political analysts realized or were willing to acknowledge. They are neither immediate nor transitory phenomena. The disdain for the status quo, for authority figures of both parties and other institutions, and the anger at inexorable changes in society, are real, enduring, and especially deep on the Republican side. Ideology forms a significant part of that anger, but it transcends much of the predictable divide between liberals conservatives. And even if neither Trump nor Cruz—who also channels much of the Trumpist message and approach—win a presidential nomination, it will persist, and contend for primacy in the GOP, well beyond 2016.

For the past several months, every poll has shown outsider candidates, either those vigorously attacking their own leaders and other societal elites or those having no experience at all in politics or governance, garnering over 60 percent support from Republican voters. The main insider, establishment figures hover at around 20 percent support. And of course, the most outsider, populist, and bombastic among them, Donald Trump, has led the field in the vast majority of national polls—and in most state polls, as well.

At the same time, Freedom Caucus members, the most conservative in Congress, were attacked from the right for supporting Paul Ryan as speaker—a man who is by far the most conservative speaker of the House in history. And probably the second most conservative speaker, John Boehner, was hounded from office for not being radical and tough enough.

But who is responsible for the rise of Trumpism? What caused the crippling migraine headaches now afflicting the toughly pragmatic conservative-establishment wing of the GOP? Here are the people and institutions who played a role—however deliberate, unwitting, or inadvertent—in laying the groundwork for Trumpism to flourish in America: