In an extraordinary example of journalistic myopia, The New York Times trotted out a lengthy think piece this past weekend headlined "The GOP's Last-Ditch, Frantic Effort to Stop Trump."
The nut of this 2,500-word thumbsucker was that Republican bigs acknowledge they have been much too passive about Donald Trump's emergence as a powerfully seductive candidate with extraordinarily vile views and as a result he is now on the verge of locking up the presidential nomination. This, in their horrified and probably accurate view, will lead to a crushing defeat in November and the loss of the Senate, several statehouses, destruction of the modern Republican Party, and God knows what else. But The Times got it exactly wrong: It was not passivity that spawned the ascendancy of the mighty Trump, it was years of activism by the bigs themselves to transform the party from a reasonable conservative voice into a swamp where someone like Trump could thrive.
The Times is not alone in getting it wrong. The political news media cannot function without certain narratives to which it reliably hitches its coverage. Overall, little of that coverage is original and there is little incentive to be original; it is so much easier to play it safe by following and not leading.
Two of the widely accepted narratives of this campaign season are that Bernie Sanders has a chance against Hillary Clinton and that Republican establishmentarians were blindsided by Trump. Never mind that the narratives are often wrong, and these two certainly are.
Considering the flapdoodle that those establishmentarians have been peddling for years as the Republican Party drifted deeper into the swamp from the shores of Reaganland while patronizing a restive party base, it is not surprising that the base has moved from merely restive to openly rebellious as voters carrying pitchforks and torches have pretty much hijacked the party and opened the door to a misogynistic pretty boy endorsed by hate groups.
(As for that Sanders-Clinton thing, Bernie is toast. End of story.)
The Times article does get one thing right in citing "a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair" as Trump has conquered primary state after primary state and appears to be on the verge of locking up the nomination after tomorrow's multi-state Super Tuesday primaries, or at least will head into the nominating convention with enough delegates to set the terms for the first brokered national convention since 1948 and the yummy prospect of a prime time TV spectacle that will make the Demolition Derby seem like a church picnic and indelibly tarnish the Republican brand.
"Resistance to Mr. Trump still runs deep," states The Times in noting that the party's biggest moneybags, including billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, remain opposed to him but have no appetite to throw their money at any effort to stop him. But the article tip-toes around why this is so: The opposition to Trump is less his despicable views than the fact he is not one of them. He is an outsider with a mind of his own, and the insiders are a bunch of platinum-embossed cowards who are afraid of the wrath he would unleash if they publicly opposed him.
The closest that party bigs came to pushing back against Trump was a scheme hatched by party strategists Alex Castellanos and Gail Gitcho last fall to create a super PAC called "ProtectUS" that would take down Trump. Castellations went so far as to produce ads portraying Trump as unfit for the presidency, but no major donors committed to the project and it died aborning.
"We want voters to imagine Donald Trump in the Big Chair in the Oval Office, with responsibilities for worldwide confrontation at his fingertips," read one ad. How prescient.
For those of you keeping score, I mark the nomination of Sarah Palin to be John McCain's vice presidential running mate as the moment where the party chose the swamp over higher ground. Nearly eight years on -- following two crushing defeats in presidential elections and the likelihood of a third in November -- the destruction that the former half-term governor of Alaska has wrought is immense. And continues to grow.
Much like the party establishment's fear of incurring Trump's wrath, no one of prominence spoke out against this narcissistic, power abusing kook and liar before her selection was validated nor after she dragged down the ticket on Election Day 2008. And, of course, she has endorsed Trump.
Hillary Clinton took a swipe at Trump in her South Carolina victory speech on Saturday night:
"We don't need to make America great again," she declared. "America never stopped being great. But we need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers."
Beyond their cowardice, the big problem for Republicans is less getting Trump out of the swamp than the swamp itself. Party bigs filled it and no one is willing to acknowledge that it needs to be drained.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR.
USED WITH PERMISSION.
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR.
USED WITH PERMISSION.
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