NOTE: This column was posted on www.cagle.com yesterday but due to the reaction of Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh and some Republican politicians’ reactions such as THIS and THIS to Barack Obama’s release of his long form birth certificate not to mention the reaction of birthers — it’s clear the conspiracy theories, allegations and demonization will continue — it is as timely as it was yesterday.
What is happening now in the GOP? To a former Republican (RINO) like yours truly who is now an independent it’s tragic to see the once venerable Republican Party morphing into the embodiment of America’s talk radio and reality show political cultures.
Are the Republicans poised to seriously lead the country or lead the country and themselves off financial and polarization cliffs? These are not cutesy questions. Serious problems call for serious times and serious candidates. And just what is the prevailing Republican imagery now?
The surging-in-the-GOP-polls Donald Trump is now playing the racism card by implying that Barack Obama was in college due to affirmative action by claiming in an interview with the AP that Obama was really a “terrible student” — and demanding Obama prove he was a good one. (Harvard Law Review is known for picking slackers?) This dandruff of American politics is also exchanging barbs with Robert DeNiro, giving DeNiro a taste of Trump’s own verbal “Raging Bull.” He’s blasting Jerry Seinfeld. Is Spongebob Squarepants next?
Meanwhile, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds 50% of Americans, including 31% of Republicans, feel Trump would make a “poor” or “terrible” president.
A new CNN investigation finds that Obama was definitely born in Hawaii. Will Trump’s hired detectives – perhaps the same ones OJ Simpson hired to look for Nicole’s real killer – soon prove that Obama was born in Kenya? (And the Easter bunny REALLY delivered candy eggs to you last weekend.)
Apparently this imagery is also picked up by voters who in polls are notably unimpressed by Republican choices even as Obama’s polls numbers plunge south.
When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announced he wouldn’t run the most telling explanation came from Washington Post columnist Dan Balz: “But friends of Barbour, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share insight about his decision, said he had come to the conclusion that Republicans can win only if they are totally focused on serious issues and not distracted by some of the side issues, such as Obama’s birthplace, that have arisen in the early going.”
Indeed, in a birther case now pending in court, a birther is even questioning Obama’s Social Security number. Demonization is thorough these days.
Once upon a time, key Republican politicians and national media types focused on the nation’s stewardship and solving serious problems. Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and William F. Buckley are now supplanted by Trump, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. Ideas, solutions and policy have been trumped (literally) by insults, demonization and teenage-like attitude and snark.
Nowhere is this more clear – and dangerous – than in the debt ceiling issue.
ALSO: When you’re done reading the rest also be sure to read David Remnick’s post on The New Yorker site about the “issue” and the GOP’s reaction to the release of the document. Here’s a small part of it:
What is truly disturbing is the game Trump has been participating in, the conspiracy thinking he was playing with. And here the polls—to the extent that they can be taken as hard fact—tell a disturbing story, in which no small part of the country has believed in a variety of tales about Barack Obama. There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote “Dreams from My Father”; the fantasy that the President has some other father, and not Barack Obama, Sr.; the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam. There is a veritable fantasy industry at work online and in the book-publishing industry; there are dollars to be made.
The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning: that Obama is foreign, a fake, incapable of writing a book, incapable of intellectual achievement. Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the President himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. Obama, as a politician, is clearly not a radical; he is a center-left pragmatist. If anything, he believes deeply in his capacity to lead with subtle diplomacy and political maneuvering, with a highly realistic sense of the possible; in fact, to many he is maddeningly pragmatic.
Let’s be even plainer: to do what Trump has done (and he is only the latest and loudest and most spectacularly hirsute) is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering. And if that makes Donald Trump proud, then what does that say for him? Perhaps now he will go away, satisfied that this passage has sufficiently restored his fame quotient and television ratings. The shame is that there are still many more around who, in the name of truth-telling, are prepared to pump the atmosphere full of poison.
Read it in its entirety.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.