Guest post: The GOP had stripped itself of many possible defenses

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on This brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism.

Part of the problem in the 2016 primaries is that the other candidates focused on attacking each other, assuming that the Trump bubble would burst, either on its own or because another candidate would take care of him. But in retrospect, it’s very obvious how by 2016, the GOP had stripped itself of many possible defenses to Trump even if they hadn’t waited until it was too late. What arguments could they have made?

1. “He doesn’t have the experience and qualifications.” Well, first, Republicans spent years pissing on the idea of government service as something of value, extolling millionaires as the real “job creators,” and insisting that what was needed was to bring the discipline of the private sector to the “swamp” of Washington waste. How could they then disparage the executive credentials of a (supposed) rich businessman? Second, after getting behind George W. Bush on the theory that “the president doesn’t have to be that bright as long as he has smart advisors,” and then lowering the bar to “a fairly dim half-term governor of Alaska can handle the job if needed,” it really is hard to start insisting on intellectual standards.

2. “He’s promising things he can’t possibly deliver, because they’re not even in the power of a President to accomplish.” The GOP’s media organs have spent the last couple of decades bemoaning the “War on Christmas,” NOW you’re gonna tell your voters that actually, Trump won’t be able to make anyone say “Merry Christmas” after all? Your foreign policy critique of Obama has generally been no more sophisticated than “Obama is a weak girly man. We will be strong and project strength, and then Putin and Kim and everyone else will respect us and back down,” so how can you now argue that Trump’s chest-thumping gorilla routine won’t work? He’s just taking your strategy and dialing it up to 11.

3. “He lies.” Conservative radio host Charlie Sykes (a never-Trumper) has explained this pretty well. Conservatives did such a good job of convincing their voters that the mainstream media is hopelessly biased against conservatives that there were effectively no referees left. Cruz and Rubio and Ryan and other “respectable” Republicans may have never out-and-out signed on to birtherism themselves, but they turned a blind eye to it, and Romney even begged for the Chief Birther Trump’s endorsement in 2012. The WaPo, NYT, CNN, et al. could run all the fact-checking pieces they want, but Trump just had to cry “fake news!” and their base was preconditioned to accept it. The only folks who could have possibly put the brakes on Trump would have been Fox News, and maybe some of the big radio guys (although I think Limbaugh’s influence was fading at this point anyway). And they had no interest in doing so — in fact, Trump had (shrewdly?) spent the last several years making himself available to any Fox show that wanted him, cultivating positive relationships with the hosts and audiences.

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