Thursday 27 October 2016

Death knell for Republicans' Grand Old Party?

The National Republican Covention was a gaffe-laden affair for Trump, writes Shona Murray

Shona Murray

Published 24/07/2016 | 02:30

Trump target: Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP
Trump target: Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Hillary Clinton announced on Friday afternoon that her choice for VP is Virginia governor, Tim Kaine, and momentarily managed to redirect attention away from Trump's campaign. But the chilling effect of Trump's doomsday scenario speech may be harder to shake off.

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Last week's gaffe- laden Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been described as a "shit show" by some senior GOP insiders; others even talking bleakly about the "death" of the party. There was the farce that emerged when it was found that part of Melania Trump's maiden speech, as the wife of the party nominee, was plagiarised from one given by Michelle Obama in 2008, and the rancorous response to Texan senator Ted Cruz's refusal to give Trump his backing for party nominee.

Absent from proceedings were several of the respected party stalwarts associated with its most recent legacies, such as former presidential nominees Mitt Romney, Senator John McCain or any of the surviving former presidents and the rest of the Bush family.

A leaked conversation involving former president George W Bush and a gathering of former staffers revealed that Bush was "worried" that he is going to be the "last Republican president".

The comments were said to have been made last April (Bush has refused to confirm or deny them) when the options for nominee were, at the time, Donald Trump and Texan Senator Ted Cruz (aka "lyin'" Ted Cruz, who was also once a staffer for W during his 2000 campaign).

The comments then reflected a dim view of the choice of candidates and their ability to appeal to all Americans.

Ted Cruz's base is heavily evangelical and deeply conservative, with a strong emphasis on retaining the status quo on gun rights, as well as overturning Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that makes access to abortion a constitutional right based on privacy. It'd be hard to see how swing voters or liberals could have been moved to support him.

Bush is also reputed to have said privately that he can't recall Ted Cruz ever going to church, rely on biblical dogma in conversations, or generally have any sort of faith-based outlook, until recently.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been widely ridiculed and criticised for his coarse and offensive manner, as well as his glib, at best, take on major issues central to the role of president.

Building a wall and demanding that another sovereign country - Mexico - pay for it as a solution to illegal immigration, and his clear lack of understanding of the Middle East and military strategy, are two examples of why voters might be hesitant to give him access to the nuclear button.

Trump has said that if he were president, he would "destroy Isis", but has given literally no other indication of how he would execute this policy.

His plan to "ban" Muslims from entering America until the Isis threat was cleared was not only xenophobic, and again outrageously impractical, it plays right in to the hands of Isis ideology. Isis' priority to eradicate the so-called "grey zone" - the inhabitation of Muslims in non-Islamic countries, in particular western countries, is strongly laid out in its propaganda sources.

Part of its central rationale for targeting western countries is not just to wreak death and violence at the lands of the enemy, or to draw attention to their strength and defiance as an entity, but inflict such intense devastation on western populations that those communities turn against or deeply mistrust Muslims living among them.

Isis's online propaganda magazine, Dabiq outlines the obligation for all Muslims to join its cause and live in its declared "caliphate". Those who don't, and choose to stay in western countries, are regarded as "hypocrites" whose 'neutral' stance would "doom" them. Therefore, any governmental or political backlash against Muslims as a result of Islamic terrorism is a result for Isis.

Trump's speech was apocalyptic and dark, and painted a portrait of an America wracked by violence and disorder and being in a "moment of crisis". He relied heavily on out-of-context statistics, some of which have also been found to be baseless after further inspection by fact-checkers from both the Democratic party, as well as several journalistic organisations.

In the part of the speech relating to the "chaos in our communities", he said the Obama administration is responsible for a reversal of years of progress being made in "bringing down crime", due to a "rollback" on state law enforcement.

Indeed, crime statistics show a drop in crime; the US murder rate in 2014 was half of that in 1980 and researchers from, who conducted an indepth fact-checking exercise, say the full statistics for 2015 and 2016 are not available.

There is also no evidence of a "rollback" by the Obama administration on criminal enforcement, especially since such priorities are with the competence of each state, as opposed to the federal government.

In spite of the depressing readout by Trump of the ill-winds facing America - as well as several months of a campaign littered with offensive diatribe directed at women, Muslims, journalists and immigrants - the reaction to Trump by the party faithful, and the willingness of the large majority of attendees to get on board the "Trump train" as one delegate put it, was palpable in Cleveland. And in spite of the depressing detail disclosed, the reaction by delegates on the convention floor was upbeat; euphoric even.

John Prendergast, a delegate from upstate New York, said Trump made "all the points I wanted".

"I'm a big supporter of the second amendment, so that was right on the money.

"The second issue for me is defence - we need to be the world's superpower.

"And the wall; put the wall up," said Prendergast, echoing others present.

It didn't matter that Trump put forward very little, if any, detail on how he would magically resuscitate the manufacturing industry, end all criminality or demand a renegotiation of the various trade deals the US has agreed. His unwavering attacks on the records of the current administration, in particular his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, was enough to draw the unflinching support of many.

The vitriol directed at Hillary Clinton at RNC 2016 is impossible to overstate. T-shirts with "Hillary for Prison" prints were the most popular, and less offensive, on offer. Badges and baseball caps were emblazoned with various anti-Hillary slogans. And one of the loudest and most common chants of the week, "Lock her up", was also reserved for Hillary.

The latest ipso/Reuters poll yesterday shows Trump even with Hillary following his convention bounce. George Bush's fear of being the last Republican president is by no means a done deal.

Sunday Independent

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