GOP self-destructing: Wisconsin April 5th primary

By Bill Kaplan

On Saturday, Washington Post pundit Chris Cillizza opined: "The Republican Party had the worst week in Washington". Why? There was House Speaker Paul Ryan's ill-received speech about the "disheartened" state of politics (but no mention of GOP presidential contenders Ted Cruz or Donald Trump), injection of politics into the horrific terrorist attack in Brussels and "juvenile antics" (insults to wives) from Cruz and Trump playing out in Wisconsin. It was topped off with Trump once again calling for "torture" and Cruz pushing for police to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods" in the U.S. Not winning hearts and minds.

Moreover, Wisconsin Republican leaders are in denial and enabling the self-destruction of the GOP. Trump's rhetoric and style are reminiscent of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini (Trump approvingly retweeted a quote from Mussolini). Trump is similarly both buffoon and authoritarian strongman: machismo, serial lies, xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants-minorities, super-nationalism and an undercurrent of violence. However, Cruz is not an alternative. Compare. 

Trump shockingly disparaged Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain: "He's not a war hero", said Trump. "I like people who weren't captured." Likewise, Cruz slandered former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, also a Vietnam War veteran, by insinuating falsely that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. It's the same on immigration -- who can be more draconian. Or torture. Trump wants it back on steroids. Cruz supports "enhanced interrogation" (euphemism). Both would shred the Bill of Rights. 

But Wisconsin GOP leaders have their heads in the sand. Speaker Ryan says Trump is not an authoritarian (nothing about Cruz). Moreover, Ryan will support whomever the GOP nominates. And, Sen. Ron Johnson is "praying". Meanwhile Gov. Scott Walker makes nice about Cruz and has "fanciful" dreams about a GOP "open convention" selecting someone "not currently running" (wonder who?) Then there is Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who prattles on about supporting "the nominee, whoever that is, 100 percent". 

But middle and working class Wisconsinites should trust what they see about Cruz and Trump. Neither will alleviate the economic misery in Wisconsin caused by unfair trade deals. Both lack solutions. Instead, they are in agreement about increasing disparities: oppose raising the minimum wage, praise Walker's war against unions and support more humongous tax cuts for the super-rich. However, Trump does trump Cruz. The Washington Post reported that Trump-branded clothing is made abroad by low-wage labor, under terrible working conditions. And, when Trump is in Janesville this week the press should ask him does he still believe that American "wages are too high", and about his excoriation "I fight unions very hard". 

Finally, it's worth noting what author William Shirer wrote in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". Shirer said: In Hitler "the conservative classes thought they had found a man who, while remaining their prisoner, would help them attain their authoritarian Germany....(end) the power of the trade unions....restore the country to its place in the sun." We know how that turned out. 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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