The GOP: More than a whiff of fascism

By Bill Kaplan

Columnists and newspaper headlines are trumpeting catastrophe ahead for American democracy: 

• Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin opined: "Does the GOP want a hater as president? Donald Trump calls Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 'nasty'. Pot, meet the kettle....For those who are put off by their over-hyped rhetoric, appeals to xenophobia, lack of appreciation for mature governance and disdain for the truth, it is hard to know who to root for";

• Politico reported: South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham decried a choice between Cruz and Trump, saying it was "like being shot or poisoned";

• Washington Post conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote: "For Republicans, the only good outcome of Trump vs. Cruz is for both to lose. The future of the party as the carrier of a humane, inclusive conservatism now depends on some viable choice beyond them".

Contrast with House GOP Speaker Paul Ryan's strong criticism of Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and his incoherent willingness to support whoever is the GOP nominee: 

• The Hill quotes Ryan saying: Every GOP presidential candidate "would be a far better president than Hillary Clinton";

• And, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Ryan told the newspaper: "I (Ryan) see myself, and the House, as a complement to Trump" (silent on Cruz).
Why all the hate, venom and xenophobia? President Obama's policies pulled the nation out of the worst economic disaster since the 1930s Great Depression. Unemployment has plummeted. And, there are new regulations in place to prevent another crisis. Finally, millions of previously uninsured Americans now have health care coverage. However, all of these important achievements have not reversed long-term trends.

Middle and working class Americans have been left out and marginalized for many decades by automation, deindustrialization, globalization (unfair trade pacts) and escalating income inequality (Wisconsin had worst decline in middle class families - Pew Charitable Trusts). Add to this the racial animus shown by many whites and leading conservatives toward President Obama (false allegations about his religion, place of birth). Moreover, the GOP has completely forsaken compromise, negotiation, respect for opposition or even commonly accepted facts, e.g., climate change. And, GOP leaders acquiesce as the purveyors of hate take control of the party (Wisconsin GOP Rep. Reid Ribble, who has denounced Trump, is a notable exception).

What to do? Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is speaking clearly and loudly to the economically disenfranchised, without the racial hatred of Cruz and Trump. And, rival Hillary Clinton, at her best, has shown that she can bond with middle and working class Americans. The Democratic message - no matter who the candidate is - will be hope and that we all can do better. Like FDR, an alternative to communism or fascism. 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995-200

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