The Republican Party wants to distance itself from its most popular presidential candidate. But Trump's loathsome rhetoric is wholly consistent with its policies.">
Donald Trump's presidential candidacy is the best thing to have happened to American politics in a long time, if only because it is exposing Republican barbarism.
While the GOP has attempted disingenuously to separate itself from Trump's political persuasions, the fact is that the bombastic businessman openly expresses what his party pushes in the form of policies, but leaves unsaid.
The latest spat over his sexist comments to Fox News host Megyn Kelly demonstrates these double standards. When Kelly confronted him during the GOP debate to explain his historically dehumanizing language aimed at women, he shot back the next day in a way that exemplified his misogyny by implying that she was simply a hysterical menstruating woman. He then followed up the televised exchange with a tweet calling her a "bimbo."
Predictably, Republicans responded with contempt over Trump's crassness atfer the debate. He was promptly disinvited from the conservative RedState conference by organizer Erick Erickson. Instead, Kelly was invited in his place.In an interview with the Washington Post, Erickson explained that, "there is a line of decency that even a non-professional politician can cross," and "there are bounds of what’s acceptable in our discourse." Yet Erickson, who has been referred to as the most powerful conservative in America, himself has a problem with women, having often publicly used the term " feminazis," referred to the female-heavy line-up at the Democratic National Convention as the " Vagina Monologues," and called Michelle Obama a " Marxist harpy."
But the large and unwieldy field of Republican candidates is actively courting Erickson, well, because Trump, Erickson, and the rest of the GOP candidates are all part of the same club. What Erickson and his cohorts object to is Trump's articulation of what they think but don't say.Take Jeb Bush for example, considered one of the "moderate" Republican candidates and one of the most popular candidates after Trump. The former Florida governor, along with the majority of the GOP's leadership, is salivating at the prospect of defunding Planned Parenthood's health care services for low-income women. During recent remarks on the topic, he flippantly said, "I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues." The majority of GOP candidates are relying on a campaign strategy to shut down Planned Parenthood. In doing so, they are confirming the accusation that they are fighting a " war on women."
The earlier controversy over which Trump inspired the ire of his fellow Republicans was over his racism. During his campaign announcement, Trump used the words "rapists," "killers," and "murderers," to refer to Latino immigrants and vowed to build a wall between the US and Mexico.
The July 1 killing of a young white woman named Kate Steinle in San Francisco gave Trump the perfect fodder for his anti-immigrant stance. The suspect in that killing happened to be an undocumented immigrant who cited San Francisco's so-called "sanctuary city" policy for his presence. Trump said it was "yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately."
The research that shows why Trump’s anti-immigrant message works: http://t.co/oLg8SRc45a— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) August 7, 2015
Presidential candidates like Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz, quickly capitalized on the issue as well. During the recent GOP debate, they were eager to support "Kate's law," which would cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities. In fact, Cruz authored the bill. Republicans in the House of Representatives have already passed their version of “Kate's Law.”More broadly speaking, Trump has articulated what the Republican Party has, for years, been espousing. Bush, who is supposedly the most immigrant-friendly candidate in the GOP field, released his platform on immigration that insists on increased border security as a precursor to any kind of immigration reform. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is among the top three most popular candidates alongside Trump and Bush, does not support even President Obama's extremely moderate policy of deferred deportation for a small fraction of undocumented immigrants. Instead he has chastised immigrants, saying that the U.S. "is a nation of laws," and has retracted his earlier position supporting a pathway to citizenship. Wisconsin, under Walker has joined dozens of other GOP-controlled states in suing the federal government over the very limited policy of easing deportations.
Trump and his fellow Republicans are a lot closer to one another on hot-button issues than they would like to admit. But as with his disparaging comments about women, the Republican leadership worries that Trump is embarrassing them through his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Already a significant portion of the Republican electorate wants what Trump wants, and it is this population that is at odds with the Latino voters the GOP is desperate to court.The fact that a post-debate poll showed Trump continuing to lead among conservative voters, means there is strong backing for his rhetoric and policies. Lisa Navarrete, of the National Council of La Raza (a pro-Democratic Party organization), explained that, "Part of the reason why Latinos are so alienated from the Republican party these days is there’s a sense that there are people who actually believe [what Trump said]." (Certainly the Democratic Party plays similar, if less extreme games of hypocrisy.)
The conservative voters who are thrilled with Trump's candidacy are the ones who the GOP has been cultivating for years, courting their votes at the expense of women's rights, immigrant rights, and more, using coded language to espouse sexist and racist attitudes without coming straight out and admitting it, like Trump. But they can't have it both ways.
Trump has said in the past, "I believe in speaking my mind." If only the rest of the GOP would follow suit and admit publicly what they push more discreetly through policies.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio. She is also the Director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a U.S.-based nonprofit that supports women's rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of "Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence."