Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post writes that the rise of populist oligarch Donald Trump spells the death of the GOP — and laments that as something regrettable, because at least two viable national political parties has long been considered a criteria for the health of a liberal democracy — at least internationally.
From the column:
The hate-fueled self-immolation of the GOP would be a laugh riot were the consequences not so dire. Our democracy depends on a thriving two-party system where competing parties and the voices within each vigorously debate ideas and then reach the reasonable compromises needed to govern an enterprise as important as the United States. Since 2010, the Republican Party has succumbed to its basest voices for short-term political gain. Compromise became a dirty word. Lies were peddled as truth and never corrected by those who knew better. Invective was liberally employed against opponents no matter the party and without consequences.
Trump has pledged to stuff his cabinet with fellow oligarchs and experienced operators in the business world, while pledging a grab bag of vaguely phrased anti-immigration initiatives combined with inflationary monetary policy, protectionist trade policy, and presumably more social liberalism. He’s recently praised Japan’s Shinzo Abe as an example of a leader whom he’d like to emulate.
Despite all this, people out to shave off legitimacy from liberal democracy in the US and elsewhere tend to be pleased with this development.
Ironically, the people least pleased with Trump’s popularity in the polls are the ones who have the strongest belief in the righteousness of liberal democracy with universal suffrage. Trump embarrasses this crowd because he knows how to give the masses what they want in a bombastic and entertaining manner. Most of the time, people in the political sphere compete at a lower level than someone like Trump needs to. They’re in a different competitive league — it’s like sending a professional football team to compete with the peewee league.
The critics of universal suffrage claim that it rewards shallow politicians who are willing to tell people what they want to hear in order to get elected. Popular policies are rarely also wise policies. Plenty of unpopular policies are also stupid, counter-productive, or corrupt policies.
Fundamentally, the existing GOP and its auxiliary media organizations act as a legitimizing outer party. Trump, like every other GOP candidate, supports radical progressive initiatives like graduated income taxes, universal education, and the other raft of alphabet agencies instituted during the second Roosevelt regime.
The substance of the candidate’s platform matters less than the demoralization that the campaign inflicts on the Outer Party and the actual administrators of the regime. This is one of the reasons why he’s so entertaining. If Trump wins the presidency and succeeds in creating a lot of internal confusion and conflict within the administration, then that’s mostly a good thing rather than a bad thing.
The permanent marginalization of an alternative party to the Democrats is also a good thing, because the loss of popular legitimacy would make it much harder for progressives to actually administer the country. If the right-leaning hoi polloi realizes that they have no hope whatsoever of influence in Washington, they will be less willing to comply with the raft of other policies — which means greater difficulty enforcing compliance with the regulatory state, more children pulled out of public schools, more people tuning out from the media, and a lot of other positive consequences.