It is always equal parts amusing and sad to me when the national pundit consensus reaches some new and completely incorrect position out of a combination of mind meld and laziness. The popular one, culminating in Donald Trump’s acceptance of the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, is that he represents a strange and dark turn away from what the party has previously stood for.
Rather than a strange new turn, Trump represents a continuation of the perverse mindset that has dominated the right since the days of George W. Bush’s presidency. The difference between Trumpism and Bushism is that Bush and his cronies knew that they had to keep up appearances in public.
Like Bush, Trump favors the rich, does not believe in addressing issues associated with women and racial minorities, and supports boneheaded warmongering policies in the Middle East that will get Americans killed.
It wasn’t Donald Trump who instituted a policy of torture in the U.S. military, it’s just that George W. Bush branded it “enhanced interrogation.”
The Bush gang understood the politics of these actions better than Trump does. They knew that in order to sell America a bill of goods they had to disguise it as “compassionate conservatism.” But it was, in substance, the same stuff that Donald Trump is selling.
When it comes to fearmongering, the Bush-Trump legacy is strong as well. At the last Republican Convention that George W. Bush attended, the entire message was crafted around the idea that the world is a dark and scary place and only a right-wing strongman can protect you. In case that message wasn’t clear enough, they staged the convention in New York City when 9/11 was still a fresh and open wound for the country. 9/11 was also the theme of the first ad put out by the Bush campaign, and it featured heavily in the advertising released by third-party groups backing Bush’s re-election.
Donald Trump’s convention speech painting a dystopian world view of brown and black hordes marauding through the cities hell-bent on raping and killing white people is simply a clumsier, less subtle execution of the fear campaign Bush rode to victory on in 2004.
It is the campaigns in-between of John McCain and Mitt Romney – who both backed Bush on policy if not tone – that were the aberrations here, not Trump.
Trump’s not doing anything new. He is the offspring of the world George W. Bush made (including being built up by Fox News, the propaganda arm of Bush’s assault on American values), not a rebuke of it.
Those in the media and especially on the right who are discussing Trump as if he broke from the past are at best fooling themselves and more likely lying to the rest of us.
We didn’t awaken one day to suddenly find Donald Trump menacing us like the ogre he is. The Republican Party and George W. Bush opened the door and let him right in.