Has Trump betrayed the values of the Republican Party or revealed its true nature?

31 August 2020 

If you follow a little bit what I say here, you will know that I believe that there are several tendencies within the Republican Party in the United States and that Trump represents only one of them.

I had the opportunity to mention the existence of a center-right tendency represented during his lifetime by John McCain (died In August 2018), recalling that a close associate of the late senator from Arizona was behind the release to the press of the Steele report.  The most serious accusation of the report, is that Trump is the victim of blackmail by Russia, said to have compromising documents about him, recorded during one of his stays in Moscow. I also pointed out, when speculation abounded about the identity of the whistleblower who revealed the infamous conversation of July 25, 2019, when Trump made the renewal of U.S. military aid to Ukraine conditional on getting compromising information on Joe Biden. Rumor has it that this person was a former close associate of McCain.

Each time John Bolton has been mentioned in recent years, I have recalled his membership in the ultraconservative movement in the Republican Party. I also said that one of the functions, in my view, of the recent Memoirs of the former National Defence Adviser is to put this tendency back at the center of the debate within the party itself, or even to strengthen Bolton himself as another choice for the G O P. His refusal to testify at the impeachment hearing helped to establish him in that role, underscoring his uncompromising opposition to the Democratic Party.

Currently there are two movements within the Republican Party that are not at war with Trump supporters. The same cannot be said for the Lincoln Project, a small group of Republicans determined to prevent the President’s re-election, and whose tools of choice are caustic- videos cruelly pointing out Trump’s inconsistencies and ridiculousness.

A book published in August offers another approach. In this book, the author does not consider that Trump has kidnapped a party identified with values other than his own. He proposes that Trump’s only merit has been to bring to the surface what have been actually the basic values of the Republican party since its inception. The book is written by Stuart Stevens, a longtime strategist for the Republican party, and is entitled « It Was All a Lie—How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump ».

Stevens begins his work with a profession of faith:                                                                                                              « I was drawn to a party that espoused a core set of values : character counts, personal responsibility, strong on Russia, the national debt actually mattered, immigration made America great, a big-tent party invited all.[…]                                                                                                       … What a fool I was ! All of these immuable truths turned out to be mere marketing slogans. None of it meant anything. »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Then comes Stevens’ demonstration: the historical evidence that Trump is just repeating what some of his predecessors in the G O P had already said.

This is the case of William Schlamm (1904-1978), a communist activist at a young age, a member at 16 of a delegation that met Lenin:                                                                                                                «The American species  […] is of course, populist rather than conservative -and for a very forceful reason : America happens to be the only society in creation built by conscient human intent… and developed, by European tired by Europe’s ancient commitments, and determined… each in his own way, on a “new beginning”.»

So also for William Buckley (1925-2008), founder in 1955 of the National Review:                          «The central question that emerges… is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically ? The sobering answer is Yes -the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.  […]

… sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence : then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence. »

No doubt, this is completely Donald Trump, in person. And compelling examples follow one another in the book.

Does this prove Stuart Stevens’ thesis that Trump is not betraying Republican values but is actually merely unmasking their hypocrisy? I do not think so for the following reason which a continental European understands more easily than an American.

In countries such as France, Belgium and Switzerland, extremist views are expressed in extremist parties. In bipartisan or virtually two-party countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States, extremist views are expressed within the two major parties where they generally represent a minority opinion. There is an expression in both countries to refer to extremist tendencies within the major parties: “the lunatic fringe”. And the fact is that Schlamm, publisher of the newsletter of the John Birch Society, and Buckley, author of a book to the glory of Joseph McCarthy, harsh critic of “Communists” and people he considered to be related to Communism, belonged by right to the lunatic  fringe of the Republican Party.

Is it justified to say that the lunatic fringes constitute the “carefully hidden truth” of the major parties? Why not, but only for polemical purposes, unless one lunatic fringe manages to completely replace all the others. Recent speeches from the McCain-based center-right, ultra-conservatives around Bolton, or the Lincoln Project, seem to justify my skepticism.                                                      But let’s not worry: we’ll know exactly what happens before the end of November.

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