Donald Trump is keeping us in suspense about the election, which is not rigged if he wins but which is rigged if he loses.
To her great credit, Nikki Haley found this to be the last straw and rebuked her fellow Republican. “The election is not rigged,” she said forthrightly, “and it is irresponsible to say that it is.”
Politics in the Land of Make Believe
Those folks who chant in unison at Trump rallies might really think the election is rigged. Trump might even think it. Is he lying to the public, or is he lying to himself? Who knows what makes that rattling sound inside his hollow coconut?
But responsible Republicans–count among them Senator Lindsay Graham and Representative Paul Ryan; columnists George Will, Kathleen Parker, and David Brooks–know that talk of rigged elections is bogus.
Nikki Haley numbers herself in that crowd. She’s stumping for Republican governors in North Carolina and Indiana, while most decidedly not stumping for Trump. She refuses to be counted among the irresponsible.
But Haley’s more responsible than she admits. She is herself responsible for undermining faith in our elections.
The Zombie Threat
Three years ago, the South Carolina GOP was talking about how over 600 “zombie voters” had wrecked the integrity of our elections. This claim did not originate with some outlandish talk-radio host, like the stooge, Rocky D. It came from State Attorney General, Alan Wilson, also a Republican. Nikki Haley parroted Wilson’s claim, absurd as it sounded, on Fox News.
Democrats rightly insisted that the hullabaloo about voter fraud was all make-believe invented to justify Republican-mandated voter ID laws. Courts in North Carolina determined that a similar law there was not meant to prevent voter fraud: the Republican Party was engaging “in purposeful racial discrimination.”
Our version of the FBI–the State Law Enforcement Division, a.k.a. SLED–investigated Wilson’s claim and found no evidence of zombies voting in South Carolina.
Nevertheless, Nikki Haley signed voter ID into law in May 2011, and she and Wilson successfully fought court challenges.
Even now, Haley is still pretending that she “want[s] everyone who is eligible to vote, to vote.” Meanwhile, she disenfranchised over 200,000 South Carolinians, most of them poor, many of them African American. All to fight the zombies.
GOP = George Orwell Party
Not the party Orwell would join. The party he warned us against. Newspeak. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
Much of the GOP legislative agenda stands on blatant, cynical lies.
- Anti-abortion. Legislation requiring abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to “surgical-center” standards pretend to improve women’s health. The Supreme Court called Texas out for this bit of Newspeak. The law provides no “benefit to women’s health” (37). In fact, it endangers women.
- Haley-don’t-care. In her 2012 book, Nikki Haley pledged “to lead a coalition of governors to fight Obamacare and allow the states to offer real solutions to our health-care crisis.” To date, her “real solution” consists of refusing to extend Medicaid to tens of thousands of poor South Carolinians. The Post and Courier recently did a feature on one of the many people killed by Haley’s policy, a fellow from Summerville named Jim Connor. (Strangely, the newspaper’s headline identified an “Obamacare coverage gap,” totally obscuring the responsible party.)
- Climate Change deniers. Nikki Haley and Alan Wilson have joined the anti-EPA lawsuit meant to gut restrictions on greenhouse gases. They refuse to admit that burning West Virginia coal raises floods in Charleston. And their obstinacy will raise energy prices in South Carolinia by over a billion dollars.
- High-School Bathrooms. Republicans pretend that transgendered people pose some sort of threat to non-transgendered people, when all the evidence and common sense tells us the opposite. The people who are bullied and beaten are the transgendered.
- Evolution deniers. Here in South Carolina you can still find politicians–all of them Republicans–who pretend that God created fossils but did not create dinosaurs. Several years ago, an eight-year old girl petitioned the legislature to designate a “state fossil.” The response of Republican Senators like Mike Fair? “The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina.”
- Guns. Republicans pretend that the best way to address gun violence is to pass out more guns. Guns in classrooms will solve gun violence in classrooms. More guns in bars will solve gun violence in bars. Guns in supermarkets! Guns everywhere, except at the Republican National Convention. Sure it’s horse manure. The NRA invented this radical interpretation of the Second Amendment on or about 1981, when Ronald Reagan was gunned down. And now, all Republican candidates must prostrate themselves before the hollow idol that Reagan himself opposed.
- White supremacy. Until last year, Republicans down here in South Carolina pretended that the Confederate flag had nothing to do with racism. Mother Emanuel changed that. Many still pretend that slavery had little to do with the Civil War. They still pretend that Confederate monuments–erected mostly in the Jim Crow era–have nothing to do with white supremacy.
Thank goodness Nikki Haley finally started accepting the reality about the Confederate flag. Last year, she finally joined Democrats who have been trying to take down the flag for decades. That’s a good sign. At least some Republicans feel uneasy with the Party’s recent history.
I am a white Southern Democrat, so I know who’s ultimately to blame. We are. Southern Democrats invented Pretending. We constructed the original Land of Make Believe.
For years, Southern Democrats pretended that smoking cigarettes did not cause cancer. That was an inconvenient truth, because we grow a lot of tobacco here in the Carolinas.
And of course Democrats invented the biggest of American lies: that Jim Crow was just, that separate was equal, that blacks and whites just couldn’t mix, that blacks were inferior, dirty, and immoral.
But then responsible, white Southern Democrats like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson started admitting the truth about Jim Crow. And the Republican Party saw its chance to woo those irresponsible Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond. If the party of Lincoln started prating about states rights, they could get most of the white folks to switch parties.
I suppose Nixon thought his famous “Southern Strategy” was just a means to an end. He would put Southern whites would in the back pocket of the Republican Party. How could that backfire? It’s not like the tail would ever wag the dog. It’s not like some blowhard bigot would ever get real power in the Republican Party. It’s not like the party would ever get Carolinafied. Little white lies. What could go wrong?
Pretender to the Throne
And now Donald comes home to roost. If Reagan was the Great Communicator, Trump is the Great Pretender.
He pretends that imposing high tariffs on China will bring back high-paying blue collar jobs.
He pretends that Mexicans threaten us. That they are dirty and immoral. Oh yeah, and they want to rape your daughters.
He pretends that American Muslims are so dangerous that we have to register them, make them wear figurative yellow crescents.
He pretends that he has an alternative to Obamacare.
He pretends that lowering taxes will lower the debt.
He pretends that women are getting abortions the day before they go into labor.
He pretends that he cares about down-and-out white people.
He pretends he cares about inner-city black people.
He pretends that crime is up when it is down.
He pretends he’s a good family man.
He pretends that he respects women more than anyone.
And so many Republicans are willing to pretend along with him that they made him the face of the party. They are responsible for this particular creature. Leonard Pitts put it pretty well recently: “Donald Trump, in all his preening infamy, is the end result of the GOP’s years of hypocrisy.”
But some Republicans–count among them Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsay Graham and Speaker Paul Ryan; columnists George Will, Kathleen Parker, and David Brooks–find Trump to be irresponsible. He gives pretending a bad name.
An Immodest Proposal
There is no place anymore for responsible people in the Republican Party. You can argue whether Trump has hi-jacked the party or whether the party created Donald Trump, but either way he’s squeezing out Republicans who tell the truth. Trump is the New Republican. Irresponsible Conservatism.
So what do you do if you’re a Responsible Republican?
Join the other party. The Democratic Party is a big tent, and it’s high time that responsible conservatives quit the Party of Pretending. You are far more likely to serve true conservatism as the right wing of the Democratic Party than you are as the sensible wing of the George Orwell Party.
Call it the new Southern Strategy. Call yourselves the Dixiecrats. Fight for small government and strong defense. Fight to lower health insurance premiums. Fight for manufacturing jobs. You’ll get a lot more done as the swing vote in a majority Democratic Congress than as the rump of Trump’s Republicans.