The Republican Party is in a pickle. A sour one, judging by the pucker we’re seeing on the faces of so many GOP leaders. They have a presidential nominee they cannot abide. Or embrace.
House Speaker Paul Ryan isn’t “ready” to support Trump. Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo say they won’t vote for him (or Hillary). Jeb Bush posted on Facebook that he can’t support Trump because he doesn’t have the “character or temperament” and is not a “consistent conservative.” True that. Trump is barely a Republican, having been a registered Democrat all his life until switching to the GOP in 2012.
He didn’t switch, of course, because the scales had fallen from the eyes and, like Saul, he could see clearly. As with everything about Trump, the switch from D to R was shrewdly calculated and largely a matter of self-interest. Mainly an interest in the White House.
Now, as Trump approaches the June 7 California primary to solidify his nomination, the Republican Establishment is wondering what voters hath wrought. Fact is, more than 10 million angry voters who voted for Trump have sent the political class a scathing message: You failed us.
Their votes repudiated the people who have controlled the GOP and Washington for decades. We’re talking about the ancien régime that stirred deep resentment toward immigrants, opposed Obamacare and everything else Obama proposed.. Yet those GOP obstructionists failed to come through with any meaningful improvement in the way of jobs, wages and a better life for white, middle-class working folks, the ones whose forebears voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and still long for Morning in America.
Well, a new morn has dawned and Donald Trump is large and in charge. Huge. He triumphed by getting nearly $2 billion worth of free TV air time over the past year by dint of his celebrity persona and unpredictable, unscripted monologues. The cable networks just couldn’t get enough and saw their ratings and ad revenues soar every time they put Trump on the air. And they were loath to take him off even when he was endlessly repetitive, bombastic, insulting, demagogic and fact free.
But this hasn’t been a campaign about facts as much as one of tone and attitude. Lots of ’tude. Trump loyalists forgive his gaffes and love his brash, larger-than-life personality and willingness to boldly, unapologetically say what P.C. politicians will not (and should not): That immigrants are ruining the country and need to be shipped back to wherever they came from; that we need a wall (“a beautiful wall, believe me”) along the border with Mexico; that foreign Muslims should be stopped from entering the country and police should patrol Muslim American neighborhoods ’cause who knows what terror acts they’re cooking up.
Such fascism. Such bigotry. It’s all very unsettling. This must be how the Weimar Republic felt circa 1934. Or how the United States felt prior to World War II when Father Coughlin went on radio with his nativist, anti-semitic tirades. Or how it felt In the late ’30s when the “America First” movement thrived on a platform of non-intervention similar to Trump’s today. When crowds at Trump rallies chant, “USA, USA,” the underlying message I hear is one of angry white people saying, America belongs to us, not to people with brown or black skin and difficult-to-pronounce names.
It’s only slightly less disheartening over on the Democratic side where Hillary Clinton is running an uninspiring 1980’s-style campaign and Bernie Sanders’ socialist prescription for the country — Let’s be like Denmark! — is hardly the right medicine for what ails us.
Everywhere I go people want to talk about the presidential race and what a bummer it is. At the 50th anniversary gala last Saturday of Legal Services of Greater Miami, an outstanding non-profit that provides free legal help to the poor, I mixed with a room full of lawyers of all political persuasions who all seem depressed about the race.
Their questions were basically these: What in the world is up with Trump? Why is the race so ugly and divisive? Why is this presidential campaign making me anxious instead of excited?
Of course, I had no answers. I could say only that it’s going to get even worse. Trump and Clinton will claw each other’s eyes out before it’s over. Forget about either one appealing to our “better angels.”
There is, however, a worthwhile alternative for anyone clinically depressed by the Clinton/Trump choice: Go local. There’s a wide variety of local and state races on the August and November ballots worth your time and, yes, money.
For example, the mayor’s race in Miami-Dade features two diametrically opposed but qualified candidates — pick one. Or get behind one of the candidates seeking to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate; there are two Democrats and five Republicans vying for that seat, one or two of whom would make a fine senator — choose one.
Even more local, two capable state lawmakers from Miami, Republican Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez, are vying for the state Senate seat in newly-drawn district 37, which stretches from downtown Miami to Cutler Bay. If that’s your district, get involved.
If partisan politics isn’t your thing, consider helping to create the Underline, the 10-mile long linear park that will run beneath Metrorail. Or get involved with one of the environmental groups fighting to force FPL to clean up the cooling canals at Turkey Point. Or sign up to mentor a boy or girl in a tough, inner-city neighborhood.
The presidential race will run its course, but we need not be pulled down by the ugly undertow. I’d advise following Tip O’Neill’s advice. All politics — and sometimes the kind that gives the greatest satisfaction — are truly local.