Friday, July 10, 2015

Creating/Rejecting a Monster

To witness the effects of the Republicans' toxic brand this year, all you need to do is look at the Party running as fast as it can away from its own creation. Donald Trump is the spawn of reality TV crossed with talk radio, and even though they created him, the Party leadership can't stand what they have wrought.

"If I Cannot Inspire Love, I Will Cause Fear!"

Whereas Frankenstein's monster tried but failed to balance ego and id, Trump is 100% ego. He need not commune with the hoi polloi like other candidates; he need only be himself and get a lot of TV time. And he's right about that strategy! Back in the '80s, when I volunteered at Harlem Hospital, I asked one of my young teenage gunshot patients what book he wanted, and he requested Trump's biography, then a bestseller. "I love that guy; he's soooo rich!" In Trump world, the only truth worth speaking is the bottom line.

So with Trump riding high in the polls, the GOP is through being the party of God and is full bore the party of Mammon. As Trump echoes conservative talk radio and sounds the alarm on immigrants, the Middle East, and China, all of the other GOP candidates look completely irrelevant.

Meanwhile, Back in the Village

My town of Dryden was once solidly Republican—the kind of Republican that grew out of family history rather than serious ideology and was nurtured by friendships, community involvement, and church. As the Tea Party influence grew in the region, we Democrats started hearing from unhappy, once-committed Republicans who no longer recognized their own Party.

This year, for the first time, the Dryden GOP isn't running a slate of candidates. They aren't running a single person for Town Board or Town Supervisor. They will have one candidate for Town Clerk, and that's it.

"Who Was I? What Was I? Whence Did I Come?"

Instead, the Democrats' competition will come from the Independence Party, which likes to bill itself as the "largest third-party organization in the nation," an achievement derived specifically from the fact that when people register to vote, they often check "Independence" thinking that it means that they are then independent, or unaffiliated with a party. To be fair, the Independence Party in NY now addresses that problem as part of their party platform, a platform that is otherwise remarkably bland. Dream Act? They're for it. Medical marijuana? Ditto.

Typically in Tompkins County, people run on the Independence Party as a second line, running on the Republican line first. Our county Republican platform, it should be pointed out, is solidly anti-science, small-government Tea Party. In other towns in the county, folks are blithely running on both lines again this year, quite as if they hadn't read either platform. But here in Dryden, the Independence Party has taken charge, led by Tom Hatfield, who once led the Dryden GOP but had a change of heart when the Party started going off the rails during the Bush years.

I'm not saying the Dryden Independence candidates aren't solidly red. They pretty much are. It remains to be seen what their local platform will look like, but it's certainly possible to make predictions. I just think it's fascinating that the villagers, at least some of them armed with pitchforks, since it's haying time, are fighting back against the product of their once-beloved GOP. With luck, this won't be a campaign where church attendance or saluting the flag or "extreme environmentalism" are prime topics of conversation. And maybe, in time, the Republicans in town can take their Party back.

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