By Conor Lynch
After a year of fear-mongering and scapegoating and making a fool of himself on Twitter, Donald Trump formally became the Republican Party’s standard-bearer at the previous week’s Republican National Convention — and in the process, the billionaire forced out numerous party elders, opened the doors to white supremacists and conspiracy theorists and demonstrated once and for all the Grand Old Party is no longer a party of traditional conservatism, but right-wing extremism.
Though many prominent Republicans have made their shock and dismay at the rise of Donald Trump known, his success should hardly come as a surprise to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of American history. This transformation of the GOP didn’t start with Trump — it can be traced all the way back to 1968, when then presidential candidate Richard Nixon brokered a deal with the prominent Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond to deliver him the Southern vote.
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In 1970s, the Republican establishment cynically concluded that the party’s best shot at achieving a super-majority for the foreseeable future was to exploit white resentment and the cultural backlash that had formed in response to the liberation movements of the 1960s. And for decades this strategy paid off. The Reagan revolution was the final death knell for New Deal liberalism, which had dominated American politics since the 1930s, and Republicans became increasingly exploitative of reactionary impulses thereafter.
Thus, Trump is a Frankensteinian monster, created by Republican elites who thought they could pander to their reactionary base indefinitely while serving Wall Street and corporate America in Washington. Trump is a demagogue, of course, and it’s hard to tell what he truly believes in and what he says to rile up resentful, paranoid and bigoted Americans. But it’s clear what his movement — let’s call it Trumpism — is and what it isn’t.