Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Pushed the Republican Party over the Precipice

by Nomad

When this 2016 election fiasco is dissected in the coming years, there will be a hunt to find the person who was most responsible for Donald Trump's elevation to leader of the Republican party. How could this actually have happened? One name that is bound to come up- - is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.
And rightfully so.

When the Elephant Got an Itch

When the historians write about the election of 2016, they will probably not be kind to some of the key figures in the GOP. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus for example. From the moment Trump first declared his candidacy- when misgivings were initially expressed- Priebus reassured the doomsayers that Trump was a good thing. Really! 

After ignoring his own advice about the Republican brand, Priebus has continually issued a series of weak and contradictory messages to Republican members. Last Friday's barrel-bomb of Trump's"hot mic" tapes exposed the foolishness of  ignoring the elephant in the room. At some point, the elephant will get an itch and there goes your china cabinet, there goes the plasma TV, there goes the walls. 
Essentially, that's what happened when Trump's  remarks (which amount to advocating sexual assault) became public knowledge. 

It was undeniable Trump's remarks sounded like the boasts of a sexual predator. Trump predictably issued an apology so stiff and insincere, it resembled a North Korean hostage "confession" video. 
Many Republican in Congress refused to accept Trump's excuses and phony apologies. They were outraged, they said.
Outraged but supportive.

Sickened but Supportive?

When "The Great Pussy-Grabbing Scandal of 2016" broke at the end of last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan was “sickened” by Trump's candid comments. He also announced that he would no longer defend Trump. 
Apparently, the sickened Ryan was not sickened enough. In an attempt to have it both ways, Ryan refuses to defend Trump but also has not withdrawn his support. He was okay with Trump becoming president. 
True to form, Trump lashed out at Ryan (and others) lamenting their lack of leadership. 
Presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio called Trump’s remarks “vulgar, egregious and impossible to justify.” He too is still supporting Trump for president. In Rubio's home state of Florida, In Florida, Clinton leads Trump, 46 percent to 44 percent. 

Pat Toomey, Republican Senator from swing state Pennsylvania, depicted Trump’s comments as “outrageous and unacceptable” and- you guessed it- he won't take up a leadership role and rule out voting for the GOP nominee. Unacceptable doesn't mean what you think it means anymore, I suppose. 
(Two days ago, it was reported that Clinton now has a  breathtaking 12-point advantage in Pennsylvania.)

The 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney tweeted what a lot of Republicans were saying behind closed doors. 
"Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world."
No sign Romney was offended enough to revoke his implied endorsement of Trump.

The GOP's 2008 loser and village crank, John McCain voiced his own disgust with this delicious nonsense.
There are no excuses for Donald Trump's offensive and demeaning comments. No woman should ever be victimized by this kind of inappropriate behavior. He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences.
Why nonsense, you ask? 
Because Trump's inappropriate behavior was transparent from the beginning. And that last night might have sounded bold when McCain dreamed it up but it is grossly inaccurate.
Trump will not bear the burden of his conflict. No way on Earth. Trump alone will not suffer the consequences.

In fact, the entire Republican Party and all of the people who stood by and allowed this pathetic character to overrun the political system should and will suffer. Trump effect could cost the Republican majorities in the Senate and House.

November is coming.

Questioning Priebus's Sincerity

The RNC chairman's initial reaction to last Friday's sordid event seemed appropriately displeased. 
"No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever."
But no comment on the man who said them and his mentality? Condemnation without a call for accountability is hypocrisy in full bloom.

Republican women had every reason to be skeptical of Priebus' sincerity.  This was the RNC chairman who- after being given every indication that Trump was morally, intellectually and emotionally unfit to be president- continued to call Trump a "net positive" for the Republican Party because he was "energizing" voters. 

True, that vote of confidence came in September of 2015, when some people still thought Trump was an entertaining and unconventional type- and not a raving lunatic.  Besides, Trump was saying all the right things that people like Priebus wanted to hear. 
“I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands.”
Who could have predicted that a man as "honest" as Trump would be abusing the RNC's trust?
Not Priebus apparently.

But forgiving Priebus is not quite so easy. 
Last month, when it was obvious to everybody that Trump was wrong wrong wrong, Priebus appeared on Face the Nation and openly threatened Republicans that if they didn't "voluntarily" support Trump, the RNC may not support them in future campaigns.
That the head of a political party should have to make such an astounding statement says a lot of dismal things about the GOP.
In metaphoric terms, the chains and padlocks around the ankles of the Republican Party and Priebus had just pushed the party off the pier and into the murky depths.  

The Indefensible Defended

True to his nature, after a harrowing weekend in which it seemed as though the GOP was about to drop dead, Priebus reiterated his support for Donald Trump. Things were that bad, after all. The indefensible on Friday were quite defensible on Monday morning.

The second debate hadn't been quite the disaster that many Clinton supporters were waiting for. Trump had held it together, at least.
He hadn't locked himself in the bathroom with a bag of cocaine and refused to come out. he hadn't held anybody hostage. He hadn't vanished and hadn't later been found wandering the St.Louis university campus in his pajamas, quoting Nietzsche. 
As long as the bar was low enough, things were looking up.. in a way. 

However, Trump's performance, as passable as it might have been, was hardly reassuring. His behavior was childish and rude.
He attempted (and failed) to use Roger Stone-ish dirty tricks with Bill Clinton accusers in attendance. He had wanted them in the front row of the debate; silly and incorrigible tactics that scream desperation.  

And then, there was something else. Trump sent a chill up the spines of his staffers when he dared to go where they pleaded with him not to go. 
Like a Third World dictator drunk with power, he vowed that, as president, he would order the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to probe Hillary Clinton over her missing emails. No candidate in the past would have ever dared to openly promise to abuse his power in this way, not even Nixon.

(Later, the frazzled campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was left to clear the wreckage and claim that Trump was only making a "quip." Not to worry, folks, it was a mere jest, a jib and quaint bit of harmless wit. Like claiming Obama was "literally" the founder and leader of ISIS.) 

In some ways, it was worse for the party that Trump didn't have a total mental collapse at that debate. Certainly, it would have been entertaining in an extraordinarily cruel way. 
On the other hand, it would have forced Priebus to act decisively, to stage an intervention of sorts. With the hope that Trump is sent to a sanitarium to begin his long-anticipated therapy. 
Now there's simply no time left.

A Party Of Change Incapable of Reform

Decisiveness and facing ugly facts are clearly not virtues in the RNC. The organization might go through the motions but the talk was cheap when it came to making real and long-overdue reforms within the GOP. Look at this excerpt from the RNC's 2012 "Growth and Opportunity Project" report:
The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have.
The report noted the "growing unrest" among Republican women. The party had four years to rehabilitate itself. So what did it do under Priebus? It spent a lot of time and money on a report filled with good sense and promptly disregarded it.

When push came to shove, the RNC saluted a thrice-married billionaire playboy with no political experience and a record of saying immature sexist remarks. As a private citizen, he "joked" that he'd date his own daughter. He boasted no only about cheating on his own wives but with the wives of other men.
That's the tip of the sexist iceberg and here's a more complete list.

In a perfect world, redemption and reformation are always possibilities, of course. Many of those statements could be dismissed as carelessness by a person who enjoys (a lot) media attention. However, following his entry into the presidential race, Trump was still the Trump that so many women loathed.
During the campaign, he offhandedly and rudely commenting on Carly Fiorina's face. There was the "whatever" jibe at Fox News' Megyn Kelly. He even nonchalantly promoted the nutty idea that women ought to be "punished" for having abortions. (He later retracted that, I believe.)

Polls back in January- back when something could have been done to save the Republican bid- found that among all female voters — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — Trump’s favorable rating was 25 percent. But his unfavorable rating was 68 percent, producing a net measure of minus 43 percentage points.  The bottom line is that Trump was never the person who was going to win the hearts and minds of disenfranchised women. 
Trump is, however, the perfect candidate if your goal was to drive 51% of the electorate into the arms of Hillary Clinton.  

Despite suggestions to the contrary (spin, in other words) the "hot-mic" statements were not exceptional examples. Only a bit more graphic perhaps.
The comments were merely a measure of Trump's true character. In Trump's mind, these were perfectly rational statements. It's how he thinks. He is a person who thinks that a woman's vagina is his property, to grab whenever he feels like it. He has come to believe that his status allows him to do what he please to whomever he fancies. And they are incapable of doing anything to stop him. 

In short, this is a person who, as a candidate, was always destined to be a political party wrecker.
*     *     *
After a harrowing weekend in which it seemed as though the GOP was about to drop dead, Priebus, true to his own nature, reiterated his support for Trump.
"Nothing has changed in regard with our relationship," Priebus said in a call with RNC committee members, according to sources on the call. "We are in full coordination with the Trump campaign. We have a great relationship with them. And we are going to continue to work together to make sure he wins in November."
The RNC chairman's endgame strategy seems to be patching things up as best as he can, keeping a lid on any new scandals and simply playing out the clock. There's one problem that he doesn't seem to take into consideration.

When the election is over, after what is shaping up to be a landslide of historical proportions, the Republican voters will be looking for a handy scapegoat. 

And Reince Priebus will do nicely, thank you very much.