Garbage Time

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over…” Everyone knows the opening of that maudlin song by Jule Styne, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It was introduced in the 1956 musical “Bells Are Ringing” – but just about everyone has recorded it. Willie Nelson is particularly good – he’s great at being regretful and sad – but most people remember that song from ABC’s Monday Night Football back in the seventies. Frank Gifford did the play-by-play, Howard Cosell provided analysis of this and that, deciding who was wonderful and who was hopeless at any given moment, and Don Meredith did what they call color commentary. He was the one who would always sing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” at garbage time, doing his best Willie Nelson impersonation.

Garbage time is, of course, when one team is so far behind that they now cannot possibly win, or even tie, but there are a few minutes left on the clock. Those minutes have to be played, to make the game official, but there’s no point to any of it. Everyone goes through the motions for no apparent reason, play after play, and each team usually sends in its third string to give them a taste of a real game – but the party really is over, and Don Meredith is up in the broadcast booth singing away, to let the audience know there’s now no point in taking anything that follows too seriously.

Where is Don Meredith when you need him? He should be singing for the Republican Party. Turn out the lights. Your 2016 presidential nominee is going to be Donald Trump, who is turning out to be an embarrassment, doing a good imitation of a fascist demagogue. After vilifying Mexicans and maybe all Hispanics, and sneering at the Black Lives Matter folks, and saying John McCain was no war hero and calling most everyone else in the Republican Party useless fools and total losers, and deeply offending the Party’s rich Jewish donors, now he wants to keep all Muslims out of America, one way or another.

Face it. This is your party now:

A coalition of America’s top white nationalists again praised an initiative from Republican front-runner Donald Trump, this time praising his plan to restrict Muslim immigration to the United States.

In what is becoming a fairly routine ritual in a campaign that has seen no shortage of racially charged rhetoric from the Republican front-runner, American’s prominent white nationalists again found comfort in a proposal from The Donald.

“I would not let in any Muslim immigrants at all, from Syria or from anywhere else,” said Jared Taylor, who runs the site American Renaissance (which says that “one of the most destructive myths of modern times is that people of all races have the same average intelligence”), in an email to BuzzFeed News in mid-November. “They only cause trouble. Even if they don’t throw bombs, they want special food, won’t work with pork, want special swimming pool hours for women only, etc. Who needs them?”

Taylor, unprompted, emailed BuzzFeed News on Monday after Trump’s comments, forwarding the previous comments with addendum “you saw it here first.”

Add this:

Former Klu Klux Klan official and politician David Duke offered his support for Trump’s proposal on his radio program on Tuesday, saying the media is attacking Trump because his comments call into question a U.S. foreign policy pushed by Zionism.

“The Jewish knives are coming out on Donald Trump,” Duke said on his radio show of Trump’s comments.

“How come it’s against America values to want to preserve the heritage of the country?” Duke asked, paraphrasing Trump. “We’re overwhelmingly a Christian country and overwhelmingly a European country.”

There’s much more. You’re a Republican? Donald Trump has turned your party into a White Nationalist neo-Nazi party, so your party, as you know it, is over. He is going there:

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump told TIME that he does not know whether he would have supported or opposed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“I would have had to be there at the time to tell you, to give you a proper answer,” he said during a recent interview in his office in New York City. “I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer.”

Trump added that he believes wartime sometimes requires difficult choices. “It’s a tough thing. It’s tough,” he said. “But you know war is tough. And winning is tough. We don’t win anymore. We don’t win wars anymore. We don’t win wars anymore. We’re not a strong country anymore. We’re just so off.”

Pressed numerous times during an appearance Monday morning on MSNBC to say whether or not the internment violated American values, Trump refused to respond.

And this note:

President Ronald Reagan signed legislation in 1988 apologizing to the more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry, including many Americans, who were placed in U.S. detention camps during World War II. The law also authorized reparations for survivors of the detention. “The internment of the individuals of Japanese ancestry was caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership,” the legislation read.

Trump doesn’t care:

Asked whether “increasingly being compared to Hitler” is cause for concern Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos today he instead finds comfort in what he sees as his proposal’s similarity to the work of a previous U.S. president.

“No, because what I’m doing is no different than FDR,” Trump said during a phone interview this morning.

“This is a president who is highly respected by all,” Trump said of Franklin D. Roosevelt. “He did the same thing. If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse. I mean he was talking about the Germans because we were at war. We are now at war.”

What was he talking about? That was hard to see:

Questioned further about which of Roosevelt’s policies he supported, specifically whether he supports the idea of internment camps that Roosevelt established to relocate Japanese-Americans during World War II, Trump denied such support, but did cite which of FDR’s policies he supports.

He was just saying stuff, but the word is out:

The most pointed comparison between Trump and Hitler came this morning when the Philadelphia Daily News published a picture of Trump holding his right hand up at what appears to be a speech, with the headline “The New Furor.”

Trump smiled. The rest of the Republican Party might as well put out the lights, or toss him out of the party, because they don’t want to have anything to do with this crap. But if they do that they lose his enthusiastic followers, and then who do they have left, the Club for Growth and the Chamber of Commerce folks? That’s not much of a political party and they’d be playing garbage time, those long minutes of half-hearted effort when you know the game was over long ago.

No, they have to take their party back, but they don’t know how:

Donald Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. revived a testy split between Republican Party congressional and state leaders and the billionaire’s grass-roots supporters.

In Washington, the nation’s two most powerful Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined on Tuesday in the GOP establishment’s near-universal condemnation of the presidential candidate’s proposal. But in Iowa and New Hampshire, the key early nominating states, Trump’s backers moved forcefully to counter party insiders’ censure.

“It is un-Republican, it is unconstitutional and it is un-American,” Jennifer Horn, the New Hampshire state party chairman said in a statement.

That prompted New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, who backs Mr. Trump, to call for Ms. Horn’s resignation. He said establishment Republicans “don’t like Trump because he tells it like it is. I’m not prejudiced against Muslims, but until we can straighten them out and know who’s who and who is coming into our country, we have to stop the immigration.”

They are now arguing about who gets to call whom un-Republican, and that may not matter soon:

The internal strife, which Mr. Trump has both helped to create and stoked in his quest for the GOP presidential nomination, also rekindled an old threat: That he’ll quit the race and run as an independent candidate in November, significantly upping the chances of a Democrat winning.

That threat is as potent as ever after a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday found more than two-thirds of Trump supporters nationwide would back him as an independent candidate for president.

It was a data-point not lost on Mr. Trump. “A new poll indicates that 68% of my supporters would vote for me if I departed the GOP and ran as an independent,” he tweeted Tuesday.

That’s a threat. “That’s a nice little political party you’ve got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.”

He’s not backing down:

Asked by ABC if he has regrets, he replied: “Not at all. We have to do the right thing. Somebody in this country has to say what’s right.”

And then there’s Iowa:

Talk-radio host Jeff Angelo expressed his disagreement with Mr. Trump over the proposal during his morning radio show in Des Moines. The response was an uninterrupted string of callers jamming the station’s phone lines to say they back the candidate.

“I expected a little balance in the phone calls, but I just got people yelling at me,” Mr. Angelo said in an interview. “Certainly a segment of the morning audience is very conservative, and it may have been a surprise to hear somebody on talk radio disagree with them.”

This will not go well:

Trump’s appeal in Iowa has worn thin with party leaders. Barbara Hovland, the GOP chairwoman in Cerro Gordo County, hosted a Trump event in June before the official launch of the businessman’s campaign. But his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, Ms. Hovland said, is beyond what’s acceptable in political discourse. “You can’t say whatever you want without backing up any facts,” said Ms. Hovland, who endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday.

And there’s Washington:

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona warned that the party’s chances next November would be doomed if GOP presidential candidates don’t condemn Mr. Trump for his comments about immigrants, Muslims and other minorities. “It’s an electoral disaster waiting to happen,” Mr. Flake said in an interview.

A ban would be “completely inconsistent with American values,” said Mr. McConnell, who added that such a policy may hinder people like the king of Jordan from visiting the U.S.

House Speaker Paul Ryan privately warned House Republicans to avoid embracing Mr. Trump’s stance, and later told reporters the proposal is “not conservatism.”

“What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more important it’s not what this country stands for,” Mr. Ryan said. “Not only are there many Muslims serving in our armed forces dying for this country, there are Muslims serving right here in the House working every day to uphold and to defend the Constitution.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in interviews Tuesday that “I don’t agree” with the Mr. Trump.

They may not have been listening to what “their” party seems to stand for now, but at least someone is being careful:

Sen. Ted Cruz, who overtook Mr. Trump in one Iowa poll released Monday, said, “I disagree with that proposal” but refused to criticize Mr. Trump for making it. “I like Donald Trump,” Mr. Cruz said. “A lot of our friends here have encouraged me to criticize and attack Donald Trump. I am not interested in doing so.”

Cruz stood alone:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on MSNBC “we’ll lose” if Mr. Trump becomes the GOP nominee. And former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina warned in an Iowa radio interview that nominating Mr. Trump would be catastrophic for the party. “Hillary Clinton thinks of Donald Trump as a Christmas package wrapped up under the tree,” she said.

And then Hillary twisted the knife:

Hours after a new poll gave Donald J. Trump a strong lead in the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton arrived here to blast his proposed prohibition on Muslims entering the country and accuse other Republican presidential candidates of maligning Muslims in their own ways.

While many of his Republican rivals have condemned Mr. Trump’s idea, candidates like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida would keep out Syrian Muslim refugees, but take in Christians from that war-torn country, while Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wouldn’t allow Syrian orphans into the nation. Mrs. Clinton has called for the United States to admit 65,000 Syrians and urged Americans to focus on defeating the Islamic State and other “radical jihadists” and not cast suspicions on Muslims.

“Their language may be more veiled than Trump’s, but their ideas are not so different,” Mrs. Clinton contended about the other Republican candidates during a town hall meeting at a school gymnasium here. “They are all driving the same argument that jihadists are trying to advance – that we are at war not with barbarous jihadists but with an entire religion.”

There was no recovery from that:

Mr. Bush, for one, reiterated his disgust with Mr. Trump during his own campaign swing through New Hampshire, arguing that “you’ve got to find the proper balance of believing in American values and being serious and real about keeping us safe.” But he also suggested that Mrs. Clinton would only benefit politically from the broad, bipartisan furor over the notion of barring Muslims.

“I just don’t believe that Republicans are going to buy this language that guarantees that Hillary Clinton has a far better chance of winning,” Mr. Bush told reporters in Manchester.

Why doesn’t he believe that? Perhaps he doesn’t know his party anymore. That’s what Slate’s Will Saletan argues here:

Maybe it’s time for those of us who have predicted Trump’s demise – reporters, liberals, moderate Republicans – to face an unpleasant possibility. Trump isn’t out of touch with the electorate. We are. Trump speaks for a plurality of today’s Republicans, and many independents as well. That’s just as true on the subject of Muslims as on other topics. One of America’s two ruling parties is controlled by voters who are ready to turn the government against a religious minority.

If you don’t think this can happen in our country, you haven’t been paying attention to recent polls. In June, Gallup asked Americans, “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be Muslim, would you vote for that person?” Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents said yes. Fifty-four percent of Republicans said no.

Ben Carson, a leading GOP presidential candidate, shared that view. In September, he said on national television that Americans shouldn’t “put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Shortly after his remark, a Suffolk University/USA Today poll asked likely voters: “Would you vote for a qualified Muslim for president?” Sixty-three percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents said they would. But Republicans, by a margin of more than 30 percentage points, said they wouldn’t. Likely Republican voters were also closely divided on whether President Obama was a Muslim. Forty-one percent said he wasn’t. Thirty-three percent said he was.

A Rasmussen survey, also taken after Carson’s statement, asked likely voters: “Would you personally be willing to vote for a Muslim president?” Seventy-three percent of Republicans said they wouldn’t. So did 48 percent of unaffiliated voters. To smoke out respondents who were only pretending to be open-minded, the survey asked people whether most of their “family, friends and co-workers” were willing to vote for a Muslim. Only 10 percent of Republicans said yes.

A whole lot of additional polling data follows that, but it comes down to this:

Together, these polls paint a sobering picture of Trump’s party. Forty-three percent of Republicans say the government should monitor most Muslims. Fifty-four percent say they wouldn’t vote for a qualified Muslim for president, even if that candidate were nominated by the GOP. Fifty-seven percent say Islamic values are at odds with American values. More than 60 percent say not only that mosques should be closed, based on suspected ties to extremists, but also that Muslims in general think they’re above the law. As for Trump’s proposal to bar Muslim refugees, it’s not even close. When the question is presented without cues, 5 of every 6 Republicans agree with him.

So let’s stop pretending the problem is Trump. The problem is the base – and by many measures, the majority – of the Republican Party. If you think we can’t elect a government in 2016 that would target a religious minority, you’re underestimating Trump. And you’re overestimating America.

That’s depressing, and that calls for some color commentary, which Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir provides:

When a purportedly major presidential candidate, leading in the polls less than two months before the first votes are cast, proposes that we keep people out of the country based entirely on their religion – well, it feels like apocalyptic science-fiction… but I can only conclude that the moment to stand up and be counted is upon us. This is the moment to draw a line in the political sand and the moment to observe that it can happen here. It’s the moment to ask yourself whose side you’re on, and the moment to observe that those who would sacrifice essential liberty for the sake of temporary safety will get neither. Would you have spoken out in Germany in 1933, or 1936, or 1939, risking your own safety and that of your family, or would you have kept on going with your head down? It is time for those questions too, and also for the one that U.S. Army chief counsel Joseph N. Welch famously asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

We don’t have to ask that question about Donald Trump, whose chief selling point has been his thoroughgoing lack of decency, along with his complete disconnection from political reality, legal plausibility and rational discourse. But all those questions apply with bitter and urgent relevance, however, to the rest of us. Trump, c’est nous – or at least it is we who have created him and enabled his outrages. Now we face Victor Frankenstein’s problem: Having unleashed evil upon the world, largely because we wanted to see what would happen, how do we unmake the monster or undo his deeds? Win or lose, Trump has left his reeking polecat stench on American politics. From now on, the wholesale deportation of immigrants, or the exclusion and persecution of adherents to a particular faith, are mainstream political positions and not just the province of white supremacists with weird beards and multicolored Geocities-style websites.

The writing here may be a bit too colorful for some, but it gets to the point:

Has Trump finally gone too far? Well, by now we ought to understand that’s a stupid question. His job is to go too far, and to drag the rest of us along with him, inch by inch. Everyone who wants to be seen as respectable in politics and media and any other arena of public life has backed away from Trump’s latest policy brain-fart in pearl-clutching horror, including most but not quite all of the other Republican presidential candidates. That’s better than hearing people agree with him, I guess, and it’s somewhat reassuring to discover that even in this year of upside-down politics there are things that still strike almost everyone as beyond the pale. But in some cases you have to be surprised that the words of shock and dismay didn’t curdle on their lips, or that the phrases of righteous indignation didn’t turn into scorpions and sting their utterers to death on the way out.

When Chris Christie has argued that not even five-year-old children from Syria should be admitted to the United States as refugees, and Jeb Bush has suggested that we should admit only those refugees who happen to be Christians, and Marco Rubio has argued whatever version of the no-refugees position he has been told puts him slightly to the right of Bush and slightly to the left of Trump and Ted Cruz, what possible right do those craven and spineless hypocrites, those mollusks of the shifting ideological tides, have to object to Trump pushing those ideas toward their logical extreme? Without even considering the 24/7 Father Coughlin-style demagoguery of Fox News, which has been spreading indiscriminate anti-Muslim hatred for the last fourteen years, what right do Joe Scarborough or Chris Matthews or the false-equivalence talking heads of CNN have to pull long faces and announce that this, at last, is unacceptable and un-American, whereas all the crazy stuff we were talking about yesterday was totally fine?

Things are darker than that:

From the beginning of his campaign, Trump has served as the release valve for the Republican Id, saying things that we all know many “base voters” and “ordinary Americans” are thinking – you don’t need me to decode those terms, I imagine – but that the party’s “establishment” candidates feel compelled to pussyfoot around or cloak in euphemism. He has repeatedly stripped those cloaks of euphemism and equivocation away from his rivals, and especially from Rubio and Bush, the two candidates whom the Koch brothers and other deep-pockets GOP backers would presumably prefer.

Those guys (and Christie, to a lesser extent) have variously tried to tack with the Trumpian wind and then against it, tried to stay in his shadow, and tried to attach themselves to him like limpets, suggesting that they will accomplish almost the same impossible things he has promised without being quite as mean. Once again he has played them for fools, and forced them to face an unpalatable political choice: They can slither closer to the Trump position than they have already, revealing themselves to be craven, soulless panderers who will stop at nothing. Maybe we can bar Muslim tourists on alternate days? Or subject them all to cavity searches and blasts of radiation? Or exclude the ones who really “look Muslim”? Failing that, Trump’s rivals can stand there like doofuses, soberly announcing that the Donald has finally gone too far, and revealing themselves to the Republican electorate as Obama-loving, terrorist-coddling pantywaist traitors.

It really is garbage time:

Trump’s gargoyle act isn’t funny or useful or “provocative” anymore, and his comic-opera portrayal of Benito Mussolini – can you parody someone who was a parody in the first place? – is getting closer to the real thing with every passing day. Has Trump gone too far? It’s the wrong question. America has gone much too far down a dark road, and we don’t have a light or a map to find our way back.

And Don Meredith is singing. “Turn out the lights, the party’s over…”


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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