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The title of Steven Soderberg’s 1989 film, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, is now a redux in the 2016 presidential contest creating a dramatic plotline that has the Republican Party in a Kamikaze dive. Its presidential nominee, Donald Trump has laid bare the party’s soul and it looks like a vampire peering in a mirror. For the last 12 years, Republican leaders have conducted a post-mortem after every presidential election. “What will it be this year?” George Will asked, following with the answer, “Perhaps, it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan.” After all, one of Mr. Trump’s arrested adolescent development symptoms on display throughout the entire campaign is an impulsivity that makes a preschooler look a like a Zen Buddhist. If Mr. Trump were a defensive football player he would not only seek to tackle the opposing team’s running back but its cheerleaders as well. Remarkably, despite Mr. Trump personally kidnapping the Republican Party from its establishment and running the most renegade presidential campaign in recent history, there are still respectable Republicans, perhaps suffering from the Stockholm syndrome, who have yet to disavow him.
In Florida, the highest profiles are Governor Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
Advisers among Trump’s ranks are Rudy Giuliani, who as Mayor of New York during 9/11, displayed courage and leadership that led the city during its darkest days. Now his character testimony for Mr. Trump includes praise for tax evasion and philandering. Another among Trump’s high-profile supporters is New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, who also serves as his water boy, and whose political reversal of fortune happened as fast as a Springsteen concert sells out in New Jersey. He has gone from one of the promising stars of the party to having an FBI target on his back.
Of course, the most biting irony involving Mr. Trump’s recent tawdry revelation is his vice-presidential running mate, proclaimed Evangelist and social conservative, Mike Pence. After the video surfaced in which Mr. Trump is seen bragging of his sexual prowess in what amounts to sexual assault, Mr. Pence stood by his man because this is politics and the struggle for penultimate power, not Sunday school platitudes.
Other than Pence and Trump’s two political hacks, the Republican dance floor is clearing as fast as a chemistry lab after a sulfuric acid explosion.
If there is a redeeming factor to Mr. Trump presidential campaign it is that he is like tobacco to a bee sting, drawing out all the venom of the Far Right. The daily hot-house homilies from its pundits have brewed a toxic discourse that have immured the most polarized portion of the right to reason, replacing it with anger and hostility to any idea from the left as well as a hatred of Mrs. Clinton that borders on obsession.
Mr. Trump has given voice to an entrenched base that fears an assault on its way of life that at its core is provincial and nationalistic. It sees as a threat globalism and its goals of diversity and multicultural assimilation. Such angst has created other binary divisions: common sense vs. education; common man vs. elitism; blue-collar jobs vs. corporations; nativism vs. immigration; and law-and-order vs. criminal justice reform. No one hews to these fears better than Mr. Trump.
But the calculus of the Republican Party has become even more complex due to his shattering the party’s façade and exposing all its disparate parts. Tea Party, nativists, Evangelicals, devotees of lower taxes, deregulation and free trade agreements, xenophobes tired of war, and interventionists are all elbowing for room in the party. Within this free-for-all, it would appear easy to disavow Mr. Trump and his cypher campaign that offers only red meat issues to a marginal base and, instead, cobble together a coalition to achieve a compromise among the Party’s competing factions. The question is this: after November, Mr. Trump may be dead politically but how much lip service will be paid to his memory.
Many Republicans may find it is no time to be a ventriloquist.
Written by Mike Bernos
Mike Bernos is an award-winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.