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May 16, 2016 Other Voices

What if the great 'reform' is actually already here?

Chris Powell

Connecticut's former and sometime Republican U.S. senator and governor, Lowell P. Weicker Jr., told the Connecticut Post the other day that Donald Trump's capture of the party's presidential nomination may be the “last act” of the party's destruction nationally, leading to “total reformation” of the party.

Maybe. But Trump's ascendance may be that reform already, and since polls show him running competitively against the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the decisive states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, the demise of the Trumpian Republican Party is no sure thing.

Yes, Trump's success suggests that the Religious Right's influence in the party has been greatly exaggerated. His reference during the campaign to “two Corinthians” when he meant “Second Corinthians” was among his big gaffes, but it did him no more harm. He embodies an entire environment without fear of God or even concern for ordinary decency. But no matter — the candidate of the Religious Right, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was easily turned aside even in the Bible Belt.

Meanwhile, the candidates from the presumably sane section of the party — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and John Kasich — only divided it fatally.

Disparaged as they may be by respectable news organizations, the major grievances of Trump supporters are legitimate: illegal immigration and the political establishment's calculated devaluation of citizenship; the disastrous failures of U.S. foreign policy; and the steady decline in incomes. In response to these grievances Trump has gotten away with offering only demagogic nonsense because little else is on offer.

No wall along the Mexican border would be necessary under a government that enforced immigration law against employers. But Trump prefers the wall because it lets him vilify powerless foreigners instead of powerful citizens.

Trump's foreign policy is merely incoherent rage: “America first”except when certain foreign powers are so repugnant that he wants to nuke them.

As for incomes, no one more than Trump has used a system of cronyized government credit and corporate welfare that has pushed wealth upward.

But no matter again, for reveling in his vileness, Trump even more than Bernie Sanders has captured the political mood — a contempt so complete that people feel exempted from responsibility even for their own place in public life.

It's not hard to see what caused this contempt — the exploitation of most basic institutions of government by their supposed custodians, from government employment to finance to education and medical care, undertakings where service to the public has become secondary, service to self primary, and elected officials have done nothing to reverse the trend.

Democrats have “reformed” too. They have managed to become the party of both Wall Street and the slob culture, of corporate and individual welfare. To try to win a pass from the masses for delivering the economy into a new Guilded Age of plutocratic consolidation, the Democrats promise free college tuition for students who never master high school, encourage racial and ethnic minorities to think that their lagging has nothing to do with their own lack of effort, and righteously contrive constitutional rights for any sexual oddity no matter how trivial its grievances nor how much it tramples on social conventions.

So not only has the country's political health collapsed. Its basic social health is collapsing as well under waves of drug addiction and suicide.

Yes, what if the political “reform” is already here — not just with Trump and the Republicans but with Clinton and the Democrats too? What if politics has reformed the people themselves out of their virtue?

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

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