A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: Following Tuesday’s primary election, the Republican Party now the party of Trump

WASHINGTON – There can no longer be any doubt that the Republican Party, once known as the party of Lincoln and, later, the party of Reagan, is now the party of Trump.

The proof comes in Tuesday night’s primary election results. In South Carolina, state Rep. Katie Arrington toppled incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford to capture the GOP nomination for that state’s 1st Congressional District seat centered around Charleston. President Trump (ick!) involved himself in the race at the last moment, endorsing Arrington, an enthusiastic supporter, over Sanford, a former governor who rather infamously once went hiking on the Appalachian Trail (look it up) and was a rather eminent never-Trumper.

Arrington placed the cherry atop the sundae at her victory party by declaring, “We are the party of Donald J. Trump.’’

Meanwhile, a notorious racist, or, if you prefer, a self-avowed “pro-white’’ activist, named Corey Stewart, won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. He will face incumbent Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, his party’s 2016 nominee for vice president, in the fall, as Old Dominion Republicans apparently seek the return of the commonwealth to its status as the seat of the Confederacy.

Like Arrington, Stewart sought the nomination with Trump’s blessing. It establishes, in GOP primaries, at least, that it’s better to tie yourself to Trump rather than express misgivings. The signs were there earlier in the campaign season when another incumbent, Rep. Martha Roby, R-AL, who broke with Trump during his successful presidential campaign after he was heard bragging about grabbing certain women by the genitals, was forced into a run-off.

Recent polls also show that Republicans are growing increasingly fond of their boy in the White House. An Economist/YouGov poll released on June 13 places Trump’s overall favorability at a lowly 41 percent, but 87 percent of Republicans questioned gave him a thumbs up.

So, it now appears, after an early degree of reluctance from the faithful, the old GOP is now, officially, the Trump Party, which certainly raises questions about what sort of country Trumpsters desire, since it seems to bear little resemblance to the city on the hill most Americans have been striving toward for generations.

On the positive side, Trump supporters can point to a healthy economy and low unemployment, a legacy from the president’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who continues to receive little credit for the turnaround he engineered after inheriting the direst economic circumstances since the Great Depression.

Trump hasn’t exactly thrown cold water on that progress, at least in the short term. He did, however, champion and sign legislation that cut taxes primarily benefitting the business sector – a reduction that analysts maintain will add $1 trillion to an already bloated federal deficit. But Trump likely will be long gone by the time that bill comes due and, under the normal rules of engagement, he secures credit, for the time being, for keeping the ship afloat.

After that there ain’t much to write home about. He is appointing a record number of judges to the federal bench, a circumstance drawing praise from his devotees that could possibly set the judiciary back to Dred Scott times. But that’s a philosophical question and it can’t be questioned that he’s giving the party’s meat eaters what they want. And every president worth his or her salt is going to appoint as many like-minded individuals to the bench as humanly possible.

Still, it’s obvious Trump is making hash out of foreign affairs, treating outposts like Russia and North Korea as if they’re our long-lost friends while offering the back of his hand to traditional allies, introducing what promises to be a nasty trade war that could ultimately wreak havoc on any number of national economies while China sits back and smiles.

Other than the trade issue, Trump’s aims are pretty much in sync with what used to be known as the Republican Party – basically operating a government primarily to the benefit of white people, which has for some time now constituted the party’s base as suggested by election results.

But Trump is going about the task in a rather unorthodox fashion, paying little heed to what passes as propriety, calling his political foes insulting names, belittling women and minorities, dispatching with any recognizable sort of ethical behavior, ignoring the unfortunate and, most of all, lying like a rug, as we used to say.

The administration’s ethical failings can be summed up in one person – Environmental Protection Administrator Scott “Possum’’ Pruitt, the pride of Lexington and Georgetown College – who has never encountered an ethical barrier he wasn’t eager to ignore.

It would be wrong, and perhaps premature, to suggest that Possum is the most corrupt individual to wrangle a job within the federal government since Warren Harding departed this mortal coil but his ongoing efforts to ignore common decency are so penny-ante that it’s laughable. You name it — ripping off the taxpayer for the cost of first class flights, an around-the-clock security team, inducing his protectors to travel from store-to-store to purchase a certain kind of body lotion, a sweetheart deal on a Capitol Hill apartment, accepting University of Kentucky basketball tickets from a coal baron, trying to get Chick-fil-A to grant his wife a franchise. His grift is so low it’s embarrassing, especially since he hails from the commonwealth, where con men aim much higher.

Pruitt has spawned something like a dozen investigations and he still has a job because, well he’s willing to do Trump’s dirty work, literally, soiling the environment he’s sworn to protect. And Trump himself has, of course, failed to even straddle the ethical line, refusing to divulge his income tax returns, using his position to make more money for his private interests.

It’s as scuzzy as it gets and his supporters continue to urge him to make a mockery of the entire governmental enterprise.

But the real sin concerns the administration’s evil – there’s no other word to describe it – initiative to separate children from their parents who are seeking asylum. It is occurring dozens of times a day along the southern border, involving mostly brown people, of course, with the children labeled “unaccompanied minors” and sent to government custody or foster care while the parents are labeled criminals and sent to jail.

It’s an obscenity perpetrated in the name of the American people. A report in the Boston Globe maintains that in some cases children are swept up “by Border Patrol agents who said they were going to give them a bath. As the hours passed, it dawned on the mothers the kids were not coming back.”

That raises the specter of concentration camp inmates being led into the showers,

Trump’s rational for the atrocity – that the administration is following a “Democratic law” that requires him to do so and that Congress could change said law if it doesn’t like it – is what normally is referred to as a lie. According to Vox, “There is no law that requires immigrant families to be separated. The decision to charge everyone crossing the border with illegal entry — and the decision to charge asylum seekers in criminal court rather than waiting to see if they qualify for asylum — are both decisions the Trump administration has made.’’

This is the type of person the United States is led by – a man who cruelly breaks up families and then lies about it. And his supporters just don’t seem to care.

But then again the man lies about everything.

We are, indeed through the looking glass. Remember the conversation involving Humpty Dumpty and Alice:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Hence, hereinafter, President Donald J. “Humpty Dumpty’’ Trump.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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