Dan Gelber: Do you really want be a member of a club that has Donald Trump as its front-runner?

True story.

When we got through security at LaGuardia airport on the way home from a Thanksgiving in New York City, my kids were treated to the profane-laced diatribe of a woman who had been pulled aside for a random TSA check. She was berating the TSA officer who was politely asking her to extend her arms so she could do her job. “Why are you checking me, I’m an American you @%&$ idiot! You need to check the #@&% Muslims (as she pointed to a group of people who apparently were speaking Spanish).”

She went on and on, until a supervisor stepped in and asked the woman to conduct herself civilly considering so many children were in the vicinity.

Her response: “None of this #%$@ will happen after Trump is president!”

The Republican Party’s problem isn’t Donald Trump. Nor is it Donald Trump’s narrow, warped vision for America. The problem is that – according to every poll – a clear plurality and, perhaps, majority, of the Republican electorate apparently shares his vision.

When Trump started his march through the Republican Party, his adversaries avoided calling him out for his xenophobia, misogyny, racism and idiocy. Rather, they politely attributed his success to the fact that, in their judgment, he was simply tapping into the legitimate “anger” and “frustration” of so many apparently angry and frustrated Republican voters.

That was a convenient theory because, presumably, it allowed other candidates to express similar anger and frustration as they tried to wrest voters from The Donald’s column.

As Trump’s vote share has increased, though, they have now taken to attacking Trump for what he is. He has been called “unworthy” and “idiotic.” Many have said, “Trump doesn’t represent who we are!”

The problem is, Trump didn’t just tap into anger and frustration. No, he gives voice to that fairly significant swath of Republican voters who fully embrace his wrongheaded views.

Like it or not, Republicans, Trump does represent who you are. Or at least what your party has become.

Since Richard Nixon’s maligned “Southern strategy” (the GOP’s calculated decision to embrace disenchanted segregationists in order to carry the South on Election Day) the Republican Party has tried to keep its right wing, angry cousin in the family without giving them an invite to the wedding. So nearly, ritualistically, each primary season presidential wannabes pay lip-service to the right with a generous helping of red meat, then run to the center for some healthier fare.

This season, however, that nasty cousin’s not just at the wedding, he’s giving the toast. And it’s a very, very ugly toast.

If you are a fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican, you have to be wondering how you can remain a card-carrying member of a party in which so many people openly spout so much hate and inanity.

You might try to attribute it to the “fringe” of your party. Or unconvincingly try to argue that both parties have their “red zones” – pointing to the popularity of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
Of course, you can’t be a fringe candidate when you’re the front-runner, and the first or second choice of half of the voters being polled.

Plus, the Democrats don’t have a Donald Trump. Nothing close. Trump and Sanders couldn’t be more different. One guy is using fear mongering to divide America; the other is trying to inspire by appealing to Americans’ sense of social justice and fairness.

If you want to judge a party by its outliers, I’m not sure this bodes too well for my colleagues across the aisle.

So to all my right-thinking, centrist Republican friends, maybe it’s time to consider the wisdom of Groucho Marx. To paraphrase him: “Do you really want be a member of any club that has The Donald as its front-runner?”

Dan Gelber is a former State Senator and Democratic Leader of the Florida House. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Dan Gelber



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