Don­ald Trump is not a Repub­li­can aber­ra­tion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - E.J. Dionne is syn­di­cated by The Washington Post Writ­ers Group. EJ Dionne Colum­nist

Colum­nist E.J. Dionne echoes Pres­i­dent Obama's state­ment that the GOP nom­i­nee is a prod­uct of the party line.

The lies and dis­tor­tions that Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign mes­sen­gers de­ploy to ra­tio­nal­ize their can­di­date’s out­ra­geous­ness are more typ­i­cal of the last cou­ple of decades of our pol­i­tics than we’d like to admit.

Es­pe­cially re­veal­ing and in­fu­ri­at­ing are the ef­forts to use Al Gore as a hu­man shield against the pub­lic in­dig­na­tion Trump aroused by re­fus­ing to say whether he would ac­cept the ver­dict of a demo­cratic elec­tion. To com­pare what Gore did in the af­ter­math of the con­tested 2000 elec­tion with what Trump is do­ing now is like analo­giz­ing a fire mar­shal in­ves­ti­gat­ing the causes of a blaze to an ar­son­ist.

But first, the larger les­son. As Trump has plum­meted in the polls, more con­ven­tional Repub­li­cans who thought they could get away with sup­port­ing him have tried to pre­tend that Trump and his mes­sage were foisted on them from some dis­tant planet.

On Thurs­day in Florida, Pres­i­dent Obama called the GOP’s bluff. “Trump didn’t come out of nowhere,” he de­clared. “For years, Repub­li­can politi­cians and far-right me­dia out­lets had just been pump­ing out all kinds of toxic, crazy stuff . ... Don­ald Trump didn’t start all this. Like he usu­ally does, he just slapped his name on it, took credit for it, and pro­moted the heck out of it.”

Obama cat­a­loged the crazi­ness he had in mind: the “birther thing,” cli­mate change as “a Chi­nese hoax,” and claims that “I’m about to steal every­body’s guns in the mid­dle of the night and de­clare mar­tial law, but some­how I still need a teleprompter to fin­ish a sen­tence.”

The head­line news was about Obama tak­ing on Sen. Marco Ru­bio for call­ing Trump “dan­ger­ous” and a “con artist” and then de­cid­ing it was still OK to en­dorse him. A race is on be­tween now and Elec­tion Day: Can Repub­li­can can­di­dates run away from Trump fast enough to keep their op­po­nents from tag­ging them as en­ablers of the most dan­ger­ous can­di­date ever nom­i­nated by ei­ther party?

Many po­lit­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­cans have tried to cover them­selves by con­demn­ing Trump’s re­fusal to say he’d ac­cept the elec­tion’s out­come if he lost. But his elec­tion-rig­ging charges have a long his­tory.

Part of Trump’s ra­tio­nale rests on ac­cu­sa­tions that the me­dia are stacked against him. This has been a sta­ple Repub­li­can talk­ing point since the days of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. And Trump’s in­sis­tence that Democrats win elec­tions through “voter fraud,” mostly in big cities and mi­nor­ity neigh­bor­hoods, is the ground­less, ev­i­dence-less ra­tio­nal­iza­tion Repub­li­cans have used for years to jus­tify laws aimed at dis­en­fran­chis­ing those who are in­clined to vote against them.

Voter sup­pres­sion is a far graver dan­ger to our democ­racy than the van­ish­ingly tiny amount of fraud.

Which brings us to Gore. Know­ing the po­lit­i­cal trou­ble Trump’s bla­tant dis­re­spect for the demo­cratic process is caus­ing him, the Repub­li­can’s de­fend­ers are re­ly­ing on in­no­cence by as­so­ci­a­tion. “I’m go­ing to keep re­mind­ing every­body about the 2000 elec­tion, when Al Gore said he would ac­cept the re­sults of the elec­tion and then did not,” said Kellyanne Con­way, Trump’s cam­paign man­ager. “He re­tracted his con­ces­sion.”

This, of course, is ridicu­lous, as the fact-check­ers have shown. Gore’s call to Bush af­ter mid­night con­ced­ing the race ac­tu­ally showed how much re­spect he had for the elec­toral process. It was only af­ter news or­ga­ni­za­tions with­drew their calls of Florida for Bush, de­priv­ing him of an Elec­toral Col­lege ma­jor­ity, that Gore de­cided a re­count was called for.

It’s very im­por­tant to no­tice that Con­way was ef­fec­tively chan­nel­ing the ef­forts of Bush par­ti­sans dur­ing the Florida strug­gle. They at­tacked Gore sim­ply be­cause he wanted a re­count in an ag­o­niz­ingly close race. The Wall Street Jour­nal’s ed­i­to­ri­al­ists spoke then of “a Gore Coup d’Etat” while Rush Lim­baugh flatly as­serted that Gore was trying to “steal it.” Lim­baugh also said this: “We know the whole thing has been rigged.”

Yes, we’ve heard al­most ev­ery­thing Trump and his min­ions are say­ing be­fore. You won­der how much in­tro­spec­tion Repub­li­cans will be ca­pa­ble of af­ter all the votes are counted this year.

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