It was an amoral Republican Party that begat Donald Trump – not the reverse. Today’s beleaguered Republican Party and its self-centered politicians are responsible for their own troubles. It is typically hypocritical for today’s milk-toast Republicans to blame Trump for the sorry state of their party. If there are existential risks to the Republican Party in today’s political environment it is because over the long haul, the changing American electorate has moved beyond the lure and reach of the traditional and reprehensible Republican dog whistle politics and their trickle-down economics. Trump represents the last and deservedly dying breath of Lee Atwater’s vision of the Republican Party and America.

Lee Atwater 1981: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The American people are not stupid. We do not aspire to Atwater’s trickle down poverty or to be racially victimized. Atwater, who was President Ronald Reagan’s right hand man redesigned the Republican Party’s political messaging in the 1980’s.  He began the use of code words in order gentrify Republican racism and keep a political grip on the American South.  He used trickle down economics in order to scam blue collar (Reagan) Democrats into rooting for huge tax breaks for millionaires. That strategy kept Reagan in the White House eight long years. And it worked right up until 2016 when Donald Trump brazenly lifted the white hood off the Republican Party’s still coded racism and Bernie Sanders denounced both major political parties for their fawning allegiance to the 1% and their abject failure to represent the hurting American middle-class.

Out of Bernie and Trump something good will come our way. Thanks to them, the two major parties will have to change or die and this election will be proof of that rule. In the meantime good riddance to Trump and his Atwater version of the Republican Party. After almost four decades it is a welcome death and long overdue.

As for the Democrats, Hilary can either reinvigorate her party or be the siren that lures the party on to the rocks. That story will be told in how she regards the struggle of working-class Americans. As President, should she offer only timid and typical Democratic lip service to the middle-class, like the Republicans in 2016, the middle-class will soon be ignoring both her and her party.

In the future neither Republican nor Democratic same ‘ol, same ‘ol, dog whistle politics will suffice to keep a political party viable and their constituencies in line. Thanks Donald. Thanks Bernie.

 

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