Some will remember that Ronald Reagan used to describe the GOP as a “big tent,” meaning it had room for a large spectrum of approaches to government, from nearly liberal to arch conservative.
Well, his alleged “big tent” certainly is “past tents.” The GOP range these days goes from hard right to extremist cuckoo bird. Anybody who doesn’t stand for exclusion and protecting the rich at all costs is dismissed as a “RINO” — a “Republican in Name Only.” The “Conscience of a Conservative” has been gradually overwhelmed by the expedient of whatever-it-takes-to-win demagoguery. President Donald Trump is not really somebody who upset the party establishment apple cart; he is simply the one who seized on the rotten fruits of destructive politics.
The big tent is no more. For proof, we need only look under the tattered big top that is the United States Capitol. There a few partisans, like Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who don’t want to splatter themselves with scum anymore, so they’re pulling out: They’ve decided not to run for re-election. “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end,” said Flake on the Senate floor. “In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order, that phrase being ‘the new normal.’”
Unfortunately, soon-to-be-ex-Sen. Flake, it is the new normal — or, more accurately, the accumulated normal after generations of bitter divisiveness. Also unfortunately, most of your fellow Republicans are either true believers in the hatefulness that is Trump or true believers in surviving a brutal primary and surviving Steve Bannon, who is hell-bent on making life miserable for anyone who resists the far Reich. So they’re toeing the line without giving a second thought to whether civilization will survive such incivility.
At the White House, the most astonishing comment of the week came from the president himself, speaking about just that: “I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am,” he told reporters. “You know, people don’t understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I’m a very intelligent person. You know, the fact is I think — I really believe — I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.”
It should be pointed out that Ted Kaczynski is among history’s scoundrels who went to an Ivy League college (Harvard class of 1962). He’s serving life without parole in Supermax prison. He was the Unabomber. Donald Trump (University of Pennsylvania class of 1968) is serving an indeterminate term in the White House. He’s been known to throw a few bombs himself, as in constantly.
Right now, his focus is on ravaging the tax code after failing, for the moment, at gutting health care in the United States. When it comes to taxes, the Republicans have always been in lockstep. They want to lower them, which is laudable until we note that what they really want is to lower them for their wealthy patrons, no matter whether they add to the crippling national debt; no matter whether they cut social services for the poor, disabled and elderly; and no matter whether they crush the few crumbs the middle class has left — 401Ks, for instance, which allow for millions of people to eke out their retirement. The same approach targets the current deduction for state and local taxes. That hits every homeowner, because those state and local taxes include property taxes. Never mind, they shout; we need revenue to make the well-off weller-off.
As for those who won’t be able to afford their homes, don’t worry. They can live in a big tent. And hope it’s not as phony as the Republican one.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.