The Republican Party is in a full-blown, hand-wringing, migraine-inducing, 'the sky is falling' meltdown over its leading presidential candidate Donald Trump and what his rise means to the future of the GOP. The thing Republicans are forgetting in their current drama, though, is that when it comes to the millions of voters who adore Trump's bombast and his fear-mongering, they have no one to blame but themselves.
It's no secret that GOP party leaders and some other presidential contenders have been trying to figure out for weeks, if not months, what they were going to do -- paraphrasing a line from The Sound of Music -- with a problem like Donald Trump. But in the days since Trump's remark following the San Bernardino terror attacks, that all Muslims should be stopped from entering the United States, it finally dawned on Republicans that they must stop mincing words about the danger a Trump candidacy would mean not just for America, but for the longevity of the party itself.
It's not the first time that Trump has tossed out comments that conjure up images of Nazi Germany. Like when Trump suggested that internment camps for American Muslims, similar to those used for Japanese-Americans in World War II, were a good idea. Or that maybe Muslims in America should wear clothing that would allow us to identify them by sight, as Hitler did with the Jews during World War II.
Are you getting shivers up your spine yet? Apparently, some Republicans finally are and are trying to find words to let Americans know that Trump is dangerous.
Senator Lindsey Graham has called Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic" bigot. Carly Fiorina says if Trump and his Muslim hate are in the still around in the general election, Hillary Clinton will "wipe the floor with him." Republican strategists are agreeing with their Democratic counterparts that Trump is stoking Islamophobia.
When liberals are nodding 'yes' to former Vice President Dick Cheney's statement that Trump's call to ban all Muslims "goes against everything we stand for," one has to wonder what kind of tear has occurred in the fabric of our political universe.
But here's the thing. The Republican Party helped pave the way for Trump to be where he is now. It laid the groundwork with soft denials about race-based claims about President Obama and his birth certificate. When members of its party were relentless with false statements about the president being Muslim, using such statements to suggest he couldn't be trusted to look out for America's best interests, the GOP pushback was mild at best.
The GOP's candidates helped to create an atmosphere of voter anger and discontent that has simmered and festered for years. Now, candidate Trump has come along to play off all of that fear, and even as the GOP tries to back away from Trump, it can't erase the long-term damage its done to its supporters and its party.
The only good news for Republicans is that they aren't the only ones to blame for their Trump problem. The media share in that special distinction, too. They've allowed Trump to become the leading figure some see him as by exercising virtually no editorial control or news judgment, and giving Trump free reign, either live or by phone, to be on shows as often as he wants and whenever he wants to say and spew whatever new hateful opinion he has concocted. Only in the last week have any talk show hosts dared to challenge Trump, as real journalists should have been doing all along, on the hateful platform that he is promoting.
For both the media and the GOP, efforts to curb Trump mania are too little, too late. Neither should be shocked about the monster they have helped to create - they fed him, they nurtured him, and they treated him like royalty. Over many years, they created the conditions in which a Trump candidacy could bloom and flourish. Turning that around in time for another - any other - Republican to become their 2016 presidential candidate seems unlikely. But it's not too late for politicians, and the media who cover them, to take a serious time out to re-examine both how our political parties operate and whether the media have been accomplice to creating a space for the rise of a dangerous 21st century demagogue.