If you want a picture of the future, imagine Donald Trump Jr, yelling about America’s bright and beautiful tomorrow – forever.
The image of the eldest son of the US President may differ in detail from that of the Big Brother shoe stamping on the human face. But the message of this week’s Republican National Convention is Orwellian. There is no discernible platform or even a ghost agenda for Donald Trump’s second term in office. There is therefore no possibility of dissent. His main substitutes are members of his own family. The message is Mr. Trump, all of Mr. Trump and nothing but Mr. Trump.
Those who question the future of American Democracy are behind the curve. Half have already packed their bags. Parties are what drives a democracy. There is no longer a Republican distinct from the cult of personality that he has become. It is neither conservative nor any other discernible ideology. That’s what Mr. Trump says it is at one point. One day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could be America’s Deadliest Enemy. Standing ovation. The next day, Mr. Kim is Mr. Trump’s soul brother. The audience remains standing.
The temptation is to say that Mr. Trump has hijacked the American Grand Old Party. Then he developed Stockholm syndrome. This is not the whole story. The president is the natural product of a party that has been moving towards this result for many years. Mr Trump’s greatest catalyst, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch mcconnell, helped sow the seeds during Barack Obama’s presidency. He changed the nature of American politics by making it an all-or-nothing battle in which victory was the only goal, regardless of the outcome.
It’s hardly surprising that this tactic paves the way for a president who thinks that the only goal of conservatism is to win. Power is no longer a means to a conservative end. It is the end.
None of Mr. Trump’s predecessors as a Republican nominee – Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney – were invited to this week’s show, and John McCain wouldn’t have been if he was. still alive. The vast array of Conservative think tanks that have formed over the last generation have also not been consulted. At the palm of Mr. Trump’s finger, they would flood the area with private sector solutions for everything from the future of technology to education. Their services are no longer needed.
This Republican Party dances to all the tunes that come to Mr. Trump’s mind. What is missing is a link to a coherent plan for his second term. For the first time in its history, the party has not published an agenda this year. It is simply referred to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. “The Republican Party has supported and will enthusiastically continue to support President America First’s program,” he said. the one page list of “resolutions” consisted of a series of vague, vague points, leaving Mr. Trump some leeway in deciding what they really would be. The truth, as George Orwell would have said, is what Mr. Trump decides it will be.
It means no new ideas on how to fight the pandemic, America’s challenge of overtaking. Five months after Mr. Trump predicted the virus would magically disappear, there are now 180,000 American deaths. On the eve of the convention, Mr. Trump unveiled emergency approval for plasma therapy he claimed he would transform the Covid-19 treatment. Scientists have almost unanimously rejected his figures.
There were also no ideas on climate change. Many conservatives have subscribes to the idea a green tax – the kind of market-based remedy that a Republican president would once grab. Ditto for policies on how to deal with China on trade, technology, and human rights. Again, the closet is empty. Mr. Trump ran on infrastructure in 2016. He doesn’t even pretend to have a plan anymore.
His party is post-ideas. His plan is simply Mr. Trump. According to Melania Trump, the first lady, her husband is a man of “total honesty”. He is the “bodyguard of western civilizationSays Charlie Kirk, a conservative student activist. He has done more for African Americans than any US president in history, says another. Etc.
If Mr. Trump had listened to political consultants, he would have devoted his show to Joe Biden’s weaknesses and his own policy of American renewal. The last thing Mr. Trump should do is make November a referendum on himself.
It is too late for that. After setting the conditions for their own kidnapping, Republicans must act as if they are still in the robbery. Those who escaped, like John Kasich, the former presidential candidate, fled to Mr. Biden’s camp. For perhaps the first time in US history, more true conservatives spoke at this year’s Democratic convention than at the Republican convention. America still has two ideological parties. It’s just that the two – Conservatives and Socialists – ran aground on the Democratic boat.
Then there’s Mr. Trump’s Orwellian jamboree. Programming is smooth. He knows the reality TV industry. Each episode is a drama in itself that has no connection with those before and after. The convention had a series of African-American speakers. Yet Mr. Trump is warning white suburbs that they will be destroyed by social housing. His party is far from caring about any contradiction between message and reality.
Whether Mr. Trump wins or loses in November, he now owns Republicans. They are now prisoners of the Frankenstein they helped create.