Notes on Donald Trump’s self-immolation:
* Actually, the Republican Party has had people like Donald Trump in it who impugned the patriotism of war heroes. In Georgia a man named Saxby Chambliss beat Democrat Max Cleland in a Senate race with this ad, released at the height of Saddam Hussein-induced hysteria in 2002. Cleland, who lost two legs in battle and won the Silver and Bronze stars, didn’t stand a chance.
* In 2004, a 527 political group named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry of fictionalizing his own war record.
* The Republican Party has boasted men who used Trump’s methods. In 1983, as approval for a federal holiday commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. looked secure, President Ronald Reagan quipped, “I guess we’ll know in about thiry-five years” whether King was a Communist.
The modern Republican Party emerged as an anti-New Deal coalition comprising wishy-washy isolationists like Robert Taft and Red baiters like Joseph McCarthy. It spooked the GOP enough for brave Dwight Eisenhower to keep his much vaunted prestige and political capital.
I have never known a Republican Party that didn’t appeal to nativism and jingos; that wouldn’t abandon “smaller government” if it meant losing the vote of a poor white who needed the Social Security check; that wasn’t insane.