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Trump Drives Spike Into Culture War Politics

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Trump Drives Spike Into Culture War Politics

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A demonstrator dressed as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump protests outside the Trump Tower building in midtown Manhattan in New York March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Days before the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz paraded his two young daughters in matching pink dresses and spoke darkly of “putting little girls alone in a bathroom with grown men.”

This was a visual that, frankly, we could have done without. Thankfully, Donald Trump locked it in Ripley’s museum of the politically bizarre by trouncing Cruz in that conservative state’s primary.

It was Trump who had said that transgender people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate.” It was he who noted that there have been “very few problems” with transgender people using ladies’ rooms. Trump didn’t say — but could have — that men presenting themselves as women have been using women’s facilities for a long time, with the other occupants none the wiser or unconcerned.

So has Trump deep-sixed the culture war gambit in Republican politics? The formula is to draw votes by pounding on some controversy of little consequence to most people, preferably with a sex angle attached. The 2004 presidential election in Ohio was a textbook case. Placing a measure to ban gay marriage on the ballot probably gave George W. Bush — whose main game was tax cuts — a narrow victory.

Our friends the Koch brothers routinely give money to socially conservative groups to win over middle- or working-class followers otherwise not served by the family’s economic agenda. The brothers themselves have shrugged at gay marriage, saying they have no problem with it.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the working-class whites targeted by culture warriors don’t really care all that much about these issues — or care a lot less about them than they do about their falling incomes. Perhaps they’ve been voting all these years for an attitude, hitting back at the “liberal elites” who they feel rap them on the knuckles when they speak their mind. Trump’s magic potion involves adding attitude while subtracting threats to Social Security, Medicare and other government programs average folks depend on.

Trump has stomped on so many of the right wing’s most cherished wedge issues — while winning majorities among the Republican base — it gets you wondering how big that tide of moral umbrage really was. How much of it was a mirage pulled off with talk radio’s smoke and mirrors?

Abortion is a truly difficult issue. Your writer believes an abortion should be easy (and free) to obtain early in a pregnancy and limited later on. Others oppose abortion altogether, and it is this group’s genuine concerns that the right seeks to stoke.

As a result, it’s the rare Republican who will put in a good word for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides a variety of women’s health services in addition to abortions. But Trump praised the organization for doing the former without apology. And he won races in the heart of value-voter America — including the entire Deep South.

For liberals and moderates alike, Trump deserves gratitude for putting away Cruz. (Too bad about John Kasich, though.) It spared us from having to hear his running mate, Carly Fiorina, go on about Planned Parenthood’s harvesting “body parts” from a kicking fetus, a complete fiction.

Making things up happens to be a Trump specialty, so there’s some poetic justice in his volleying back some outright fabrications. His suggestion that Cruz’s father helped John Kennedy’s assassin is a classic of the genre.

Putting an end to culture warmongering as a political strategy — or at least dialing it back — could go down as Trump’s second-best contribution to the quality of America’s civic life. His best contribution would be to lose badly in November. Luckily, on getting himself not elected in the general, Trump has made a strong start.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: A demonstrator dressed as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump protests outside the Trump Tower building in midtown Manhattan in New York March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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13 Comments

  1. Theodora30 May 5, 2016

    I consider a war on Muslims part of the culture war. Ditto for demonizing brown skinned immigrants.

    Reply
    1. JPHALL May 5, 2016

      But he keeps back tracking on those issues just like the others mentioned.

      Reply
  2. Dominick Vila May 5, 2016

    One of the most surprising, and unexpected, revelations associated with the Trump phenomena is the absence of social, fiscal, and foreign policy conservatism within the Republican party.
    In addition to embracing amoral values worthy of a philanderer; insulting women; threatening ethnic minorities; denigrating veterans; threatening to destabilize the world by dismantling NATO and pulling our troops most of our strategic positions in foreign lands; and bragging about his unpredictability and immaturity, The Donald is, by default, turned the Office of the Presidency and our international credibility into a joke.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron May 5, 2016

      And those are his Good Points!

      Reply
      1. Pamelamhanlin May 6, 2016

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        Reply
    2. charleo1 May 5, 2016

      For me, the nomination of Trump clearly illustrates everything the Republican Party has said, thought about, or wanted the country at large to believe about it’s core constituents, or it’s own so called Conservative ideology, has been a fraud. I am excited I’ll at last get to vote against the SOB. I regret I’m allowed to do it only once.

      Reply
  3. I of John May 5, 2016

    Look for the silver lining i suppose.

    Reply
    1. charleo1 May 5, 2016

      If you find it, the Republicans would sure like to know where it is.

      Reply
  4. Otto T. Goat May 5, 2016

    He’s going to drive a wooden spike into Hillary.

    Reply
    1. Siegfried Heydrich May 5, 2016

      Oh, good god, Otto . . . . what are you, 14?

      Reply
    2. King of America May 5, 2016

      He’s going to lose by more than Goldwater, and it will be freaking hilarious.

      Reply
    3. Independent1 May 5, 2016

      CNN breaking news from early yesterday morning:

      The new CNN/ORC Poll, completed ahead of Donald Trump’s victory last night, found Hillary Clinton leads 54% to 41%, a 13-point edge over the New York businessman, her largest lead since July (of 2015).

      Reply
  5. Siegfried Heydrich May 5, 2016

    I really have to laugh at the poor idealistic fools who think that Drumpf ‘stands for’ anything other then Drumpf. Nothing else matters. This is a reality TV show now. This is a cross between Survivor and WWE pro wrestling. Policy doesn’t matter. Ideology doesn’t matter. Rationality doesn’t matter. Sanity doesn’t matter. Agendas don’t matter. Positions don’t matter. It’s all a show, and that’s all his base cares about.

    They have their Hero. He’s a political Ric Flair, and as long as Drumpf is brash and loud and flamboyant and says all the things the bases wishes they could say in public without being embarrassed, they’ll stand by with him all the way. As long as he shouts and calls names and throws chairs and acts like a pro ‘rassler, that’s all that matters to his base.

    Everyone keeps thinking this is politics. It isn’t. This is entertainment, this is the 21st century version of the Circus Maximus. (Are You Not Amused?!?) And until people understand that, and the simple fact that his base is beyond reaching with any kind of reason or rationality, they’re just going to be whizzing into the wind trying to be rational; with either him or his supporters..

    Reply

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