If given enough time and creativity, there is practically nothing Republicans won’t blame on President Obama – even the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. NPR reported last week on Jeb Bush’s latest argument against the man who took his frontrunner mantle away:
That division in the country, Bush argued, has allowed for an unconventional candidate to rise.“I would argue that Donald Trump is in fact a creature of Barack Obama,” he continued. “But for Barack Obama, Donald Trump’s effect would not be nearly as strong as it is. We’re living in a divided country right now, and we need political leaders, rather than continuing to divide as both President Obama and Donald Trump [do], to unite us.”
Just on the surface, the idea of President Obama and Donald Trump occupying the same divisive space is plainly silly, and it’s hard to imagine even Jeb Bush believing Jeb Bush’s rhetoric.
Sure, as Republican politics has become increasingly radicalized, political divisions have grown deeper. For example, it’s worth appreciating the fact that national polling shows Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama each broke modern records for polarization. But to lay this development at the feet of the current president, who went to almost comedic lengths to try to work with Republicans, is impossible to take seriously.
But look a little closer and a more entertaining pattern emerges. Who, exactly, is to blame for Trump’s current dominance over the GOP’s presidential field? Consider the list of culprits:
* July 20, 2015: ”Why is Trump surging? Blame the media.”
* August 12, 2015: “Sick of Donald Trump’s rise? Blame pop culture.”
* August 27, 2015: “Blame liberals for the rise of Trump.”
And now, evidently, Trump is “a creature of Barack Obama” – because, well, why the heck not.
For those keeping score, we’re apparently supposed to believe Trump has fared well with Republican voters because of the media, pop culture, liberals, and now the president. Who’ll be added to the list next? Your guess is as good as mine.
This may be an unpleasant thought for many Republican officials and media pundits, but it’s possible – just possible – that Trump climbed in the polls because the Republican Party’s base likes what it’s heard from him. The GOP – its leaders, its candidates, its media allies, et al – have spent a generation preparing Republican voters to embrace exactly what Trump is selling, and blaming others is a fool’s errand.
Put it this way: someone has paved the way for conservatives to respond to Trump’s brand of racially charged demagoguery, and it’s clearly not President Obama.
Something Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum said a while back rings true: “The party elders may not like Trump, but he’s the price they pay for the devil’s bargain they made years ago to aggressively go after the angry white guy vote. Eventually the perfect AWG candidate was going to come along, and it was never likely to be pretty when it happened. And it isn’t.”