The closer he gets to leaving office, the more the 44th president of the United States is speaking his mind. On Thursday night in Ohio, campaigning for Democratic Senate candidate Ted Strickland, the man who once had a hard time publicly criticizing the Republican Party cut loose with one of the best litanies about the GOP’s responsibility for Donald Trump that anyone has come up with to date.
The problem is not that all Republicans think the way this guy does. The problem is that they’ve been riding this tiger for a long time. They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience …
Donald Trump, as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building by himself, but he slapped his name on it and took credit for it. And that’s what’s happened in their party. “
This is telling because it gets at the cynicism that has so frequently characterized the attitude of Republican pols toward their own “base”: They are supposed to get sufficiently lathered up by right-wing media and conspiracy theorists that they will snake-dance to the polls every two years to smite the secular-socialist foe — but then get back in line and loyally support a Beltway D.C. agenda that’s more focused on the GOP’s donor base than its electoral base.
Sooner or later, somebody was going to come along and blow up the whole game by embracing “all kinds of crazy” and attacking party elites for not living up to their promises to throw tens of millions of people out of their health-care plans or defund Planned Parenthood or jail Hillary Clinton or force Obama to bend the knee or defend Christians from the horrific threat of department stores with “Happy Holidays” signs. This cycle was a mighty ripe time for it, with a scattered presidential field of normal pols and rank-and-file GOP frustration at an all-time high. The retread Mike Huckabee made feints in that direction, as did the erratic Ben Carson, and for a while there it looked like Ted Cruz might embody the demand for a more radical congressional GOP not afraid of shutting down the government.
But instead it was Trump who came along, and as Obama pointed out, this was a man who did not know enough or care enough to develop a real ideology or agenda. He just exploited the carefully prepared ground with a few xenophobic and racially loaded themes and slapped his brand on it. By the time his appeal took hold in the GOP base, it was too late for Republicans to demand anything else. The demand and supply curves for “all kinds of crazy” had met.
And that’s why Obama’s cutting comments represent something more than just a shot of fine (if abrasive) campaign rhetoric. If Republicans imagine they can throw Trump out with the garbage the day after the election, they are profoundly mistaken about how he beat Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz from the get-go. As they try to explain to their base that “the crazy” is, well, crazy, there will be no more attentive and amused observer than Barack Obama. After all, he’s been the object of “all kinds of crazy” from the day he took office.