Thursday, February 18, 2016

Donald Trump is the Break

One of this blog's old semi-forgotten obsessions is when the Republican Party would break away from George W. Bush. I started thinking about it in the waning years of the Bush Administration. At the time I thought that there would eventually be a break from President Bush, when GOP candidates and commentators felt free to criticize him after such a long period when any criticism of their commander in chief was treated as a foundational heresy. Eventually, I started to call this expected phenomenon "the break." See, for example, these three posts from 2007.

My prediction never came true. That is, the Republican Party never publicly questioned anything that President Bush did. Even what seemed like obvious errors were buried under the general "don't retreat, reload" philosophy of the party. Eventually I gave up looking for signs of a break, thinking that, like with Reagan, the Republicans were more inclined to canonization than critical reflection.

But reading this got me thinking about "the break" for the first time in years. Donald Trump has directly attacked the Bush legacy from within the Republican Party and seems to have survived it. Not only has he attacked the legacy in general, he is criticizing that ridiculous "Bush kept us safe" idea, an idea that is central to Bush's greatest claimed accomplishment. The fact that Trump is getting away with it, not necessarily with the Republican commentators but with rank-and-file Republican voters, suggests that among the Republican faithful a real break from the Bush administration is now finally happening.

Think about how far Republicans have come on this issue in the past 15 years. Trump has said far more anti-Bush things than anything the Dixie Chicks ever said, and no one is gathering to pulp "The Art of the Deal."