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May 12, 2016
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Trumping the GOP

Opinion

May 12, 2016

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Amere technicality now rests between Donald Trump and the Republican presidential nomination. With Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kashich dropping out of the race, posing no significant challenge to the real-estate magnate, it is set to be a Hillary vs Trump battle till the US presidential election in November. But what exactly drove Republican voters to choose a brash reality TV star, a divisive leader with inflammatory views on minorities, women and the welfare state? How did the party of conservative politics once headed by Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan come to this? History has shown that Nero rose towards the fall of the Roman Empire. It seems Trump’s rise heralds the same for the Republicans. It reveals the dearth of national leaders in the party, now defined by the worst aspects of right-wing political thought. For the Democrats, leaving the Republican Party in such a state of political and moral bankruptcy is President Barack Obama’s greatest legacy. Under Obama’s presidency, social issues which were once politically grey areas have become more defined along party lines, with the Democrats actively championing the social justice narrative within the US and around the world. In his second term, Obama’s ideological purity on healthcare, immigration reform, same-sex rights, women’s rights, gun control and diplomacy has rallied democratic voters who yearned for a steadfast commander-in-chief, especially after a first term of politicking and flip flops. In January, Obama passed executive orders tightening gun regulation. In October last year Obama chose diplomacy over military action to bring Iran to the negotiating table, achieving the historic nuclear deal to curb the development of Iran’s nuclear arsenal and reduce tensions in the Middle East. Obama energised his push for affordable healthcare against an adamant Republican Party, letting the ‘socialist’ jibes to roll off his back. In June

2015, the US Supreme Court backed Obama’s stance that healthcare was not a privilege, but a right for all American citizens. Obama also pushed the Democratic Party’s green agenda, issuing an executive order in March 2015 to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next decade. In 2013, Obama signed executive orders to overhaul the immigration system. He gave parents of American citizens and legal resident children who have lived in the US for more than five years relief from deportation if they register with the government, undergo background checks and pay taxes. The order was aimed at allowing immigration enforcement officials to focus resources on deporting felons, not families. In 2012, at the beginning of his second term, Obama became the first sitting American president to support samesex marriage, repealing the controversial ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy for the American military. A few years later in July 2015, the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriage across the US. All of the policy initiatives in Obama’s second term allowed him to settle the Democratic Party in the centreleft of American politics. It wasn’t an easy ride. As he pushed the Democratic Party’’ image into a state of flux he suffered politically, namely in the 2014 midterm elections, where the Republicans took control of Congress. Nonetheless, Obama set the narrative for the Democrats ahead of the presidential elections, aligning the party to the sentiments of its voter base and core social justice agenda. In 2016, the Democratic mantra has pan-America support. Obama 2.0 allowed a Democratic idealist like Bernie Sanders to launch his campaign and achieve significant traction with voters. It even pushed Hillary Clinton to rein in the flip-flops on key social issues, and stay true to the basic Democratic agenda. As Obama rooted the Democratic Party’s identity, he also pushed the Republicans to do the same to pose an ideological counter, and both sides began to move away from the political centre. To the dismay of Republican leaders, Donald Trump has succeeded in anchoring the party’s identity in the extreme right of American politics. A sharp counter to a resurgent Democratic Party, Trump’s impetuous, hateful, war drum narrative has reduced the party of conservative ethos to the collective of the irrational. The Republican frontrunner has rendered veteran party leaders with administrative records politically inert. Republicans must also fear Trump. He is first a businessman. If he faces defeat, he can cut his losses and walk away from the presidential race without a single thought. But in doing so, he will leave the GOP’s credibility crippled for years to come. Trump’s rise has become a joke around the world, with no world leader even thinking about the prospect of dealing with the reality TV star as commanderin- chief of the US. This is the consequence of the Republicans opposing Obama as he tried to be on the right side of history and channel the will of the majority of American citizens over multiple politically divisive issues. This is Obama’s legacy, pushing the Republican Party to the edge to survive and find refuge in the toxic narrative of Donald Trump. Obama laid the seeds for the Republicans to give birth to their monster and now the Democrats applaud and the GOP laments as the monster runs amok and tears down his creators.

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