Lucifer, Trump and Who’s Behind the GOP Factions?
Former Clinton advisor Bill Curry says most of the Establishment likes neo-liberal predictability and continuity, they don’t trust Trump and could prefer Clinton; some GOP politicians are supporting Trump’s populist fascism
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
The war within the Republican Party continues to intensify. A recent quote from John Boehner, saying that Ted Cruz is Lucifer, and as a Canadian I kind of like that in some ways because it’s nice for Canadians not to be always called so nice. But at any rate, if you were typecasting a Hollywood movie it seems to me he would be a good candidate to play a Lucifer politician, the Stop Trump movement is trying to use Cruz, obviously, to stop Trump. It’s not obvious that the people who are supporting Cruz to stop Trump would ever want Cruz. Allies of Trump, Chris Christie, apparently now John Boehner and some others, are still pushing that they can work with Trump, but many sections of the Republican elites are saying they cannot. Even some, apparently, suggestion from the Koch brothers that there’s actually something they like about Hillary Clinton more than they like Trump.
Now joining us to talk about all of this is Bill Curry. Bill joins us from Farmington, Connecticut. He’s a former White House counselor to President Clinton. He’s a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut, and he’s also–I have to explain. When I said counselor to President Clinton I mean he advised and wrote speeches, not that he was a lawyer. And he’s a Bernie Sanders supporter, but we’re not now going to talk about Bernie Sanders. We’re going to talk about Donald Trump. So thanks for joining us, Bill.
BILL CURRY: My pleasure.
JAY: So how much of a sense do you have of who’s behind the different factions here? Behind all of this are the people with a lot of money. And the various billionaires and multi-multi-millionaires that play in the Republican field, and some play in both Republican and Democrat, but the political faces we see fighting it out, whether, you know, whether it’s a Boehner, a Cruz, a Trump, or some of the others that are weighing in on this, you know, certainly as individual politicians and as sort of political groupings, they have their own agenda, they have their own likes, dislikes, they have hates, they have loves. But behind all this is the, to somewhat extent, the puppet masters that hold the money. How much do you understand? What are the different factions, and why do some of these factions seem ready to let the Republican Party completely implode rather than have Trump?
CURRY: Well, we’re finding out right now, just go to that last point, how many of those there really are. And my guess is it’s a smaller group. A few weeks ago there seemed to be lots of Republicans, though very few were willing to go on the record, who felt that as a matter of principle they had to oppose Donald Trump. And now it turns out that there are fewer of those than we thought. The most persistent opposition will come from the think tanks, it will come from the most ideological of the Republicans. Because for them, you know, libertarianism, libertarian economics, a certain kind of military adventurism, their enormous belief in free trade, globalization, and so forth. All those things that they believe in deeply, and that they built their institutions on, those are threatened, because that’s not who Trump is. And there’s another group, a smaller group of people who are sort of aligned with the party apparatus who just think they’ll lose their jobs.
So there’s a certain ideological think tank world and a smaller party apparatchik world that will fight until the very end, because his victory means their defeat. There’s another group that have opposed him just because they think he’s going to lose. And they’re not so sure. They’re not so sure they can do anything about it, and they’re not so sure he’s going to lose. And so a lot of the wind’s gone out of their sails. There are, then there are voters who, you know, and that’s a whole other group. There’s still 20 percent of the Republican Party that says they’re just not planning on ever voting for this guy. And how their thinking will go from here on out, it’s not clear.
But I’ll just–. Let me just summarize it by saying Trump reminds us–to me, Trump deserves the word ‘fascist’. You know, yeah, it’s not Hitler, but it’s not too far from Mussolini. And people will say, but he doesn’t really believe it. And I’m not sure Mussolini did, you know, or that anyone does. And they’ll say that his thinking is eclectic, and it certainly is. The Democratic Party gifted him many of the most important issues of economic populism that were once the birthright of the Democratic Party. They’ve given them to Trump to run on in this election. It’s astounding.
But the fact of the matter is that being a fascist was always ideologically nondescript. It didn’t matter if you were for or against universal healthcare or global trade so long as you were racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe, so long as you were a bully, so long as you were using, willing to use the instruments of power to quell the process of democracy. That’s what makes a fascist, not some bundle of platform positions.
And so that, and that truly is–what we know about Trump is we have no idea what’s in his head, except probably not much in terms of, in terms of issue, knowledge, or conviction. We only know that of these kinds of, of the bullying, of all the things that I talked about, we only know that he’s willing to use it, you know, in a heartbeat. He’s willing to play that role. And that in itself should disqualify him from being president of the United States. But it clearly won’t disqualify him from being the Republican nominee.
CURRY: [Where] the rest of the party plays out, we’re going to find out an awful lot, which one of them’s, which Republicans really object to what Trump represents, and which ones are willing now to pretend that he’ll do a light media makeover and they’ll now pretend that it’s okay. We’re about, you know, from John Kasich to John Boehner, we’re about to find out who all these people really are.
JAY: Now, in terms of the math, what’s the most likely scenario here now? Is he going to have this before the convention?
CURRY: Well, I think so. Again, I, you know, my crystal ball’s been on the fritz. But I’ll say that it still looks as if, if you look at this the way they do on cable television and you count the delegates that are available in the primaries, he’s actually still not likely to win enough pledged delegates to go past this magic 1,237 number till he gets to California, the very last day. And that’s the day he would get those.
But what happened this week was, in winning all these Northeastern states, he won by such big margins that the argument that he doesn’t really represent the party, a lot of the air went out of that argument. Exit polls said fewer Republicans were, were dead set against him, and more Republicans were accepting of him. Those same exit polls said the Republicans feel the guy with the most delegates should get the nomination.
And so I still believe that the elite of his party would like to stop him, but they’re not going to take on the entire party, and they’re not going to do it without some strong arguments. And so it’s not just that Trump won an amazing 60% nearly on average in a three-way contest, almost unheard of, and thus won all those delegates, it’s that it gives him a lot of other opportunities. He can’t win all the pledged delegates to California, but in all those little states where Cruz was picking up delegates in closed-door meetings, I think that just stopped. I think that’s all over now. Or close to it. It’s certainly a lot harder. So Trump has all that momentum, and therefore he may get there even, even earlier.
JAY: All right. Let’s assume he gets there, or he has enough of the delegates that it would just tear the party to such shreds to try to take it away from him. So let’s for the sake of argument assume he’s going to be the candidate.
Some of the big money that traditionally funds the Republican Party, are they, number one, not going to like this guy because in theory he doesn’t need their money or doesn’t need much of it, I don’t know if he can actually fund a presidential campaign. But it seems to me he could actually do some of the Sanders-type funding if he had to, and probably with some success. A lot of small donors, if he had to do it. And, and, there’s a lot of that money that isn’t so ideological. Some is. Big money actually might prefer a President Clinton, because she’s far more dependent on the billionaires, and, and enmeshed with them.
CURRY: I mean, they’ve, first of all, all establishments like predictability and continuity. You know, that’s very much dear to their hearts. And Clinton is nothing if not predictable and continuous, and so they like that. And secondly, they’re feeling the same thing I said some of the elite apparatchiks and think tanks, a good number of the money people. I can’t say exactly how many in, in–again, we’re about to find out. But a good number of them are really part of a bipartisan consensus. And I would argue that the whole story of partisan polarization and partisan gridlock misses the point of what’s really happened in American politics, and cultural issues such as the ones that Trump exploits and the Republicans and Democrats war over, whether it’s immigration or abortion or same-sex marriage or guns, there are deep divisions between the base of each party. The further up you go, the closer they get in their views. And by the time they get to the very top, everybody’s for fiscal austerity. Everybody’s for the Iraq war. Everybody’s for free trade. Everybody thinks that globalization and information technology are going to solve all of our problems just by creating unbounded wealth. And you can go right across the board.
When Hillary Clinton this week gave her victory speech it was the first time she ever came out [forswearing] Social Security cuts, and she’s the leading Democrat. Donald Trump is against any cuts in Social Security and Medicare. How about that. And there are many other things like this, where Hillary really is the candidate of that neoliberal consensus. We think of extreme Republicans and moderate Democrats at war. But really there’s a, there is a bipartisan consensus in this country. It operates at the very top. And Clinton is its poster child.
JAY: Right. So what you do if you’re–.
CURRY: We’ll find out how many of the donors, how many of the donors are really in the libertarian fringe, and how many of the donors are really in that neoliberal bipartisan consensus. Because those people will be attracted to Clinton over Trump, no question about it.
JAY: And they don’t really have to fund Clinton. What they need to do is, you know, not fund the Republican opposition, the Trump, and throw all their money at Congress. Because if you can control Congress you’re really going to control, if there ever was a Trump presidency, and two, in all likelihood you’ll have control of Congress with a Clinton presidency, which is as you say a continuation of the status quo.
CURRY: And I would also just say, I’ve been making an argument for 25 years now that money actually means less in these elections than we think, that power is in a sense its own illusion. And it’s particularly true with money, and it’s particularly true at the top. You know, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, both in their very different ways, far exceeded everyone’s expectations with hardly a penny from the super wealthy to propel them. And in presidential politics people see enough of you on television, the ads just don’t matter. You can’t look at one of these states and make an empirical argument that an ad war won the race. And all these primaries so far. And it won’t be true in the general election.
And so it goes to some of my arguments about what we should do with the Democratic Party. Let the big money go where it wants to go. If you build a small donor base behind clear, powerful ideas, and you find a few good candidates willing to run on them, you can beat the money. That, that, that I think is, is what we’re finding out here. And so a lot of these guys may dump Trump, and it may not really affect his prospects.
By the, one other thing you said, Paul, was about the under-races, underticket races, and it means more there. You get the Senate race it means a little more. You get a House race it means a little more even, even than that. And this may be like 1976, when we had the first publicly-funded campaign, and in an odd way the Republican side, where suddenly all this money, back then all this money couldn’t go into either side. And that was the year in which Congressional donations from corporations doubled. The biggest rise in history by far, because they had all this presidential money and nothing to do with it. And one of the things that happened when Carter became president was you had a publicly funded president and a privately funded Congress. And they didn’t have much in common. In this year, it’s one of the things that I’ll certainly be looking at, to see how much of this money does in fact get downloaded into these House and Senate races and what, and how much of a difference does it make there. What the big donors do in the presidential race, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to prove that it mattered.
JAY: Right. All right, thanks very much for joining us, Bill.
CURRY: My pleasure.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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