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Warning: More cesspool politics ahead

5/16/2016, 8:04 a.m.
Ted Cruz is gone – and good riddance.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. NNPA

(George Curry Media) – Ted Cruz is gone – and good riddance. The Texas senator fully deserved his humiliating defeat by Donald Trump in the May 3 Indiana GOP primary. He was undoubtedly the nastiest politician to prowl the halls of the U.S. Senate since the Red-baiter Joseph McCarthy back in the 1950s.

Unfortunately, the social and political poison that made a Cruz candidacy viable for so long isn’t gone. That’s obvious from the next-day headline The Huffington Post used to describe the new titular head of the Republican Party: Liar. Xenophobe. Misogynist. Demagogue. Presidential Nominee.

Donald Trump’s success completes for the moment the most astonishing act of self-destruction in the history of American politics. I’m referring, of course, to that of the Republican Party itself. Some GOP officeholders and operatives are now crying in their teacups about Trump – with a few even publicly pledging not to vote for him. But the GOP’s leadership has only itself to blame.

Consider this: The Republican Party is about to nominate a man of dubious political beliefs who has never before held any political office and whose personal life has, according to his many boasts over the years, violated several tenets of supposedly sacred conservative “values.” Yet, he has vanquished a Republican primary field that included four current governors, four current senators, and the son and brother of the party’s last two presidents.

And Trump conquered the field not by reasoned discourse and a coherent policy platform, but via a reality-show-like campaign that appealed to the worst instincts and attitudes of a large segment of Republican voters.

That “winning” approach was fully on display in the weeks leading up to the Indiana primary. By then, the once-smarmy public “friendship” of Cruz and Trump had degenerated into a venomous display of cesspool politics. Trump’s scurrilous references to Cruz’s wife and father provoked Cruz to describe Trump as ”a pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen,” “a serial philanderer … [who] boasts about it …”

In addition to what it says about the character of both men, we ought to see this deep dive into cesspool politics in its broader dimension: As a blowback of the immoral, win-at-all-costs attitude Republicans had been cultivating within the party for years. It should have been clear to them years ago that the profound intolerance and irrationality they stoked among GOP voters to try to wreck the Obama administration would sooner or later come home to roost.

In fact, as soon as Obama took office, the GOP’s “Obama Derangement Syndrome” began to wreak havoc among Republicans as a bloc of GOP voters applied a no-holds-barred intolerance to Republican officeholders who were deemed insufficiently extreme. Their fury would in time produce the startling defeats of several prominent Congressional Republicans, including Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, then the third-ranking House Republican.

That descent into extremism also led to Cruz’s 2012 U.S. Senate victory, and, he thought, gave him the ammunition to begin running for the White House – by denigrating the GOP’s congressional leadership – from the moment he arrived in Washington.