This article titled “Roger Ailes built the Republican party – now both are crumbling in plain sight” was written by Richard Wolffe in Cleveland, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 20th July 2016 04.11 UTC
When the historic moment finally arrived, the Jumbotron screens were streaked with fake fireworks and turned a gaudy shade of gold, as a giant message declared in capital letters to the Quicken Loans arena: “OVER THE TOP”.
And they say the Republican party has no sense of irony.
Moments earlier, Donald J Trump Jr pumped his fist and led the chant of his own family name as he committed New York’s delegates to his father’s nomination. “It’s my honor to be able to throw Donald Trump,” he began ominously, “over the top in the delegate count tonight.”
As the grown children of the presidential nominee embraced one another, the house band began to crank out a karaoke version of New York, New York.
This is a radical time in American politics: a time the pundits and elected politicians thought would never come. After two decades of populist anger, the elderly rebels of Pat Buchanan’s pitchfork army finally stormed the barricades of the establishment and hoisted an orange leader atop the smoking rubble.
So there was clearly no better way to capture the sense of occasion than to hand the stage – and the primetime TV cameras – to a true statesman and model citizen, who could testify to Trump’s business acumen and personal ethics: Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Because nothing truly captures the state of Trump’s Republican party than a multi-million-dollar TV spectacle that revolves around a blood-soaked cage fight.
This has been an ugly week for American conservatives, and the week has barely begun. Structures built over decades have fallen apart, and nothing – not even the Trump family – is left unscathed.
We are witnessing the Great Unravelling of the Republican Party. Its ideological intellectuals openly disdain and plot against the party’s nominee. Its elected officials are too busy to show up to their own party’s convention.
And now the conservative echo chamber itself is collapsing across the mainstream media it surely dominates.
The rapid demise of Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel is as seismic an event as Trump’s nomination. For Ailes ruled over a conservative media and political empire that stretched far beyond cable television.
Nixon’s former image-maker could make or break presidential campaigns, elected officials, TV anchors, talk radio and the pundit class. When Candidate Obama tried personally to woo Murdoch and Ailes in 2008, he found Murdoch far more reasonable than Ailes, who was convinced the young senator represented a mortal threat to the republic.
Ailes could single-handedly turn the Washington conversation from one concocted conspiracy to another: from the New Black Panther Party and death panels to Benghazi, destroying careers, the possibility of political compromise, and the mainstream Republican Party along the way. He left other news organizations in his wake, struggling to copy his commercial success with artificial news and freak show formats.
Like Trump himself, Ailes has stumbled at what should be the height of his powers: Fox is an unmatched power in the news business, generating such giant profits for Murdoch that Ailes could take on Murdoch’s sons and win.
Until now. The final blow was delivered by reports on Tuesday that his greatest star, Megyn Kelly – the chief Fox tormentor of one Donald Trump – may have joined the accusations of sexual harassment.
Ailes has lost control of the empire he built at the same moment he lost control of the party he in effect controlled. Ailes was known to be close to John Kasich, the Ohio governor who lost badly to Trump and snubbed his home state convention this week. Somehow Ailes found himself outplayed by Trump: he clashed with Trump over Kelly, but ultimately needed him to drive Fox’s ratings ever higher.
If you watched Fox News on Tuesday morning, you would have no idea how the party Ailes built was tearing itself apart at the same time as his own network.
There was no extended discussion of the plagiarism scandal that had engulfed Melania Trump and her husband’s campaign. There was no explanation of how the Trumps lifted lines from the 2008 convention speech of the woman they had all spent eight years trashing on TV: Michelle Obama.
Plagiarism is, at its heart, about honesty. And the Trump campaign, constructed on trash talk passed off as straight talk, found it impossibly hard to tell the truth on Tuesday.
Who was responsible for the plagiarism, and who would take the fall? For once in his TV career, Trump was finding it strangely hard to say the words, “You’re fired.”
That reluctance might just have its roots in a family feud between his wife and his grown children. Melania was supposed to be unhappy with the children’s veep pick of Mike Pence, and refused to appear at the great Pence unveiling. Did the children vet the speech, or was it their favored campaign manager, Paul Manafort?
Whatever the root cause, Trump looked impotent as his campaign collapsed after just one day of his coronation convention.
That’s not surprising for a convention where the primetime speakers talk privately of their own surprise at their speaking slots. Behind the scenes, they describe a shocking lack of planning and vetting of their own speeches.
What happens next for the party is already clear to the Republican strategists who are spending this week shaking their heads in dismay at what they expect to turn into an epic defeat. After Trump and Ailes, the deluge.
The party and its leaders cannot now escape their own fates. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, will find it hard to disavow a convention speech that set the scene of him celebrating inside the White House with “President Donald Trump”.
Chris Christie cannot resurrect a political career after desperately losing both the presidential and vice-presidential nomination. As for his legal career, it’s hard to imagine a law office hiring as counsel a man whose speech featured a kangaroo court trial of Hillary Clinton, with the baying delegates “as a jury of her peers”.
These elected officials are glorifying a candidate who apparently believes he can win his home state of New York against Clinton, who was handily elected senator there not once but twice. Trump is trailing in New York by between 12 and 23 points but that didn’t stop Trump Jr promising to the convention: “We’re going to put New York into play.”
Donald and Melania Trump were unusually absent from the convention hall on Tuesday night, as the nominee chose to beam himself in from an undisclosed location in New York City. “Melania and I had such a great time,” he barked unconvincingly about the night before. “An unbelievable evening.”
After just two days in Cleveland, unbelievable is the only way to describe these proceedings.
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