Home > Uncategorized > The Malign Transformation of the Republican Party – posted 2/15/2021

The Malign Transformation of the Republican Party – posted 2/15/2021

I admit that I have never been a Republican. Probably like many on the left, I have seen the Republicans as a party primarily representing the interests of Big Business. As a coalition, the Republican Party has included Christian evangelicals, libertarians. the anti-abortion movement, pro-gun advocates, anti-immigration zealots and the alt-right, including white supremacists.

For a long time, the Party tried to identify as the party of tax cuts and limited government. But that was before Donald Trump. Trump has completely upended traditional political conservatism. In his run in 2020, Trump literally removed the Republican platform. There was no platform – except loyalty to Trump.

The Trump brand of politics is not about any kind of ideological loyalty. It is all about submission to an authoritarian cult leader, someone who incited and mobilized mob violence because he could not accept the results of a fair election.

Encouraging mob violence to overturn an election crosses the political Rubicon. Before this episode, both political parties abided by election results whether they liked them or not. It is telling that Trump never agreed to accept the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump’s brand of politics is not any kind of political conservatism. Conservatism is about minimizing change and conserving traditional institutions. Historically in America, since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, the Republican Party hid its racism behind the doctrine of state’s rights. The party has promoted voter suppression, gerrymandering and worked feverishly to stack the federal courts with conservative judges but, as noted, it had accepted election results.

The Trump-dominated Republican Party has now turned against democracy. Trump fabricated a story of election fraud and he got a remarkable degree of buy-in from his base. The buy-in has been so strong that you still see Trump flags flying and “Stop the Steal” signs in rural New Hampshire where I live. I suspect, based on anecdotal evidence, this is going on elsewhere as well.

The January 6 riot at the Capitol needs to be seen as the culmination of a longer-term project. Trump wanted to de-legitimize a voting process he did not have the ability to control. He could not stop the increased turnout of minorities and young people.

The outlines of the Trump project are clear. Make it harder to vote; attack mail-in voting; and try to get the U.S. Postal Service to delay the delivery of ballots. Use a raft of lawsuits to overturn the vote of the people. Arm twist state officials like Brad Raffensberger to find votes to sway the election.

Use demonstrations like the million MAGA marches and State House takeovers as in Michigan to create pro-Trump momentum. Place loyalists at the top level of the Pentagon in an effort to neutralize the military.

January 6 was his last ditch attempt to stop the election from being certified. It was his coup attempt but it failed. The longer-term project was an effort to install Trump as a dictator. Had he been successful it would have been the end of the rule of law, representative democracy and the three branches of government with separation of powers.

If you wondered what most Republicans are now thinking about Trump and his coup attempt, a new poll from the American Enterprise Institute provides disturbing findings. The survey found that nearly three in ten Americans, including 39% of Republicans, agreed that “If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires violent actions”.

The survey found major division between Republicans and Democrats on the 2020 presidential election with two out of three Republicans saying President Biden was not legitimately elected while 98% of Democrats and 73% of Independents acknowledged Biden’s win.

At the state level, absolute allegiance to Trump remains a defining quality of the Republican Party. Look at the censure leveled against Liz Cheney, Ben Sasse, Doug Ducey, Cindy McCain and Jeff Flake. They all dared oppose Trump. And also the condemnation directed against Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy for voting for impeachment. It would appear that the anti-Trump forces in the Republican Party are now the outliers.

The majority of Republicans have hitched their wagons to a demagogue who has only shown commitment to his own self-aggrandizement. His M.O. is well-established: call all negative information about his actions fake news or a witch hunt. Always blame a scapegoat like immigrants, Black Lives Matter of Antifa.

I agree with Paul Krugman who claims “the G.O.P. is an authoritarian regime in waiting, not yet one in practice”. Krugman thinks we could become like Poland or Hungary where right-wing, nativist parties were elected and then effectively established one-party rule. Krugman says these parties:

“ maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption, and effectively delegitimized dissent.”

When he was in power, Trump tried to override Congress, denied its subpoenas and generally rejected its oversight. He liked to claim “total power” as President. He personally attacked judges and questioned the constitutional authority of the judiciary.

Still, Trump was only able to get so far. He could work to suppress the vote but he could not cancel the election, outlaw his political opposition or declare himself President-for-Life. He had the Proud Boys, not armed, uniformed stormtroopers.

Those poll results are not encouraging though. Republicans have lost seven of the last eight national popular votes. If they become convinced they cannot win a democratic election, you have to wonder if Trump 2024 or the next Trump-equivalent would opt for some version of fascism. They might see representative democracy as an obstacle to their goals rather than a means to achieve them.

The threat to democracy remains very much alive.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Pat Dawson
    February 17, 2021 at 9:35 pm

    I am afraid of this happening.

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