A couple of days ago, I posted excerpts from an article suggesting that the disasters that define our current civic reality aren’t primarily attributable to Trump, appalling as he is, but to the voters who form the base of whatever it is the Republican Party has become.
Since then, I have continued to encounter evidence confirming the accuracy of that diagnosis.
Exhibit One: In the run-up to the Republican convention, an event presumably intended to persuade people to support the party, convention planners enlisted the entitled, bigoted St. Louis couple–the ones who brandished guns and threatened Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their mansion– to appear and publicly affirm their support for Trump.
I can’t think of speakers more likely to offend viewers who don’t display Confederate flags or have swastika tattoos.
The choice of the St. Louis couple underscores the point made by an opinion writer in The New York Times, who has concluded that “Trumpism” is the current GOP. As he says, even if Biden wins and Trump leaves office peacefully — two big ifs — Democrats will still confront a Republican Party that is the party of Donald Trump.
In 2016, Mr. Trump didn’t change the Republican Party; he met it where it was. The party had been ready for him for years: In 2012, the congressional scholars Thomas Mann of the center-left Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute wrote, “The G.O.P. has become an insurgent outlier in American politics.” More recent studies, including by Pippa Norris of Harvard, have confirmed this assessment. In a brief summary of her research — which compared the U.S. Republican Party “with other major parties in O.E.C.D. societies” — she found the G.O.P. “near far-right European parties” that flirt with authoritarianism, like the Polish Law and Justice of Poland or the Turkish Justice and Development parties.
This is not a party poised to pivot toward moderation — even in the face of an electoral landslide loss. The inevitable calls for reform (like the party’s abandoned “autopsy” report after the 2012 election) will yield to the inescapable gravitational pull of the party’s own voters and the larger forces dominating our politics.
The author, one Adam Jentleson, says that the GOP is not only unlikely to moderate in the wake of a defeat, it is likely to turn to reactionary politicians like Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. (You will remember Cotton for his despicable attempt to sabotage President Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran.) If Trump loses, Cotton is evidently seen–along with Tucker Carlson(!)– as a leading contender for the 2024 Republican nomination.
Jentleson says the “way forward” is to recognize what the Republican Party has become. That means ignoring them and working to deliver the results Americans want and need.
I agree. Assuming (fingers crossed) the Democrats take the Senate in November, they should focus on restoring checks and balances and passing long-bottled-up legislation. That will require eliminating the mechanisms that have allowed the Senate GOP to stonewall, obstruct and play partisan politics. As Jentleson writes,
Sure, invite Republicans to participate constructively in the legislative process, but take away their ability to scuttle it.
To this end, it is encouraging to see Mr. Biden shifting from his staunch opposition to reforming the filibuster, whose modern iteration is what has allowed Republicans to raise the bar for passing most bills in the Senate from the majority threshold the framers set to the current 60-vote supermajority.
I have written before about the way the filibuster has been changed over the years; it’s no longer the process depicted in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” As Jentleson writes,
The Republican Party is now an even more hopeless tangle of pathologies than it was back then. If Republicans choose to take personal responsibility for unwinding themselves and contributing productively to intelligent solutions, they are welcome to do so. But Democrats cannot bet the future of the country on it.
He’s right, of course. But that leaves us with a far more troubling dilemma: a two-party system in which one party has morphed into a cross between bat-shit-crazy conspiracy theorists and a fascist cult.