Of Whigs And Wackos

A few nights ago–as I previously reported–I was a guest lecturer in a friend’s class on political activism. I had been asked to address America’s current political polarization, and I shared many of the opinions I previously posted here: the asymmetric nature of that polarization, with the GOP moving far, far to the right and the Democratic party only recently listening to its more progressive members; the fact that the Democratic party is a much bigger tent than the GOP (which is currently a lock-step cult), making cohesion far more difficult for Democrats; the outsized role of a fragmented media; and of course, White Christian Nationalism, aided and abetted by Republican gerrymandering.
During the question and answer period, the undergraduates asked pretty sophisticated questions–this was clearly a group of politically-engaged and thoughtful young people. One of them asked me what I thought would happen to the Republican Party.

I responded honestly that I had no clue–that the GOP might go the way of the Whigs, or might return to something approaching a normal political party as the oldsters died off and the fever abated. Or??

However, the next morning, columnist Jennifer Rubin addressed that same question,  noting that Trump critics and disaffected Republicans have already begun to run for the exits.

Matthew Dowd, a former Republican adviser to George W. Bush, is running for Texas lieutenant governor as a Democrat. Evan McMullin, former CIA officer and Republican congressional aide, is running for a Utah Senate seat as an independent. This is a sound trend: If you can’t beat the MAGA cult, leave.
There is scant evidence that any appetite exists in the GOP for independent thinking or pro-democracy critics of the disgraced former president. When Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is booted from House leadership and ostracized while anti-Semitic mouthpiece and crackpot Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) remains a member in good standing, it is obvious which way the wind is blowing.

The sane faction of the GOP could probably fit around a dining room table. The House minority leader apparently does not believe he cannot survive politically without showing unwavering loyalty to the former president who incited a violent insurrection. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans think it is acceptable to vote to send the country into default but not to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Trump and Trumpism remain firmly in control of the GOP–as Rubin reports, a recent Pew  survey found two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents reaffirming their loyalty, including 44% who say they would like him to run for president in 2024. The poll’s results confirm Rubin’s conclusion that no one can oppose the cult leader and remain viable in the party.

Many well-meaning Republicans have tried in vain to shake the GOP from its Trumpian foundation. Finding no success, they now need to topple the MAGA party if they want to insulate the country from instability, authoritarian rule and possibly violence.

Reform from within is apparently impossible–a conclusion with which a number of former Republicans agree. Rubin encourages them to run as Democrats (providing evidence that the party is hardly the nefarious gang of “socialists” portrayed by the cultists) or Independents (hopefully splitting the GOP vote). 

In our two-party system, it is extremely difficult to “kill off” a major political party. But it has been done before.The Whigs were active in the middle of the 19th century;  although the Democratic Party was slightly larger, the Whigs were one of the country’s two major parties  between the late 1830s and the early 1850s. Four presidents were affiliated with the Whig Party during at least part of their respective terms, and Whig party leaders included names we all know–men like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William Seward, and John Quincy Adams. Ultimately, the Whigs divided over the issue of slavery, and were replaced by the Republican Party.

As the saying goes, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Today’s GOP is now firmly committed to White Christian Supremacy, and Republicans who do not share that worldview are leaving, in a reversal of the desertion that destroyed the Whig Party. (Pro-slavery Whigs left to join the nativist, pro-slavery American Party.)

Rubin is right, and Republicans appalled by the party’s descent into racism and nihilism are recognizing the fact.

 I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end….The only question is, how much damage can a party in its death throes inflict on the rest of us?


  1. I am reminded of A Mark Twain quote (or a version of his words )
    “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,”
    Prof K asks:
    The only question is, how much damage can a party in its death throes inflict on the rest of us?
    I fear that like a wounded, cornered animal, the nut jobs are a great danger to the country at large. They really WANT conflict. They think a civil war would be good. This is a risky time when millions of Americans believe lies and are willing to fight about it. Lets be extra vigilant on this until the cult is dead and not just wounded.

  2. I would like to be that hopeful, but it still rests on two factors:
    1) Will the “sane” Republicans leave quickly enough and allow themselves to vote in such a manner (possibly for a Democrat) that would defeat the party of Trump, and
    2) Will the “crazy” Republicans be able to rig all of the elections so that their choice “trumps” (pun intended) the vote of the people.

    Remember – in terms of the the Trump Party –
    INDY is not just the nickname of a city; it is the name of a a Drosophila (fruit fly) mutant

    I’m Not Dead Yet

  3. Can anyone name a large, powerful institution that became corrupt and then reformed itself from the inside?

  4. “Rubin is right, and Republicans appalled by the party’s descent into racism and nihilism are recognizing the fact.”

    Some of those Republicans recognized those facts during Trump’s administration; they paid an occasional lip service to that fact then returned to the shadows to complete their terms in office safely away from the public eye and Trump’s attention. Some remain in Congress, some are fleeing the ship, which I do not see as sinking but waiting for the storm of the 2022 elections to pass. They are gaining strength and dollars and are among those who are causing President Biden’s favorable numbers to drop along with the Democrats who refuse to stop the in-fighting long enough to pass bills to save the country. Reminders of President Abraham Lincoln’s in-house fighting to pass the 13th Amendment within his new Republican party. President Biden’s lowering numbers are being blamed on the fact that he has not, in 9 months time, returned this nation to pre-pandemic conditions; conditions we will never see again. A blessing to see some of those conditions gone but along with them is going the loss of democracy, Rule of Law and support of the Constitution as the pandemic continues due to racism and nihilism.

    “I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end….The only question is, how much damage can a party in its death throes inflict on the rest of us?”

    We are still fighting our way through the damage left behind by the still sitting members of the Trump administration as we face new damage. President Joe Biden’s administration and Congress are still in the transition period following the continuing 2020 election results due to the Wackos with their Whig mindset.

  5. I would like to propose that the Senate adopt the filibuster rules of the Texas Senate, no handoffs, no bathroom breaks, no talking about things unrelated to the bill. That should make Manchin happy, while allowing votes on the really crucial bills stuck in the Senate.

    I have no idea what it takes to make Sinema happy. I suspect that she is quietly as crazy as MTG. How do you start as a member of the Green Party and end up opposing the very bill that will begin the work on climate and the environment that that party has demanded for years? If we could get to a vote on many of these items, we might find Murkowski on the side of the country in Sinema’s place.

  6. Peggy @ 8:24 am “I have no idea what it takes to make Sinema happy.”

    The answer is: Big pharma has a powerful new shill, Kyrsten Sinema, fighting drug price reform.
    In the 2020 election cycle, pharmaceutical political action committees suddenly funneled more money to her than they did the whole six years she served in the US House.

    “The pharmaceutical lobby is very savvy,” Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat from California, said earlier this week. “They pick the one or two people they need to block things, on the relevant committees or at the relevant time.”

    “It may differ from Congress to Congress,” explained Khanna, who is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We try to get 90-95% [of the caucus]. They are focused not on 90% , but the blockers.”


    The New GOP base is angry and wants to fight, even physically if necessary. They elect people who echo their fanaticism. The old GOP guard has no place in the New GOP unless they acknowledge The Trumpet as their leader.

  7. If the former president runs again in 2024, who in the GOP will run against him? The media suggests no one will. If someone did run against him, there is no doubt in my mind that the moderators would have to contain all the candidates to have an effective debate.

    If the democrats are going to win the presidency in 2024 against the former president they will have to have an effective and heroic strategy that undermines the voter suppression laws in each state. They should start now.( Actually they should have already started.) They will also have to find a way to unite against the MAGA cult in the midst of all the large tent diversity. It can be done, but will they pull it off?

    The other question this conversation creates for me is will the independents support and assist disaffected Republicans to disempower the MAGA cult?

    I do wish the MAGA and Q-Anon cults would fizzle out. But, of course,Fox news keeps reenergizing them, not to mention the continued fueling of their fear based ideologies.

    22 will tell us a lot about our political landscape and the continued threat to our democracy.

  8. Sheila, one addition please. White, yes. Christian, no. Jesus Christ advocated and commanded for his audiences to forgive and seek forgiveness, seek peace among ones enemies, put others before onesself and Love ones Neighbors. These blasphemers are charlatans and PSUEDO Christians. An aside regarding Christ: he was light brown skinned, dark hair and brown eyes. As his human ancestors came from Egypt, he meets those physical features.

  9. Republicans are desperate to survive. That requires a couple of things. 1) Fill the news with opinions on the failure of Democrats. 2) Fill the news with mythology about the former guy. Basically, avoid the truth like it was the plague.

    The question is, will all of that slow the rate at which they are going out of business or not? They are like corporations headed for bankruptcy in that very few hard and fast rules remain. I suppose no different than a cornered animal: they have nothing to lose.

    The longer they stretch out their demise the more dangerous to the country they will get.

    Personally, I think that democracy is stronger than their criminal intent but there is no real way to measure that so it is only my opinion based on decades of optimism.

  10. If anyone has any doubt about the intentions of those currently promoting the demise of our government, please see the attached article.
    This from a man who has under subpoena from the Congress.
    I have no doubt that he does indeed. I believe that he thinks there are plenty in the U.S. military/law enforcement who are among those troops. It is sedition. Why is he not under arrest as any other common citizen would be?

  11. I think your notion that the Republican Party has moved “far, far to the right” is very wrong. Trumpism, though it’s questionable to identify it as a political philosophy, embraces big government, the welfare state, an isolationist foreign policy, government mandating what private business must do, opposes federalism, etc. Those certainly aren’t traditional conservative ideals. Trump’s biggest critics seem to be conservative intellectuals and the few elected officials who stand up to Trump are principled conservatives like Rep. Liz Cheney. You think Cheney opposes Trump because he’s too far right? No. Bill Kristol? George Will?

    I think you are assuming that the GOP’s Trumpian embrace of autocracy makes it “far, far right.” But in fact autocracy isn’t confined to the right side of the political spectrum. Liberals can be autocratic as can moderates and conservatives.

    While admittedly anecdotal, I tell people that my liberal and moderate Republican friends are the most supportive of Trumpism, while my more conservative GOP friends are the ones who have rebelled against Trumpism. That’s not surprising as Trumpism is often diametrically opposed to traditional conservative policies.

  12. I have been suggesting for several years that the Republicans were headed for the Whigdom from which they arose in 1854 on the issue of slavery, but I think we Democrats should not assume we are in charge of the nation’s future if that party sinks into the oblivion of Whigdom, and why? Because a newly formed political party starting with a relatively clean slate can win, and quickly. Note that the newly formed Republican Party in only six years after its formation from the ruins of Whigdom elected a president, a guy named Lincoln. Perhaps a newly formed Trumpless party without substantial baggage could do a repeat of 1860 with what the old Republican Party of today does not have, like a platform, principles, and fewer criminals in high places.

    Ideally, of course, such a new Trumpless party could merge into our party and such reconstituted party could align itself against Libertarians and other minority groupings, but that is unlikely. Their new party leaders are far more likely to pick and choose issues from their old party’s past (the libs are socialists etc.) to play the loyal opposition (as opposed to today’s disloyal opposition via Trump’s “rule or ruin” playbook).

    Aside to Len in re yesterday’s topic > There is a recently published novel extant on neural interchange selected by Oprah for her book club by Richard Powers, a MacArthur Fellow and winner of the Pulitzer for Fiction for his 2018 book, The Overstory, which may be of some interest to you given your interest in neural studies. Admission > He is my nephew.

  13. If anyone has thoughts about these questions, please share them……

    What would happen to the current trump cult voters if he suddenly died?

    Are there other radical Rs they would embrace, support and vote for as President?

  14. As an unhinged and full-throttled oligarchy, I’m not sure how having a bunch of conservatives in the Democratic Party is going to save this country.

    Also, it’s been over 9 months since at least a dozen GOP elected officials assisted in a possible junta in this country and they’ve experienced no negative consequences nor have the funders of the junta.

    We’ve also talked about gerrymandering and sorting which has taken place since the 2020 Census and all projections show Republican districts picking up 20 seats in Congress without an election.

    More conservative Democrats aren’t the answer to our problems. We’ll be in a nuclear war with China over Taiwan by then.

  15. Trump & his fanatics have hijacked the Republican party, and have no plans to cooperate with the rest of the nation. Their goal is to block Democrats from governing, and take back control of Congress. How they will do that is being worked on currently in State legislatures re: elections.
    Also, the Trumpers in Congress aim to run out the clock on the House oversight committee, with legal manuevers, so when/if they retake the House they will disband the investigation. AG Garland has said that Justice Department will follow where the House investigation leads.
    Trump and his cult movement wrap themselves in the American flag & Christianity while disregarding the Constitution, our laws, and demonstrate behaviors opposite of true Christianity.

  16. Theresa at 3:18 p.m.; if you were seeking a specific institution name, we know it isn’t the GOP. I can’t even think of one of my corrupt family members who have reformed or one politician who can make that claim; maybe it is a psychological impossibility. Considering human nature; it seems to be much easier – and profitable – to go wrong than to “clean up their act”. The years on this blog with our knowledgeable members; had any of them had an answer they would have spoken up.

  17. The thing I have marveled over since 2015 is the blindness of so many people to the depth and extent of unfitness of Trump to even be called an American, much less POTUS. He doesn’t even pretend to be a patriot–a draft-dodger, critic of members of our military: calling them “suckers”, critic of a true hero, John McCain because McCain ran against him and also deep-sixed his attempt to overturn Obamacare. He is the quintessential sociopathic narcissist, and isn’t even welcome in his home city and state because he is so odious– a pathological liar, a cheater in business, slum lord, racist, misogynist and serial bankrupter of businesses. Everything he does is all about him, Him, HIM: attention, adulation, praise, credit for everything good, shifting of blame for anything that isn’t good, no moral compass and no agenda, other than attention, power, praise and attention. He isn’t even a very good businessman. He’s on his third shaky marriage–he even cheats on his latest trophy wife.

    Republicans used to be the party of values, like patriotism, family values, personal honesty and integrity, tradition, and respect for the Constitution, but then along comes a flashy reality TV host, and all of that goes out the window. THAT’s the part I don’t understand–how or why someone like the “former guy” could grasp the reins of the Republican party, and how so many Republicans could allow someone who is the antithesis of the values and traditions of the Republican party to take over and include people like White Supremacists, Neo Nazis, the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and other disaffected misfits. Can someone please explain this to me?

  18. It seems the likes of Sen Todd Young believes that he can ride the Trump tiger while at the same time not actually fully supporting all of the Trump crazy. He hints that we need strong election reform, while never actually saying the election was stolen. That to me is the most scary form of the insane Republican Party. This is someone that works very hard to use the turmoil and spin of the right wing lunatics, but never actually says he is outright supporting the lunatics. I think someone like him will retain a larger following than he deserves and at the same time knowingly drag the country to destruction because it might get him some votes. In my opinion, those are the core of dangerous Republicans.

  19. I worry that the autocrats will gerrymander and destroy democracy before sane Republicans and Democrats can get their act together to defeat the Trumpster culture warriors. Sanity is more likely to prevail the more that Trump inserts himself into statewide and congressional elections. He is a highly motivating factor for Democrats, most independents, and sane Republicans to vote against his copycats. I just hope that the thin thread that democracy is hanging by holds long enough for Trump-endorsed candidates to lose by enough to force the GOP to wise up. If not, this nation and any hope of winning sane majorities who respect the rule of law and the will of the voters may be lost forever.

    I hate being an alarmist, but if January 6th and those chanting “hang Mike Pence” and Trump’s delayed willingness to stop the insurrection didn’t awaken most Americans to the danger, we must be comatose.

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