I sat down to begin this post intending to write about what I see as an upcoming fight for the soul of the Republican Party. But then, I realized that the once “Grand Old Party” no longer has anything remotely resembling a soul.
Let’s just say that–following their less-than-stellar performance in the midterms– it looks like Republicans will be witnessing a no-holds-barred, down and very dirty fight for the status of GOP Big Dog.
Repulsive Ron DeSantis won re-election by a big margin in Florida. The size of that margin was an unsurprising consequence of outrageous gerrymandering, “post-Ian” election regulations that made it easier to vote in overwhelmingly Republican areas but not Democratic ones, and various types of voter intimidation–including show arrests of ex-offenders who’d been told by election officials that they could vote.
His win sets up a contest with Trump for leadership of a semi-fascist GOP.
DeSantis is evil, but far smarter and smoother than Trump, with a vocabulary that exceeds the 70 or so words Trump knows and the ability to make bigotry sound marginally less despicable. He is thus better able to mine the GOP’s culture war against uppity women, non-Christians, Black and Brown people and LGBTQ folks.
Trump, on the other hand, knows how to fight dirty.
According to press reports, in the wake of DeSantis’ win, Trump announced that he intends to reveal “damaging information about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis should he decide to challenge the former president for the Republican nomination in 2024.”
“I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal on his private jet after departing a rally in Dayton, Ohio, on Monday. “I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”
“I don’t know that he’s running,” Trump reportedly said on Monday. “I think if he runs he could hurt himself very badly.
In a Fox “News” interview on Election Day, Trump also said that Senate Republicans should oust Sen. Mitch McConnell as their leader, because McConnell was “lousy” at his job, and has been “very bad for our nation.” (Well, there you go–I actually agree with something Donald Trump said! McConnell has indeed been “very bad for our nation.” Unfortunately, that’s because he is very good at what he perceives to be his job…)
A friend reacted to these initial attacks by suggesting that blackmail is, and has been, Trump’s “secret sauce.” As he traced the repeated trajectory, It goes like this: a Republican officeholder speaks out against Trump, subsequently visits him in Florida, and does a sudden U-turn.
My friend’s theory is that Trump has access to Putin’s KGB files on US Leaders. Once he threatens the recalcitrant Republican with the dirt he has, the defector is back in line. (Sure would explain “Miss Lindsay”…)
I don’t know whether there’s any factual basis for my friend’s version of a conspiracy theory, but even if the information doesn’t come from Russia, and even if Trump is simply threatening to turn his mindless troops against an opponent via accusations he invents, the one thing we do know is that he never exhibits any behavior approximating fair play or decency.
For his part, we can expect DeSantis to deploy every bit of ammunition he is able to amass against Trump…and thanks to various state-level investigations and the work of the January 6th Committee, he’ll have access to plenty.
Watching these two repulsive egomaniacs fight for dominance will be interesting. The sixty-four thousand dollar question is: will their battle be enough to finally, fatally splinter the Republican Party? “Professional” Republicans–elected officials, strategists, etc.–are likely to prefer DeSantas. He’s evil but not crazy. The QAnon mob is unlikely to desert Trump, who is both.
Of course, if Trump is indicted (which I expect), that will throw a wild card into the battle…
Here’s the thing:
The rest of us can’t just retire to the sidelines and watch the wrestling match while eating popcorn. We’ve just been given a reprieve, but not a decisive victory. We have to work hard between now and the 2024 election. We have to continue the battles against gerrymandering and vote suppression and we have to explain what is at stake to the sizable number of Americans who still fail to cast ballots.
Eventually, if we keep at it and are even moderately successful, today’s semi-fascist GOP will fade into history, and we will once again be able to choose between center-Right Republicans and center-left Democrats (no matter what the GOP claims, American Democrats are anything but “Left” as other countries define”Left”….)
We may be able to choose between two parties with souls.