An article I read in the New Republic last July--July of 2022 (not this year, when evidence of Congressional inability to even pretend to govern is unavoidable)–was sufficiently upsetting that I kept it in my “think about this” file. It was titled “It’s Going to Take Several Miracles to Keep America from Turning Into Hungary,” and it began as follows:
When Nancy Pelosi told reporters back in May that “this country needs a strong Republican Party, not a cult,” she was expressing the desire among those on the center-left and moderates for the United States to return to a bygone age of political normalcy. They remember when the GOP still had a moderate wing and kept the “wacko birds” (as Senator John McCain called them) at arm’s length; when President Reagan cut deals with House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and when Republicans believed that it was more important for democracy in general to prevail than the Republican Party. It’s a noble idea, but I can’t help but be reminded of what famed pilot Chuck Yeager once told me when I asked him a “what if” question: “And if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.”
The truth is that American democracy is essentially broken beyond fixing and is unable to withstand a right-wing populist movement determined to destroy it. The Eisenhower wing of the GOP was rooted out long ago. It will take multiple miracles to avoid getting one or more of the “bad” endings in this Choose Your Own Adventure of dystopias. The best realistic case resembles a Jim Crow America from the 1920s, complete with a Gilded Age, mass migration, violent militias running amok, and no-go zones for minorities. The possibilities only go downhill from there into secession, fascism, and civil war.
When I first read this very gloomy analysis, I discounted much of it. (Okay, maybe not a lot, but at least some…) In the wake of the current wild dysfunction in the U.S. House of Representatives –dismissal has become a great deal more difficult.
The article quite correctly points out that–over a period of some 40 years– the Democratic party shifted incrementally to the left, while the GOP took “a giant leap to the right.” The focus of the Republican base since the Carter administration has been to increase its appeal to white evangelicals, who have very little in common with the American public at large. It is a White Christian Nationalist constituency that holds “outlier positions and priorities on almost every issue.”
And thanks to gerrymandering, that constituency has elected a collection of theocrats and posturing buffoons totally uninterested in the actual process of governance. As the article noted,
Since (roughly) the second term of the Bush administration, there has been a tacit understanding between the GOP and its base that they cannot win hearts and minds: The demographics of the U.S. are inexorably shifting toward nonwhites and secularism. Despite the postmortem on the 2012 election that called for a bigger-tent party, the GOP has settled on a strategy that it must take the wheel away from voters and steer the country with or without the consent of the governed…
The increasingly right-wing Supreme Court has stepped aside and allowed the de-democratization of large swathes of the U.S., by negating the enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder and permitting hyperpartisan gerrymanders in Gill v. Whitford.
The January 6, 2021, insurrection was a direct attempt to invalidate a legitimate election result, yet Republicans largely went along with it: Roughly two-thirds of House Republicans voted to give the insurrectionists what they wanted mere hours after they stormed the Capitol.
The GOP isn’t even bothering to hide its ultimate goal: to turn the U.S. into an authoritarian White Christian theocracy. “The 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference was held in Hungary to celebrate and learn what can be gained by killing democracy as Viktor Orbán has.”
The article was written before the 2022 midterms, and did not foresee one “miracle,” the failure of that year’s widely anticipated Red wave. But its essential message remains: absent a massive defeat of the cult that has replaced what was once the Republican Party, the nation will continue on its path toward governmental impotence and chaos–a path that will inevitably invite a “strongman” ala Orban.
What we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks is just a taste of what we’ll see if American voters do not decisively eject the Republicans who are intent upon rejecting constitutional, adult governance in favor of White Christian Nationalism.