On this election eve I have been thinking back to 2016 and contemplating what I anticipated and what I failed to see. I missed a few things, but I was right about one important thing: the Republicans are who we thought they were.
I get the phrase from the famous Dennis Green meltdown after his Arizona Cardinals lost in a humiliating fashion to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Back in 2016 there was this talk that placed "Trump voters" in a separate category from "Republicans" as if they weren't one and the same. There was this bullshit notion that Trump and elected Republicans would act independently from one another, and might even butt heads.
The opposite has happened because Trump stands for the same things that Republicans stand for, he just says the quiet parts out loud, and Republicans love him for it. This is why a sniveling weasel like Ben Sasse will let it leak that he privately objects to Trump's behavior while he still votes for all of his bills and judicial appointees. Other Senators may get disturbed at how big daddy Trump has the ability to turn their Fox News addled voters against them, but since they all want the same stuff it doesn't really matter.
Republicans have figured out that their brand lacks mass appeal. Their ideology is anathema to most Americans, which is why they have won the popular vote in the presidential election only once since 1988. If you want minority rule you have to have a flashy strongman, not a no-necked simp in a suit telling people to eat cat food to increase Wall Street's bottom line. No, you need a preacher proclaiming the old time religion of racial and religious resentment with a showman's flair.
Despite the botched pandemic response, kids in cages, failure of North Korean diplomacy, and constant governmental chaos, Republicans have not abandoned Trump. Nixon and Dubya's approval ratings dipped far lower. He has successfully made himself the avatar of white American identity, and reaped the reward of a fanatical following that cannot be lost no matter how badly he fucks up. When he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, he knew what he was talking about.
So on this election eve, I can't help but think about how rank and file Republicans will react. If he loses decisively I expect another Tea Party, filibusters, obstruction, and state nullification. Like their white supremacist forbears at the dusk of Jim Crow, they will opt for "massive resistance." If it's close I suspect we will see a thousand "Brooks Brothers riots" across the country. No matter what, we will be stuck with figuring out to have a functioning democracy in a country where one of the two major parties doesn't want to accept democracy at all. The Republicans will continue to be who we think they are.