Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Republican Party Doubles Down on the Trump Movement

We now take you live to Mar-a-Lago...

As I said in a recent post, the Republican Party has ceased to be a broad-based political party in the American tradition, and has become The Trump Movement. The party narrative now resembles that of France's National Front, which could be termed The LePen Movement (hence Marine taking the reins.) 

There's another historical comparison I could make but I don't want to distract ourselves too much.

After 1/6 the GOP was faced with a decision. It could either continue to be The Trump Movement, or it could take the golden opportunity to jettison the demagogue and rebuild. For a moment there it looked like even Mitch McConnell was onboard, but then reversed course when he suddenly realized that the rest of his party was not. This week Kevin McCarthy, their House minority leader, made the trek to the Mar-a-Lago government in exile to collaborate.

So we are left with a situation where a president can try to overthrow the government and invalidate an election and once out of office will face no consequences. Congress members who supported this action, including AFTER the Capitol was assaulted, still hold their seats. I used to wonder why Hitler only spent a couple of years in jail after the Beer Hall Putsch, then later realized it was a reflection of the weakness of Weimar democracy. In that context and present-day America most reactionaries will not accept democracy if it means having to let other people into power. Those who defend democracy are so weak that they are not able to call those trying to to kill it into account.

I should also take a minute to clarify what I mean by The Trump Movement. I mean a politics that promises that the strong man will revive the humiliated nation, smite the internal enemies, expel immigrants, punish Black people, and restore white cishetero Christian supremacy. At its core this is fascism. A lot of his supporters on the far Right seem to understand that. Plenty of other Republicans might be motivated by low taxes and abortion, but they still share the same white nationalist assumptions, even if just subconsciously.

This doubling-down represents the culmination of decades of history. This summer I read Julian Zelizer's most recent book about Newt Gingrich's rise to power in the late 1980s before his ultimate victory in the 1994 election. He learned that shameless, scorched earth tactics worked, and that the most efficient way to get support in the Republican Party was by demonizing Democrats. Back in the 90s plenty of Republican voters bought into things like the New World Order conspiracy, but national Republican politicians would never give them credence. (Although Pat Robertson would.) Today they have caught up with their base. 

Whack-job true believers like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Green just openly spew the conspiratorial litany, but Ivy League sociopaths like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have jumped in, understanding that the way to get power in the GOP is to indulge the fever swamps. 1/6 was not the end, it was the beginning. A democracy where one major party wants to destroy democracy to get its way won't survive very long. Instead of thinking they can go home and rest, those who resisted the Trump administration need to stay active and focused. The Trump presidency is over, but the Trump Movement still lives on.

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