Facing the Truth about American Politics

Chris Hayes of MSNBC summed it up tonight:

Today, [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy made a deeply humiliating, almost too awful to watch pilgrimage down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring of the twice-impeached, possibly soon-to-be-indicted ex-president. Because there is no line to cross that goes too far for him or for them or for the party. This is where we are, folks, this is what everyone has to acknowledge. There will be no self-regulation. No self-governance. No, “Did we go too far?” No mea culpas. There will be no growth. This is what the contemporary Republican Party and conservative movement right now is, so now the question is, the question becomes “What do you do with that?” There are people like that who are part of the government of this country, who believe what they believe.

Paul Krugman expanded on the topic:

Here’s what we know about American politics: The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Txxxx-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity — and it didn’t — nothing will.

What isn’t clear yet is who, exactly, will end up facing doom. Will it be the [Republican Party] as a significant political force? Or will it be America as we know it? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answer. It depends a lot on how successful Republicans will be in suppressing votes.

Even I had some lingering hope that the Republican establishment might try to end Txxxxism. But such hopes died this week.

On Tuesday Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who has said that [the ex-president’s] role in fomenting the insurrection was impeachable, voted for a measure that would have declared [an impeachment] trial unconstitutional . . . 

On Thursday, the House minority leader — who still hasn’t conceded that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency, but did declare that Txxxx “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress . . . — visited Mar-a-Lago, presumably to make amends.

In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules.

And the fringe is consolidating its hold at the state level. The Arizona state party censured the Republican governor for the sin of belatedly trying to contain the coronavirus. The Texas G.O.P. has adopted the slogan “We are the storm,” which is associated with QAnon, although the party denies it intended any link. Oregon Republicans have endorsed the completely baseless claim, contradicted by the rioters themselves, that the attack on the Capitol was a left-wing false flag operation.

How did this happen to what was once the party of Dwight Eisenhower? Political scientists argue that traditional forces of moderation have been weakened by factors like the nationalization of politics and the rise of partisan media, notably Fox News.

This opens the door to a process of self-reinforcing extremism . . .  As hard-liners gain power within a group, they drive out moderates; what remains of the group is even more extreme, which drives out even more moderates; and so on. A party starts out complaining that taxes are too high; after a while it begins claiming that climate change is a giant hoax; it ends up believing that Democrats are Satanist pedophiles.

This process of radicalization began long before Dxxxx Txxxx; it goes back at least to Newt Gingrich’s takeover of Congress in 1994. But Txxxx’s reign of corruption and lies, followed by his refusal to concede and his attempt to overturn the election results, brought it to a head. And the cowardice of the Republican establishment has sealed the deal. One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back.

What happens next? You might think that a party that goes off the deep end morally and intellectually would also find itself going off the deep end politically. And that has in fact happened in some states. Those fantasist Oregon Republicans, who have been shut out of power since 2013, seem to be going the way of their counterparts in California, a once-mighty party reduced to impotence in the face of a Democratic supermajority.

But it’s not at all clear that this will happen at a national level. True, as Republicans have become more extreme they have lost broad support; the G.O.P. has won the popular vote for president only once since 1988, and 2004 was an outlier influenced by the lingering rally-around-the-flag effects of 9/11.

Given the unrepresentative nature of our electoral system, however, Republicans can achieve power even while losing the popular vote. A majority of voters rejected Txxxx in 2016, but he became president anyway, and he came fairly close to pulling it out in 2020 despite a seven million vote deficit. The Senate is evenly divided even though Democratic members represent 41 million more people than Republicans.

And the Republican response to electoral defeat isn’t to change policies to win over voters; it is to try to rig the next election. Georgia has long been known for systematic suppression of Black voters . . . the Republicans who control the state are doubling down on disenfranchisement, with proposed new voter ID requirements and other measures to limit voting.

The bottom line is that we don’t know whether we’ve earned more than a temporary reprieve. A president who tried to retain power despite losing an election has been foiled. But a party that buys into bizarre conspiracy theories and denies the legitimacy of its opposition isn’t getting saner, and still has a good chance of taking complete power in four years.

Three more items:

Pennsylvania G.O.P. leaders have made loyalty to the defeated ex-president the sole organizing principle of the party, and would-be candidates are jockeying to prove they fought the hardest for him (NY Times).

After an election filled with misinformation and lies about fraud, Republicans have doubled down with a surge of bills to further restrict voting access in recent months, according to a new analysis . . .  There are currently 106 pending bills across 28 states that would restrict access to voting (The Guardian).

Arizona G.O.P. lawmaker introduces bill to give Legislature power to toss out election results (NBC News).

With the presidency and small majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have an opportunity to deliver on many of their campaign promises, not just a few. That will almost certainly require ending or severely limiting the ability of the Republican minority in the Senate to kill legislation. If Democrats don’t have the foresight and courage to do that, we may be facing a very bleak future.