Tuesday, February 16, 2021

There Is No GOP Alternative to Trumpism

Ron Brownstein asks a pertinent question: "Is the GOP's extremist wing now too big to fail?" To answer that question, he cites polling data indicating that 75 percent of Republicans want a big future role for Trump in the party. Even more disturbing is that a majority of Republicans (55%) "support the use of force as a way to arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life." That confirms what Doug Muder wrote about the resurgence of the confederate mindset.

The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries…

The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

If our democracy is to survive, that wing of the Republican Party must be defeated. 

While we focus a lot on who the insurgents are and what they want, precious little attention has been paid to what constitutes a conservative alternative. I would suggest that, at least at this point, there isn't one. To demonstrate, we might consider what Minority Leader McConnell actually stands for—other than tax cuts for the wealthy and retaining power. The answer: nothing.

Republican consultant Stuart Stevens captured the problem with his book titled, "It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump." During an interview with David Corn, here is what he said:

[Stevens] once believed in GOP ideals and ideas. Now he saw it all as a huge con...In these pages, Stevens self-flagellates, calling himself a “fool” for his decades of believing—and lying to himself—that the Republican Party was based on “a core set of values.”...

“The Republican Party has been a cartel,” Stevens said excitedly. “And no one asks a cartel, ‘What’s your ideological purpose?’ You don’t ask OPEC, ‘What’s your ideology?’ You don’t ask a drug gang, ‘What’s your program?’ The Republicans exist for the pursuit of power for no purpose.”

He huffed that the Republican Party had not merely drifted away from its core positions, as sometimes occurs with political parties...You have to ask, ‘Does someone abandon deeply held beliefs in three or four years?’ No. It means you didn’t ever hold them.”

Back in 2011, David Roberts presciently wrote that Republicans had become the "post-truth party."

Republicans...talk about cutting the deficit even as they slash taxes on the rich and launch unfunded wars. They talk about free markets even as they subsidize fossil fuels. They talk about American exceptionalism even as they protect fossil-fuel incumbents and fight research and infrastructure investments.

In short, Republicans have mastered post-truth politics. They’ve realized that their rhetoric doesn’t have to bear any connection to their policy agenda.

When it comes to the party that billed itself as "fiscally conservative," we now know that they never really cared about budget deficits and that the whole notion of "trickle down" economics was a sham that simply funneled money to the wealthy. Even most of the party faithful have now abandoned the kind of military adventurism that led to the invasion of Iraq because it was a total fiasco. Finally, the party that claimed to support "family values" embraced a twice-divorced man who bragged about "grabbing p*ssy." 

So what remains of a conservative agenda to build on? NeverTrumper Jennifer Rubin suggested that it's time to junk the entire GOP and start from scratch. But it's interesting to note what she offers as an alternative: "responsible internationalism; free trade and robust immigration; tolerance and the rule of law; and market economics with an ample safety net." While we can quibble around the edges of that agenda, it is basically the Democratic platform. 

It should come as no surprise that Republicans embraced a "liar-in-chief" when the entire enterprise was built on lies designed to accomplish nothing but maintain power for no purpose. That is why there is no real GOP alternative to Trumpism.


  1. The post is true enough, but I think it still gives the wrong impression. It suggests that Trump's wing has taken over the party, which has recently forgotten its purpose. I don't think that's right.

    It was always the awkward but effective alliance of a racist, sexist, and religiously fanatic minority with those taking care of the wealthy, using that alliance to serve the latter at the expense of the former (as well as those the former disdains). To say that McConnell has nothing left as a purpose but that very agenda pretends that this is a petty thing.

    He's been made out to have been a big loser from the proceedings, but I imagine he's gloating. He can say that Trump's been discredited by the trail, its public attention, and his own denunciation so that he's a joke when it comes to imagining him as a viable candidate in 2023, and just remember how far his was a freak victory in the first place and how he lost in 2020 even with the huge advantage of incumbency. At the same time, McConnell's avoided signalling to the yahoos anything but taking their side. And he's done his best to hold the solidarity of the Senate, while happily watching the yahoos censor the seven betrayers, so that they can hold once again a solid line dooming Biden's agenda. Then they can run against big government as a big nothing, once again, regain power, and get back to low taxes and deregulation. Or so he hopes. But for him, what's not to like?

  2. "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Samuel Johnson

  3. "Is the GOP's extremist wing now too big to fail?"

    I think that the biggest issue with that question is that the extremist wing has been the core of the Republican party since the Civil Rights era, it's just that what people call the extremist wing now is simply people who've had enough trying to hide their bigotry in some way. The beliefs haven't changed much, just how they express them.

    Every single GOP "principle" since then has always had a big racial/bigoted element at its core. Opposition to government spending and claims of fiscal responsibility have always been aimed at limiting programs that would benefit minorities. Family values is a way to demean single parent homes among the black community and the LGBQT+ community in general. Anti-immigrant positions have always focused on non-white immigrants. Law and Order is a way to excuse abuses primarily against black men. Voting security has always been about limiting minority participation in elections. Even the more recent distaste for military intervention abroad I think is rooted in the realization among conservatives that the more the US messes up a foreign nation through military means, the more people there end up as refugees in the USA, which makes things not worth it in their mind.

    All of their "principles" were always dressed up as something else in order to avoid being called bigots, which is why they always had to use dog whistles to defend these positions. Trump simply showed them that they don't have to worry about hiding their bigotry. He also showed them that they don't have to concern themselves with sacrificing 100 or 1000 of their own if with their actions they can get a single one of those they consider their enemies. Before Trump there was still some concern among the right for openly pushing policies that would negatively affect their own supporters, which required a lot of hand waving and deflection, but now they don't even bat an eye for that.

    Whether Trump runs again in 2024 or not, I think that the future of the GOP will be more "Trumpier" personalities going forward, with nary a change in any of the policies or positions they've held over more than half a century now.


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