A self-mutilation ritual.

It appears that rather than follow the not-so-sage advice offered here in KP a short time ago about how to save their future as a political party, the Republicans have decided to double-down on their Trumpist/MAGA bet. After the House Democratic majority stripped a recently elected QAnon freak from her committee assignments (I will not mention her name here) because of her deranged behaviour and speech (including calls to kill Democratic congresspeople and claims that the Rothschilds used a space laser beam to start California fires in order to make a profit and that the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were faked), her GOP colleagues reaffirmed their support for her while rebuking the 11 of them who voted for Trump’s impeachment on grounds that he incited the January 6 insurrection in the Capitol building. The freak then held a press conference and announced that the Republican Party was “Trump’s party.” No Republican contradicted her and state Republicans in the home districts of the pro-impeachment GOP renegades voted to censure them.

This is going to end badly for the GOP. Corporate America and (prodded by lawsuits) even mainstream Rightwing media appear to realise the danger that the assault on Congress represents. Non-Republican rightwing extremists have infiltrated the MAGA ranks and exploited them for their own purposes. Conspiracy theory craziness has taken hold in the MAGA movement. Seeing this, some regretful MAGAites have defected once they realised that the Trump pipe dream was not going to become reality or that his claims about the stolen election were deliberate lies that cost taxpayers millions of dollars to refute (in the form of recounts and litigation). To be sure, there are still many who still worship the ground he walks on, but many more are glad to see the back of him and want it to stay that way.

Catering to the remaining MAGA base may solidify GOP support in hard Red states, but the rest of the country is turning Blue as demographics increasingly work against perpetuation of that base as a proportion of the population, much less as a cohesive voting bloc. Insurrectionists are bad for business as well as law and order, so for a party that claims that it is the champion of both, kowtowing to the violent maniac fringe is a losing proposition over the long term. The MAGA brand is turning to mud even if those loyal to it cannot see what is coming at them down the road.

There is the hitch. Most analysts now see the GOP as divided into three parts: a MAGA populist wing, a neo-con Reaganite wing and a bridge faction with feet in both wings that attempts to straddle the fence of specific policy issues (or want to have things both ways–conspiratorial crazy on the one hand and soberly responsible on the other). After the attack on the capitol, what many of the non-lunatic factions in the GOP fear is two things: being physically threatened or attacked by MAGA and QAnon extremists egged on by Trump and his acolytes if they do not accede to his wishes; and being “primaried” out of office by them with funding provided by the Trumpsters (“primaried” refers to the practice of putting up candidates against incumbents in party primaries so as to replace them with more ideologically aligned people).

The combination of physical and political threats has paralysed most of the GOP party leadership, who have opted for the default option of blaming Democrats for assorted ills while looking to them for the knock-out electoral blow on the lunatics in 2022. They understand that things have gone too far and they cannot prevent the MAGA wing from trying to take control of the party as a whole while Trump continues to agitate from the sidelines. So this is their state of play: hope that the Democrats win big in the congressional mid-terms so that they can purge the MAGAites from the party and return to some semblance of conservative normalcy. They know that the purge of moderate candidates in GOP primaries will likely lead to massive losses in the 2022 general election and the consolidation of Democratic control of the federal government for the near future. That allows the non-MAGA Republicans to clear house and get their affairs in order without the burden of having to govern, something that can set them up well for 2024 and beyond. People like Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney understand this well.

Of course, many of those immediately involved in the fray may not see things in this light and may continue the internecine fights over the heart and soul of the GOP well after 2022. The MAGA wing certainly see their future as wedded to Trump, and the Senate impeachment trial will go a long way towards determining which of the GOP factions will prevail over both the short and the long term. But as long as they are divided and the Democrats coalesce while in power and restore some semblance of respect, normality and competence to governing (not a sure thing but more plausible today than in the past because of the stakes at play), then the Republican Party is going to increasingly be on the outside looking in when it comes to national policy-making. And that will suit the lunatic fringe just fine, as they have been exposed as being uninterested in democracy if such a thing involves compromise, toleration, transparency, equality and mutual consent in the policy-making process. That, however, will only increase their marginalisation as a political force. They had their moment during the last four years and soon they will pay a political (and in some cases, criminal) price for their sins.

In the meantime, watching the Republican in-fighting is like watching someone repeatedly cut themselves. The difference is that self-mutilation is most often not fatal to the person doing it, whereas what is going on in the GOP has the potential to be terminal to the party as a democracy-supportive political institution.

10 thoughts on “A self-mutilation ritual.

  1. This basically means 2 paths for the post-Trump GOP: either let the Trumpniks seize control of the party to the point where the Int’l Criminal Court and/or the World Court get involved; or kick out the Trumpniks & risk a rerun of the 1912 Bull Moose split or the 1992 Perot spoiler.

  2. At this point it seems to me that the GOP’s best bet is to play to lose in 2022. They are likely going to lose anyway if the MAGAites win primaries in all but solid Red states, and even that depends on how crazy the candidates are (again, supporting violent insurrection or Jewish-controlled space laser beams is not exactly platform material even in places like Oklahoma or the Dakotas). By playing to lose the moderates in the GOP–say, like the Lincoln Project people even if their past does not exactly qualify them as “moderate”)–can support Democrats in the general elections and then work to purge the MAGAites as losers. That may not be enough to get back into power in 2024 but it can cleanse the party of the current rancid stain that permeates it.

    Even if the MAGAites split off and form their own party, they cannot win nationally so the moderate/centrist Republicans can focus on peeling off votes from Democrats, especially if claims that the Democrats are moving too far Left gain traction in the electorate and/or if the Biden/Harris/Pelosi/Schumer regime does not deliver on its promises.

  3. On demographics as destiny Trump was making inroads into the hispanic voters, despite everything he did get 70-odd million votes. The MAGA vote may not be in terminal decline yet. Hopefully Trump’s riot and/or Qanon insanity will turn off some of them.

  4. Actually, Trump only made significant gains with Cuban-American voters (who are reactionary by nature and who he pitched to directly in the late stages of the campaign with anti-Cuban policy announcements), particularly in South Florida. He did not win majorities amongst other Hispanics, especially Mexican Americans. As for the 74 million MAGA vote. How is it that Biden’s 81 million votes is mentioned less often? It is more likely that a portion of the 74 million Trump voters will defect if the MAGA nonsense continues and Biden and co. manage to address Covid, provide economic relief/stimulus packages and proceed to right the ship of State. Add to it the likelihood of criminal prosecution of Trump and his associates as well as assorted insurrectionists, and those 74 million votes look soft. The Democrats, OTOH, can consolidate their gains with judicious policy choices and no scandals.

  5. I read this article yesterday, which helps to fill in gaps for me as to why and how the GOP has got to this point. Social media has aided and abetted Trump and his followers of course, but I found it illuminating. I’d be interested in your take on this, Pablo: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/02/republican-extremism-and-john-birch-society/617922/

    I have to say I would never think of anyone with the surname Cheyney in favourable terms, but Liz Cheney does show she has a moral compass. Hopefully there will be more of her ilk that will come out of the woodwork when the trial for Trump is held, but I somehow doubt it.

  6. Not sure. His hard core base did not believe that the pandemic was real anyway, and his incompetent actions and diversionary rhetoric (“masks are PC”) fed their beliefs (and vice versa). He played the “freedom” versus public health line hard, and in a nation with one third of voters being certifiably ignorant about basic science and so many other things, his approach should have solidified that base and left the outcome to other factors. That appears to have happened.

    Covid just crystalized all that was wrong with the Trump administration. Incompetence, corruption, systemic distributional bias based on his prejudices–it was all there. But with so many intervening factors involved–corporate, state and local responses, different and time-lagged social dislocation effects across the land, etc.–it seems that in and of itself Covid might not have tipped the scales. His defeat was due to a cumulation of sins, even if Covid served as a precipitant.

  7. He made inroads, to be sure, but extrapolating a general trend from South Texas is a bit of a stretch and quite frankly, the “Mexicans are working class” argument is condescending and simplistic. Mexican American are dispersed throughout the country and subject to a number of intervening factors that influence their votes. Beyond the established long term populations in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado (since they were there first along with indigenous populations), there are huge urban concentrations of ethnic Mexicans in places like LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Dallas, Tulsa, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa etc. Many of these people have been in the US for more than 3 generations and many have advanced into the domestic bourgeoisie. And then there are the non-Mexican and non-Cuban Latinos to consider when it comes to the larger voting trend. All of which is to say that it is best to avoid intellectual reductionism when explaining voting behaviour amongst long-standing and sizable minority ethnic groups in a large diverse society such as the US.

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