So the Republican Party is fracturing into two camps. One, a distinct minority, sees Donald Trump as a dire, cancerous threat to our democracy and wants nothing so much as for him to go away, freeing the country at last from the grip of his sociopathic narcissism and cruelty.
In other words, they agree on this matter, if on few others, with Democrats, its obviousness there for all who have eyes to see.
The other, overwhelming majority camp has fully kowtowed to Trump’s obsessive, delusional claims of election fraud and has fully embraced him as their political and spiritual leader.
Polls of Republican voters and the actions and words of state and federal officials from across the country confirm this lamentable development, made all the more so by the quick retreat so many Republican officeholders made in the days following the January 6 insurrection.
With Cheney almost certainly gone next week, Romney marginalized, and every party officeholder who has not lined up fully behind Trump under siege, the outcome of the January insurrection could not be more clear: He got away with it.
Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley—they were among others who spoke out strongly in the immediate aftermath against the blatant coup attempt, the storming of the Capitol by a murderous mob, the Trump-inspired “Hang Mike Pence” chants that resounded through the Capitol halls via live TV on that instantly infamous day.
Within days, however, all of them backed down and expressed their unqualified support for him and his future as head of the party. (Though McConnell did his best to play both sides of the issue.)
This after consulting polls that indicated most Republican voters would indeed think none the less of their hero if he shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue —or tried to violently overthrow a duly contested election.
If this fracturing were only about Republican electoral prospects, Democrats could enjoy the mayhem and pluck off enough sensible Independents and disgruntled Republicans to ensure success for years to come.
But this is no ordinary political reassessment we are undergoing today, no mere trimming of sails as the losing party takes stock and renews itself in a way that can attract more voters to a forward-looking agenda. Instead, it is a continuation, the even stronger embrace, of the full-frontal, overt nihilism that characterized Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, the four years of his presidency, and all the days since.
And the consequences could not be more portentous and fearsome for our entire country.
With one of our two major political parties descending into chaos, dominated now by radicalized elements in the thrall of a strongman and the personality cult that has grown around him, no one will be safe. That includes all Democrats and all of the small “d” democratic norms and constitutional order that have served as a bulwark against enemies foreign and domestic since this country’s founding.
On July 30 last year, barely three months before the election, a post in this space projected ahead to what we might face in its aftermath if Trump lost. I sketched the conditions of a full-scale insurrection in the election’s immediate aftermath, pointing out that he had been telling us, almost blatantly since even before the 2016 election, that he would never accept the will of the voters if he lost, laying claim instead to protests of election fraud.
That was the contingent playbook then, rendered unnecessary by his improbable victory over Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote. He just dusted off the same strategy for 2020, and in that July post I added:
“It is simply not reasonable to survey Trump’s life, from his ruthless business career to the devastation he has wrought on the norms of civilized, presidential behavior and discourse, and think he would hesitate to do anything, absolutely anything, to preserve his hold on power, no matter who was harmed and how much the nation was damaged….The only restraint being: Can he get away with it?…Now with the power of incumbency, his frequent presumptive talk about ‘my generals’ as if they were employees or members of his cabinet, and his continuous warnings he will not accept defeat at the polls, dark possibilities loom for true ‘carnage,’ the likes of which we have not seen in this country since 1865….No, I probably wouldn’t bet a great deal of money that that there will be full-scale insurrection and blood in the streets if Trump loses. But I wouldn’t put up one cent betting he won’t contest the result.”
I was, if anything, not sufficiently dark in my projection that there might be violence. And then there was. But here is the rub: These few months later, with the avuncular Joe Biden striking a soothing, empathic tone meant to ensure the country that the Days of Mayhem are past, almost the entire Republican Party has doubled down and pledged its fidelity to Trump, with but a few notable exceptions.
No impeachment conviction, no banishment, no recriminations, no accountability. No bridges too far.
The most notable of them recently: Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Utah Senator Mitt Romney.
The former is on the brink of losing her House leadership position because she continues to state boldly that the election was legitimate and Trump should be held accountable for his actions leading to the insurrection.
The latter has been saying basically the same thing.
He was the only Republican senator to vote for conviction on Trump’s first impeachment, and one of only seven to do the same after the post-insurrection impeachment vote.
In payment for his unflagging devotion to country rather than cult, Romney endured an ugly attempted censure vote by his own state party convention last week in which he narrowly prevailed. But when he attempted to begin an address from the dais, he was subjected to raucous and sustained boos from a good part of the room, amidst chants of “Traitor, traitor!”
Did I mention he was the Republican Party presidential candidate in 2012?
With Cheney almost certainly gone next week, Romney marginalized, and every party officeholder who has not lined up fully behind Trump under siege and sure to face well-financed primary challenges and unbridled savagery from Trump himself next year, the outcome of the January insurrection could not be more clear: He got away with it.
No impeachment conviction, no banishment, no recriminations, no accountability. No bridges too far.
Just a welcome back to his lead role as kingmaker and beating heart of a party that now stands for virtually nothing but fidelity to him.
Obviously, barring a terrible illness or death before then, the 2024 nomination is Trump’s for the taking if he wants it. And here is the thing: Whether he wins or loses the general election might make very little difference for our democracy. If he were to win, he and his minions will wreak even more vengeful and evil havoc than we have ever seen before, no doubt including a call to overturn the Constitution’s two-term limit.
And if he were to lose? I think the January 6 insurrection would have been but a warmup for what might well occur on election night, 2024.
Trump’s shock troops, stewing in rancor and disappointment over four years, still armed to the teeth, emboldened by his stout survival and the complete capitulation by his party after the 2020 insurrection should have earned him permanent exile, might very well stop at nothing next time.
And having loudly claimed for years that only fraud was able to steal the presidency from him in 2020, is there any reason to think he would ultimately accept the result in 2024?
Zero reason, I think.
In the end, I fear the country would be rent asunder whether Trump wins or loses in 2024. With easily more than 40% of voters convinced by a maniacal liar that free and fair elections are not a feature of our modern democracy, there is no reason for them to pretend it is a democracy at all.
And if it’s not a democracy, then only the strongest can win the contest for power.
And who is the strongest?
The best-armed and most determined.
It is the scenario of nightmares, but knowing what we have witnessed and heard from Trump, the obeisance of Republican Party officials and media, and the undying devotion of his base voters, it is hard to discount the possibility that unless he is stopped in his tracks and we avoid him being a candidate or even having a role in anointing one in 2024, we are in great danger of unraveling as the world’s predominant and necessary democratic superpower.
There is that much at stake as we remain thankful for the relative calm that prevails through these early days of an administration still devoted to the democratic idea.
But is this calm merely temporary, a welcome but ultimately delusional pause, as a far more destructive storm than we saw these past years gathers strength and bears down on us with renewed and vengeful fury?
Check out this blog’s public page on Facebook for 1-minute snippets of wisdom and other musings from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by lovely photography.
Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.
Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: email@example.com
Cult photo montage by democraticunderground.com
Insurrection photos by Blink O’fanaye, Washington, D.C. https://www.flickr.com/photos/blinkofanaye/
Trump illustration by Peter Stevens, Seattle, Washington https://www.flickr.com/photos/nordique/
I swing wildly back and forth between utter agreement with you, Andrew, and the desire to agree with the WaPo’s James Downie today. I’ll just paste a bit of him in here, and tell you I am unsure how i think. Hope it’s okay to put it here.
” ….The Republican Party playbook is the same as it ever was: Disguise worshipfully pro-big business, pro-wealthy policies with appeals to the resentments of President Richard M. Nixon’s “silent majority” or Sarah Palin’s “real Americans” or whatever label the party prefers for a specific type of White American. Every liberal project — from Social Security in the 1930s to Medicare and integration in the 1960s to the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage in the 2010s — is cast as a mortal threat to freedom pushed by the eggheads, the ivory tower or the coastal elites. The threat of “outside agitators” becomes the peril of “political correctness” becomes the menace of “ridiculous wokeness” — the term Cheney used in her Post op-ed last week. They’re all the same look.
Yes, Trump has turned some of these traits up to 11. The dog whistles became bullhorns; the “executive time” administration plumbed new depths of incompetence. But for Republicans, as televangelist and later right-wing presidential candidate Pat Robertson said 40 years ago, “it’s better to have a stable government under a crook than turmoil under an honest man.” The threat of liberalism outweighs the risk of an inept, amoral or fascistic president. The Trump era — including its culmination in January’s attempted insurrection — was not out of step with that. There’s no “battle” for the party’s soul; there are only the party leaders who will keep swimming in this foul stream leaving behind those that don’t. For the rest of the country, including the media, reckoning with that fact means being honest about it — the sooner, the better.”
Hiya Jeanette, absolutely OK to quote other sources here, as many as you please–whatever you think adds to the discussion! I guess all I’d say in response is that I agree with pretty much everything Mr. Downie says here, and see no conflict in our views. He just addresses a different facet of the overall issue, hearkening back to where today’s Republican Party illness took root; my emphasis was much more on what it portends for 2024 and the future of our country. I’m wondering where you found yourself going back and forth on what he and I said. ?
Not to worry. The republican party is far from ruin. If you stay in the rabbit holes of the democratic party news you cannot see what is really happening with the republican party.
Even though BIden won, my dem friends are finding themselves depressed. They do not know what to do with the hate they have held for 4 years. Hate is a very toxic emotion. Many are now scared of Trump. This is what Trumps wants, to just keep scaring folks, Please don’t pay him no mind on your otherwise beautiful blog.
First is Tim Scott who is a black republican senator from south carolina who announces we are not a racist country. Take one minute and see what he meant by that, instead of immediate overreaction. Immediately he is called uncle tom because democrats cannot stomach him leading the republican party with a real message for blacks.
Yes, he gets followed in stores and stopped by police for no reason except he is black, but he is bigger than that, He says dems are upset they cannot control blacks. Tim is a leader and if you actually listened to his speech after Biden, (instead of following the Dem rabbit hole quips that he is a betrayer of blacks) you would see what he is saying is the truth. Blacks need to work with whites, not attack them. Blacks are already equal to whites.
But in case Scott is not enough, lets look to Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan who is this weekend pardoning 37 blacks accused of a crime in the 1800’s without a trial or fair hearing. and who were lynched. This republican governor is taking a stand as so many republicans are now that this past treatment of blacks needs to be repaired and so he is doing it. But you will not hear about this on democratic stations, nor will you hear Candace Owens who is another rising star speaking for republicans.
Don’t worry Andrew, the republicans are doing just fine. and the depression among many biden fans I know is I think because they do not know what do to with the hate. MLK told us “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” Many forgot and hated trump anyhow. It felt so good at the time, like any drug, and now they are feeling the pain.
Don’t let Trump scare you. He is irrelevant among republicans and we know enough not to be scared. This is his narcissistic behavior. Just ignore him. I had a totally narcissistic father and I know this behavior. Also I worked with narcissists in corporations and wrote about it in my published Leadership book on page 109-111. Just ignore them and it blows away. Every time you mention Trump on a blog you only add fuel to the post trump depression. Let go, ignore him and he will go away. If you Keep spreading fear of him you will be keeping his sickness alive. Thx for listening, love mary
Mary, I find your optimism and intention to shake the dust of Trump off your boots and move on in another direction with your party to be admirable. I fervently wish you were right that Trump is “irrelevant among Republicans,” that we can simply “ignore him and he will go away.” The problem is that from what I see and hear, none of what you say is in the reality-based world. Wishing it all to be true will not make it so. It strikes me as ignoring everything that is actually happening in the Republican Party, and the full embrace nearly the entire federal and state legislative apparatus—as well as Republican voters—have offered Trump since he rejected the peaceful transfer of power and tried to overturn our government.
You mention several times the “Democratic echo chamber” and “hatred” I and other Democrats feel for Trump as if those are the only problems we actually face. Ignore him, overcome our hatred, and the problems with Trump will be solved. Mary, the problem with Trump is not Democratic hatred of him—the problem with Trump is Trump, and the stranglehold he has on the party you love, but which doesn’t exist anymore as you knew it. And it’s far from it being only the Democratic echo chamber that says so.
Why do you make no mention of Liz Cheney or Mitt Romney, or the Bushes, the McCains, Jeff Flake, virtually the entire former Republican media guard—George Will, David Brooks, Bill Kristol, Peggy Noonan, Mona Charen, the Lincoln Project and The Bulwark group—ardent Republicans all, true conservatives, and all of them just as or more emphatic, impassioned and appalled than most Democrats are about the threat Trump and the party he has fashioned in his own image poses to the nation and world?
I feel moved to counter your suggestion it’s only the Democratic “echo chamber” that fills my head. Simply not true. I read and listen to podcasts by those I mention above all the time. We don’t agree on much, but they are actual Republicans—or what used to be Republicans—who want what you want in bringing the party back to a policy- rather than cult-based identity. But unlike you, all of them are horrified by Trump and his hold on the party, and feel cast adrift, without a political home. None of them think ignoring him will make him fade away—the evidence for that is nil. So they speak out far more consistently than I do in citing the threat Trump is to our country.
And for the record, I also listened to and read Senator Scott’s speech last week (more on him below), and I consult Trump-aligned media—Fox News and even, gulp, AON and Newsmax—with regularity. I also watched all of Trump’s major speeches, going right to the source of the hatred and evil he projects, none of it second-hand, and none of it suggestive of a man who should lead anyone in anything, much less an entire nation.
And yet the Republicans who you claim “are doing just fine” are almost uniformly aligned behind him—87% of Republican voters in an NBC poll approved of his job performance AFTER the insurrection, and your Senator Scott, along with 42 others of the 50 Republican senators, voted against convicting him in the impeachment trial even after Trump had refused to accept the election result and loosed a riotous mob on the Capitol building with the goal of preventing the election certification. If that is not an impeachable offense, then we shouldn’t even bother with the idea. I don’t find any encouragement in Scott’s vote there.
And about Scott claiming that “America is not a racist country”—this is confounding in the extreme, and made me literally laugh the first time I heard it. It is belied by his own experience of, as you say, “still being followed in stores and stopped by police for no reason except he is black.” You say “he is bigger than that,” which refers to the response he has decided on in dealing with those episodes, but if his experience doesn’t suggest strong and lingering racism in the U.S., I don’t know what does. And he’s a well-dressed, well-spoken, self-possessed United States senator—what does he figure might happen to lesser endowed blacks every day in this country? As we know, many of them—George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor—it’s a long list—wind up dead.
Unlike some Democrats, I don’t see racism under every rock, and I do believe we have made remarkable progress. Racism isn’t worse—it’s just been amplified and given license by Trump and modern social media tools; the racists who have been there all along now feeling safe to crawl out from under their rocks. But to suggest racism no longer exists at all is stunning to me—besides Senator Scott’s own experience that you cite, I invite you to take a tour of Yahoo, Fox News or virtually any other media Comment stream about racial matters if you want a peek at its underbelly.
Finally, from a spiritual framework, I think the MLK quote you cite is always good to bear in mind, but please let us not ignore how vehemently he fought for racial justice, how regularly he called out racists and racism. Impassioned and consistent protest and stout opposition to prevailing power structures were front and center with him, none of it conflicting with his emphasis on love rather than hate. He never to my knowledge sent roses to Bull Connor—nor did he ignore him hoping he’d go away. He instead fought him like hell, with the power of his words and peaceful protest. Which is what I’m doing a relative smidgen of here—not hatefully, just with my eyes and ears wide open.
I want to thank you for taking the time to sketch your vision on these issues, which in my view is misguided but sincere and heart-felt. I fully respect and—not often, but sometimes!—even agree with your version of pro business, pragmatic Republicanism. I just don’t think it exists much anymore, having been buried under the Trump tsunami of nativism, culture wars and grievance politics. I wish you the best in your efforts to free it, and again, hope I am proven wrong and you are right in this entire matter. Few things would make me happier.
Andrew, just yesterday I was saying (twice, in fact) that I felt as anxious and discouraged about the future of our democracy as I did last summer. Your post is a detailed explanation why. Thanks for articulating the half-formed thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain for a while now.
Yes, David, particularly with today’s vote to oust Cheney from her leadership position and the ongoing efforts at voter suppression taking place across the country even as I type, I think our democracy is probably more fragile today than it was even after January 6. For the Republican Party to not only embrace the Big Lie almost en toto but then REQUIRE it as a condition of leadership represents a whole new level of crazy, or as longtime Republican Peter Wehner wrote this morning in the New York Times: “…confirmation that the Republican Party is diseased and dangerous, increasingly subversive and illiberal, caught in the grip of what Ms. Cheney described in The Washington Post as the ‘anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.’”
There’s some historical truth to Mary’s optimistic view of Trump as an irrelevant figure on the American political scene. Grover Cleveland was the only president to make a successful comeback after losing a presidential election. In fact, most major party presidential candidates choose not to run again after losing an election (i.e. McCain, Romney, Gore, George F.W. Bush, Dole, Hillary and so on). Moreover, the republican party has faced situations where polarizing figures like Joseph McCarthy and Barry Goldwater created a backlash from within. McCarthy’s attack on Ike and the Army did him in. Goldwater’s extremism led to a humiliating defeat in 1964 and caused some republicans to reassess such a dramatic move to the right. However, Trump’s a different animal, and the social divisions now are far more serious. Despite losing the popular vote twice in both his presidential runs, which contributed to his party’s failure to maintain its congressional majority, Trump still pulls the strings; it’s strange and flies in the face of our presidential history. The republicans are not deserting the sinking ship. In fact, they seem to be embracing their own drowning. Some ultra-conservative commentators are now comparing Liz Cheney to Benedict Arnold. One even stated he’ preferred Pelosi to Cheney. The most troubling aspect of this post-Trump era is the republican party’s willingness to revert to Jim Crow politics and anti-democratic measures. If these moves prove successful, the damage will be long-lasting.
I think your key point here, Robert, is that “Trump’s a different animal.” As you point out, failed presidential candidates have generally been tossed aside like yesterday’s coffee grounds, and none of them ever tried to lead an insurrection and reject the peaceful transfer of power. To have the vast majority of voters and legislators now embrace him for that rather than banish him forever is a staggering and shocking development that we gloss over at our peril. Inch by inch, these actions are drawing us closer to a schism we will never heal from, with deeply troubling implications for our survival. Cheney laid it out starkly in her speech last night, available here: https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/05/11/liz-cheney-house-floor-remarks-republican-vote-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/
With infiltration (of the mind) so goeth domination like all cults. I have an R friend who edges towards conspiracy and is close to the precipice and falling headlong into the arms of Lindsey Graham I am the only one to challenge him without demonizing his position. Not easy to listen to a steady undercurrent of racism, white privilege justification, and intense hatred for liberals (like me). I am making small inroads but the progress is slow. Thanks for sharing Andrew. If you are traversing in R circles it would be good to hear about your encounters.
Great anecdote and question, Lou. Republican presidents from Nixon on through the second Bush made virtually no difference in my relationships with Republican friends and family. Some lively conversation on occasion, but distinct borders between politics and relationship. Trump made that infinitely harder—just one way, and in some ways the most significant way—he planted bombs all over the American landscape. I’m recalling school lessons on the Civil War, how in many cases it pitted brother against brother—not far at all from what we have now, and where I am legitimately concerned we may be heading.
The most difficult thing about this is how obvious Trump’s viciousness is, his trampling of all civilized norms, all the old guardrails of discourse and decorum thrown out the window. And then a violent insurrection. This is not about policy whatsoever, but about whether we value democracy. So when virtually the entire Republican establishment and some 70%+ of voters fall in with that and want more, how does one argue about it?
Looks to me at the moment that we simply can’t let the 5%-10% of the electorate who are swing voters forget the gravity of our situation. We don’t have to and likely won’t be able to change many minds among the 40% or so of voters who seem to be Trump die-hards, but if we can pick up a rational enough middle and get to 54% or so, that’s a landslide by modern standards. But whether even that would get Trump and his cultists to stand down without violence and post-election chicanery is a very open question.
Though you talk about Rs in the past and distinct borders etc. interacting with Trumpians nowadays is entirely different—paranoia on steroids with a mix of Jehovah Witness fervor and delusion, sprinkled with a very special pixie dust of hate and disgust for liberal multiculturalism, racial justice and of, dare I mention, BLM. Fear, an elixir that needs no cauldron to brew, only a good car salesman to it sell to the masses. I do so appreciate your analysis.
Lou, for a great elaboration on this matter with some historical context, check Ezra Klein’s podcast from yesterday’s New York Times. No separate link, but if you click on this below, should be there down the right side of page, or else just type in Ezra on their search bar. Can give it a listen, or read the transcript. http://newyorktimes.com/ezra-klien-podcast
Also love the line “…an elixir that needs no cauldron to brew.” Thanks for that!
I came here for your songs and music reviews and critics. I got to say you should really stick to that because on the political stuff you are hilariously clueless. Still, have a good day.
Well, I’d look forward to your commentary on the music posts as well, Mr./Ms. Name! I would hope it is more substantive and penetrating than your own political stuff, though, which is the rhetorical equivalent of a drive-by shooting. “Hilariously clueless” doesn’t give me too much to mull over and is probably not the most convincing argument you could make to critique my position and move me off it. As Joe Biden would say, “C’mon, man!” Step out from behind that curtain and get real! Still, have a good day. :-)