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Saturday Thoughts: We Still Haven't Gotten an Apology or Grace from Much of the GOP
The hearings are revealing rotting Republican incentive structures.
WASHINGTON, DC - March 6, 2021: A metal fence surrounds the U.S. Capitol complex after pro-Trump supporters stormed the building on January 6, 2021.
There has been a lot of writing about “Team Normal” or the Republican Party officials that claimed they never thought the election conspiracies held weight. Even though many of those same people (like William Barr) would gaslight the public about whether the election had integrity or not.
It is a testament to how this Republican tour of untruth can sometimes have nothing to do with Trump but instead save a professional ecosystem and policy network that rewards itself when accountability is averted. This is why I jokingly refer to the party as a decadent club. It is not that the Democrats don’t share some of those features.
But the Democrat incentive structures haven’t turned against multicultural democracy.
The Republican Party is trying to save its brand and its face. People who worked on Republican campaigns and have pushed the elephant branding for decades (or have conducted business with the party) are wondering about the future of a cabal that is positively alienating, tribal, and anti-democratic. The GOP brand is wrapped up in business incentives, cultural signals, and psychological triggers that have defined parts of America for a while now. And still, the ugly face of the party today is being shown by its own members sitting on the January 6th committee.
Because in America’s heart of hearts, it knows that Trump was not an aberration.
Donald Trump was the outgrowth of failures within the collective political class. Broken promises, demagogic inclination, and plutocratic design has mired both of America’s political parties. However, the Republican Party of my lifetime has explicitly flirted with the ghosts of the past, like old racial tribalism, in order to push a privatized policy that is blatantly not in the public interest.
I have not written a lot around this January 6th hearing because I am waiting to see the complete package. However, they have been very important and well done so far. Liz Cheney has done more than the bare minimum to not only denounce the events of that day in January but also uncover some of the threads that led the nation to degrade its own democracy. Still, she and Adam Kinzinger are an outlier in a bigger party organism that has treated the last two years like “whining” instead of recognizing the fear they have themselves inspired.
Whether that is fear of another countrymen’s prejudices or fear that inspires one to act out in violence:
A Republican congressman gave tours to people who were part of the riot the next day. There was footage of one person taking suspicious pictures of security checkpoints.
The story of the Republican Party is long and rich.
But today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party.
The January 6th hearings are a historical trial for the Grand Old Party. Even though Americans are understandably living in a terrible inflationary cycle that was ill-predicted by the current administration, they are also being given a record. This retelling of events that took place on that fateful day broke the country’s chain of peaceful power transfers and may have thrust the nation into an era marred by division and political violence:
As Jonathan Chait writes in the New Yorker:
This complacency fails to account for the party’s rapid transformation since Trump left Washington on Air Force One to the sounds of the Village People. Trump’s intraparty critics have portrayed his relentless focus on litigating the election as the self-defeating tactic of a loser. “Trump is acting on an entirely personal and selfish priority,” complains National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry. “There’s no principle at stake in embracing the Jan. 6 mob or advancing 2020 conspiracy theories.” In truth, it is actually an effective organizing tool built around the unifying idea that Democratic election victories are inherently illegitimate. He has inspired millions of followers and harnessed their energy to reshape the party into a vehicle to advance his vision.
Well over 100 Republican nominees for national or statewide office explicitly endorse Trump’s fantasy that the election was plagued by large-scale fraud. A much greater number of Republicans simply refuse to say one way or another if Joe Biden won the election fairly. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, asked recently about Barr’s confession that Trump had no grounds to dispute the election results, first asserted that something fishy did occur (“You saw some states not follow their state-passed legislation”) before pivoting to his desire not to “keep relitigating 2020.”
The worst thing the hearings are revealing is that many within the Trump orbit knew they were committing crimes but believed they would get away with it.
A culture of criminality coupled with many within the Republican establishment having overt confidence in its success (or in ignoring it until one can retreat into their wealth) has mired our nation as a whole.
We cannot accept that this is normal business for the rightward section of America’s political spectrum.
We will lose our democracy which has blessed the last several generations.
*The Sunbelt will return.
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