Misguided purification rites turn a wannabe party fortress into a prison
When do self-wounding House extremists face this apparently mystifying dynamic: fewer voters = fewer winners, thus less power? However contradictory, radical Republicans are mounting two contrary, counterproductive campaigns: they are suppressing Democratic voters but with such ham-fisted, anti-democratic fervor the ploy looks to backfire. They are also suppressing dissent, if not free speech with such punitive Trumpian boorishness that this ploy looks to backfire. Bravo! A self-inflicted, double-GOP whammy.
Though Jennifer Rubin’s Washington Post headline exaggerates, “The stampede away from the GOP begins,” House Trumpers have squandered more mid-term support than they captured with the Liz Cheney demotion stunt. Conservative disaffection yes, “stampede” not quite yet. Over half the right refused to abandon the election fraud mania. Yet the Trump gut instinct to divide-and-conquer is now fragmenting his own hijacked party, spreading still his own myopic pandemic.
What wizard triggered the rightwing rush to commit another unforced, highly-publicized error? Were hordes of the indignant base—let alone gun nuts or disaffected insurrectionists—dumping ultimatums that the most prominent woman conservative leader be given the bum’s rush? Where’s the upside for a cult party, so obsessed with losing an election, it can’t stop reliving that defeat with serial blunders: first, trying to cheat by alleging election cheating, then an amateurish mob insurrection, and now a costly House purification stunt. The party’s “rigged” addiction to sabotaging a legitimate election is itself “stealing” away its own leverage.
These debilitating ploys cough up exactly what no losing party should do: amplify its own disunity and jeopardize its national reach. How many non-Trumpian centrists rushed to embrace the “victim” of what would constitute the greatest scandal in modern history? How many fed-up conservatives, rich and poor, are yelling No to the party of No – no policy, no coherence, and no national wins? Is the radical right not channeling Barry Goldwater’s unintended witticism: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue”? Loose, colloquial update: “Rampant extremism in defense of bad propaganda is party poison.” As lies go, alleging a conspiratorial theft of a national election is turning a discredited ex-president into an unelectable blowhard.
Fraud on “fraud”
Who thinks in twelve months Trump’s worst lie will have more—or less credibility? And if elections are rigged, to follow the illogic, won’t that denigrate mid-term tabulations? One hardly envies party gunslingers hired to promote wounded House members in purple districts—a job only second in agony to informing the oracle of Mar-a-lago his “strategery” ain’t genius, more likely counterproductive.
On top of which, when in the last year have either Trump or belligerent Republicans talked real-world deliverables, vs. “obstruction today, obstruction tomorrow, obstruction forever” (echoing Wallace’s line about segregation)? Defending small government, fewer regulations and taxes, even opposition to abortion, qualify as plausible. But how does compounding the Trump insurrection with dumping Cheney—while silence reigns on the abusive Matt Gaetz and the incendiary Marjorie Taylor Greene—advance the cause?
The Cheney purge, at best kept private, has delivered national screw-up exposure. Now House re-election candidates confront not just energized Democrats but skeptical, angry or outright anti-Trump ex-Republicans. Anyone think Dick Cheney, that most Machiavellian and well-heeled of former VPs, won’t wreak revenge? However diminished since 2012, millions of Bush/Cheney/Romney/Boehner Republicans have more reasons not to back Trump, even were he not unhinged. Further, Trump Republicans have few conservative base “wins”—unless tax breaks for the rich, capricious tariffs or broken international treaties count. The ongoing pandemic is the painful reminder of what happens when America is purposely fragmented against the most non-partisan of enemies.
What about further downsides from the just approved House investigation into the insurrection, little more than “Trump rally” gone fascist, deadly rebellion? No Republican gains there. What greater insult to democratic, majority rule (popular and Electoral College) accrues than when refusal to concede blows up the peaceful transfer of power?
And yes, despite chaos, miracles still survive modernity: most Republicans support their man-boy messiah. Only a further “miracle” is needed to re-nominate a sneering white supremacist who feasts on scapegoating grievance against newcomers, immigrants, minorities, women, and those scheming, enemies of the people: urban, northern and coastal Democrats.
Authoritarian politics must stay in expansion mode to domineer. How many fellow House travelers, loyal to the emperor of vanity, aren’t feeling besieged? The unintended consequence of demoting Cheney boosts her newly-energized message: lock out Trump and Trumpism (as they lock out dissent). The leverage from the shocking 2016 upset recedes by the week—and duplicating that feat is on par with our planet getting belted with a damaging asteroid.
Walls that wall in
Trump’s most foolhardy (expensive, ludicrous) idea was that southern wall fantasy. How telling of Trump’s mental baggage that he thinks walls work, and in only one direction. What of his banishment ploys worked, whether ethnic travel bans, tariff walls, rally expulsion of foes, even that ignorant, wishful thinking would stop the pandemic in its tracks? Still, Trump and House fanatics don’t understand that walls not only exclude but box in misguided makers (remember Troy or the Berlin wall). Walls are lousy checks against inept controls, let alone derangement.
Whether this GOP slide is “a stampede”—or linked only to Trump—needs confirmation, like the mid-term. Yet the coarseness of the Cheney demolition speaks to Trumpist desperation, greater than any time since 2016. Party purification rites won’t end until Trump stops his scatter-gun assault on perceived enemies. But what politician blind to mistakes boasts anything but a negative learning curve? Why, from the mock self-confidence of these unforced errors, one would have thought the rabid right had won the election.