What sets sports, contagions and politics apart is the ease of separating winners from losers. By inciting violent riots, offending voters, sabotaging popular legislation, slighting women by criminalizing abortion, defying germ science (and killing its own voters), the right’s high-risk gamble has huge national downsides. Like Trump, Republicans seem obsessed with losing—notwithstanding noisy contempt for chronic losers.
Though a Paul Ryan faction battles the party’s demise, the next elections will confirm how the modern version of the Goldwater Extremism Syndrome damages the Grievance Over Prudence (GOP) syndicate. In 1964, candidate Barry Goldwater tanked after declaring “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” More damning still, and sounding like a literate Trump, Goldwater declared that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” Right, as if profligate “liberty” taken to extremes is no vice. Cheerleading extremism didn’t work then—so why should it work now? Goldwater’s fire and brimstone rhetoric has simply been updated, laced with Trumpist crudeness.
A generation ago, the infamous Pat Buchanan spoke for racist “peasants with pitchforks” Republicanism, with chin thrusting white nationalism that slurred immigrants, taxation, and globalism. Today, Buchanan excesses look downright tame, trivialized by more terrifying (if laughable) QAnon blather and armed, militant Proud Boys who assault police to foment civil strife. The inmates rage, but savvier conservatives despair. Where’s evidence that touting extremism returns any party to national power? Au contraire, as the GOP rushes to follow Trump into the undrained, ultimately undrainable swamp.
For decades, centrist voters in a dozen states have decided the future and who runs it, whatever the branch. How does more extremism (shaming the Dubya/Romney “moderation”) redeem a bleeding party that’s already lost the White House and Congress—and two GA senate seats? Is betting the house on extremism, as if some magic potion, not the worst sucker bet in modern politics? Well, on par with Trump the unbeatable. Other than voter intimidation, which negatively impacts all sides, what real-world politics offsets losing all but one presidential elections since 1992? As trends gain permanence, the “stupid party” gets stupider – and without one viable, winning, national nominee—Trump? Pence? Certainly not Cruz, Hawley nor Kevin “the ass kisser” McCarthy. Moscow Mitch? A political party of liars—without leaders, momentum or popular messaging?
Death wish on parade?
If this isn’t a cultist death march, then what? How far will racism, misogyny, and bad faith, absent real-world deliverables, go in equating extremism with Republicanism? How do fewer gun regs and fewer vaccines, but more abortion crimes, renew a party with monumental demographic problems? If irrationality and cluelessness had worked before 2016, politicos would have tried it. Can such losing ploys stand a chance against Biden Democrats, steadily notching steady, if limited wins? Is there enough leverage in manipulating voting to overcome a growing 60% majority mandate? When has the GOP (since the 1930’s) worked harder to cement centrists as permanent Democratic voters?
Thus, the diminished Trump remains the poster child for serial miscalculations, helping some enabling blowhards but making others unelectable. Would not a redo election today advance Biden’s win by many millions? Even a heaven-sent angel couldn’t sell the “stolen” election connivance to any but suckers. If 2020 had voter fraud, perpetrators would go down as the greatest criminal scoff-offs in history.
In short, no one can sell nothing with nobody. What politician, even a bad one, rejects the only elections we have that work and turns state certification into an permanent, evil conspiracy? That’s why no one before ever refused to concede. That’s why only a deranged autocrat sees public “voting” as impossible to lose. The last defeated incumbent president who regained the White House was Grover Cleveland in the Ice Age, before our grandparents were born. And Cleveland didn’t squander support by challenging the outcome, nor dramatize the loss with endless whining. Nor did Cleveland (nor any other WH candidate) dare incite a Washington insurrection because he lost. Even irate Confederate rebels had better arguments. For history, Trump seethes alone.
Am I alone in recording that Trump, a dull bulb on a bright day, went downhill after his near death experience with the virus? The nonsense pouring from the Trump spigot hardly matches in chicanery his earlier blather. Thus Trumpism died 18 months ago when committing gross negligence by denying, then lying about the pandemic. Bleach, anyone? Yes, other Republicans meantime have held their own but most voters welcome far less corrosive leaders. The Great Trump Compression, shrinking his own base, knocked out his national chances before the final bell sounded.
Has severe street violence ever
correlated to regaining power? Democratic party street disorder
in 1960’s Chicago doomed the party’s candidate while electing
the second most criminal president in history, Nixon. Urban
riots after famous assassinations hardly helped elect
sympathetic followers. Open disorder, justified or not, and
domestic mayhem doesn’t sell, nor get bills passed, whether
serial mass gun murders or police brutality. Violence offends
the majority, and extremism doubles down the downside.
Centrists flee extremists
How many key purple state voters want more violent protesters mucking up their backyards—or think that street rebellions can resolve today’s sharp factionalism? A handful? How many centrists think minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s threatened revenge against telecoms obliged to release data honors our laws, democracy or freedom of choice?
Let’s face it: having won elections hasn’t made wacko rightwingers any smarter than Trump. In love with media attention, they love shock value, and that’s no political winner either. As various scientists have quipped, “Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” Not only is Republican insurgency (and I argue prospects) stranger than we think, but already getting stranger than we can think.
Even the simple-minded learn from bad experiences, though truly fixated defensiveness needs major league calamities. When a desperate party looks to a suicidal, perpetually-certified incumbent loser for “leadership,” the opposition only has to bide its time while foes go off the rails, then over the cliff. That finale will be a good day for all Americans, even resistant deplorables who can’t admit they were ever wrong about anything.