In or out of power, with no positive agenda in sight, today’s rightwing flunks at governance

Still undetermined: the degree to which this Cult Leader will sabotage his own hijacked party’s chances in the mid-term.


Behold the Nullification Party – against the majority, climate threats, abortion, vaccine mandates, and immigration plus science, intellectual freedom, healthcare, gay, minority and voting rights.

So what is entrenched Republican leadership FOR? What is (and was) Trump FOR that helped ordinary people? Can anyone truly sell ice to Icelanders, rephrasing the old joke? So much for the Santa Claus version of politics: a barren bag of no benefits is what the minority party carries around. Okay, the GOP does promote violent protests and grievance, gun sales, old-time religion, pointless southern walls, and autocratic Trump control.

How can a viable political party – hell, even a mediocre cult – have no positive platform, let alone nominal, deliverable goodies? Can a gang leverage so much disgust towards government, then win enough seats to undercut the once-respected electoral system that empowers it? That’s a plan I suppose, but sounds like theft, sedition and bad faith. Contradictions inform today’s rightwing, like laughably bizarre responses to Putin, the Ukrainian War and who’s really to blame for a brutal, unjustified invasion. Doesn’t Putin get that it’s better to “buy a country” with economic imperialism, or make it a target market, than turn global pariah using force to overthrow an elected government?

Once upon a time politics was about governing, as in backing notions of progress the majority supported, however daunting the challenge. Democrats at least try, notching under duress major achievements in the last year. Admittedly, legislation historically produces as many mixed outcomes as the average baseball hitter, with far more strikes and outs than home runs. Grand slams, dream on. Too often, the vagaries of unintended consequences – and flawed human nature – prompt stalemates, setting up replays next season. Judging by Trump times – court-packing with extremist judges, defiance of elections, monumental failures responding to Covid, unfair taxation and an open field to pollute, the results impaired everyone’s living conditions.

Politics bereft of promises?

Not only can I find no American instance of a party refusing to push a positive agenda (even scorning a platform, per Trump and McConnell), but one instead hell-bent on torpedoing intact, authorized rights on abortion, voting, women’s, gay marriage, plus censorship of education and undermining Medicare and Social Security. Once upon a time assailing opponents as “do nothing” (or rights stealing) scoff offs dripped with contempt. Yet, is this not the implicit GOP message – “Okay, progress for the people isn’t our thing, but we deliver bromides Trump likes, scorn government and vilify barbarian Democratic hordes. What’s wrong with mob protests, serial shootings, fundamentalism, and no safe way to deal with unwanted pregnancies?” Trumpers align with “geniuses” like Putin because only strongmen (yes, men) can “control” the mind-bending messiness of democratic systems. Thus do rightwingers slander Biden, the predictable, low-key moderate, as socialist/communist/satanic schemer against the purity of white, nationalistic essence.

This week the deposed Cult Leader exposed his strong-arm militancy by cheering on Putin’s invasion of a legitimate, sovereign neighbor – echoing his own inciting the Jan. 6’s invasion against legitimate, sovereign elections. Why, it’s as if the party yearns for dictatorship seasoned with thoughtless, know-nothing impulses! Republicans aren’t just about nullification of democratic government but nihilism towards whatever Democrats (and others) propose. Their insanity apes Groucho Marx’s song from Horse Feathers“Whatever it is, I’m against it!” Some joke, decades later, but this from a true genius who aptly called himself “Groucho.”

Other than increasingly fatuous, delusional, MAGA propaganda, what deliverables do Trump and Trumpist enablers actually promise their own base? Fewer abortion options for those against abortion? Even less Obamacare coverage? Fewer value-adding immigrants to dilute their ordained ethnic or racial dominance? Less disrespect for backward evangelical zealots who deny the importance of knowledge, let alone evolutionary biology and the age of the earth? Opposition to the most modest funding offsets to climate change? Rejection of scientific medicine that dares link highly-contagious pandemics with the entire nation’s public health?

How do fundamentalist heterosexual marriages improve by trashing gender rights? Is everything about symbolism, rejecting all government actions that just might foster opportunity or human rights or planetary health? What factual social, economic or political rights advanced during Trump’s four years? How about broken treaties, cruder tariffs, more outsourcing, avoidable deaths and disease, plus embrace of dictators?

In politics, as in sports, religion, and business, either your collective leverage expands or shrinks – and even a conflicted democracy ultimately comes down to voting numbers. More plurality is better than less, routine mid-term reversals aside. Riven by its own internal party fragmentation, exactly what popular gains is the rightwing gang offering to what constituency it doesn’t already hoodwink?

Confidence in open voting, not closed propaganda

Sure, Republicans may gain House numbers, but that only postpones addressing real-world problems with two years of anti-governance. Whatever legislative proposals pass before that feared deadlock arrives, this undeniable truth remains: history judges political parties not by bad propaganda but by tangible change to real people. Cults and religion instead depend on vague intangibles: don’t expect payoffs in this world, certainly not from “rigged” government or child-eating leaders. Trust only to invisible higher powers and today’s rightwing, Teflon messiah, despite looming countless indictments from multiple prosecutors.

That millions don’t see through the hustler of all hustlers is testament to the American exceptionalism of suckerdom – as if being duped were an Olympic event. Trump deserves a phony plastic medal for his persistence, but his one-note, deliverable-free act won’t expand his appeal, certainly not by glorifying the thuggish, belligerent Putin as a genius. Winning depends on not just demonizing foes but promising to do something real for the majority.

Still undetermined: the degree to which this Cult Leader will sabotage his own hijacked party’s chances in the mid-term. Instead of trusting to fabricated grievances, or that anyone can fool most of the people most of the time, I am optimistic that enough voters can defy the odds, even pull off the miracle of “fixing stupid” before one deviant party regains even partial power. If politics isn’t at least on the surface about positive change, then what?


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.