GOP Authoritarianism Highlights The Need For Dem Unity

Republicans' acquittal vote has greenlit unprecedented, undemocratic acts by Trump and Barr. The stakes could not be higher. The Democratic base must unite.
Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump (DOJ/AP)

Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump (DOJ/AP)

Perhaps the worst kept secret in politics is that while President Trump’s fans are ready to crown him God Emperor of The New Great American Imperium, the majority of Republican lawmakers across the country loathe him so much, they’re unable to keep it to themselves when talking to reporters. (Off the record or anonymously, of course, true to their gutless style.) They endorse his increasingly erratic and authoritarian whims because it serves their interests and he’s essentially the core of their base distilled into a single person, but they see him as little more than an incompetent vulgarian, simpleton, and con man, a living embodiment of failing upwards thanks to daddy’s money.

They hate his tweeting, his rambling and disjointed press conferences, and his penchant for stabbing yesterday’s allies in the back the minute something goes awry thanks to his and his enablers’ incompetence. Likewise, they’re not too fond of what their base has become either, complaining that their primaries turned into competitions of who drives the biggest truck or owns the most powerful gun, and who can spew the most appealing buzzwords.

With the notable exception of the most rabid Tea Party-style politicians, Republicans know full well that they’ve created a monster which quickly outgrew their control, fed on a steady diet of Bircherite conspiracies and histrionics, and those who don’t, have drank enough Kool-Aid to either no longer care or wholeheartedly embrace it. This is why they voted to acquit Trump in a sham of an impeachment trial that permitted no evidence or witnesses. It was nothing more than fear of their base’s living id and his army of loyal foot soldiers in a stunning act of amoral cowardice befitting a Second World banana republic far more than a modern democratic superpower.

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But lest you think that the GOP elites and lawmakers are victims, don’t pity them yet. Yes, they may hate and fear Trump, but they hate those outside their partisan tribe much more. It’s not as if they have great love for minorities, urbanites, techies, immigrants, and those with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and were simply caught in Trump’s web and must pretend to despise them for political brownie points. It’s just that they prefer a more subtle, high brow Kevin Williamson in National Review style of classism and racism rather than what they see as South Park’s “dey took our jerbs!” caricatures come to life.

If you think this is an exaggeration, just consider an article beloved by GOP elites which lays out the solution to the many, many problems facing rural America and boosting the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory in a 5,000-word version of “shut up, quit whining, and move to the city where the jobs are.” Meanwhile, the aforementioned elites will sit around a table at the Four Seasons, drink $30 cocktails, and cheer their massive tax cuts. Ask them about what will happen to their party’s base and they’ll tell you “oh, the base is screwed.” Ask them how they can stand Trump as president and remind them all the horrible things they said about him during the primaries and you’ll be told “he lowered our taxes, so… you know. It is what it is.”

Of course, being older, often deeply conservative, and more subdued in their fervor regarding cultural issues, they’ll tolerate sexual and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and people of color, but certainly not parading on the street and in front of cameras demanding equal rights and actual accountability from the politicians who govern their lives and law enforcement acting in ways one may very politely call sub-optimal. Some, like Attorney General William Barr, buy into old Bircherite conspiracies and think that there’s an organized campaign to break down traditional society by progressive groups.

And because they view government workers with disdain and consider them leeches and parasites on the system, they ascribe to the diet version of the Deep State plot as well, as outlined by Senator Chris Murphy, (D-CT). This is ultimately why they let Trump off the hook. They like tax cuts and hate anyone even a little more liberal, foreign, or browner, and experts and media figures who take them to task a lot more than they hate Trump. If it keeps them in power and lines their pockets, they’ll make peace with it. Hurting the people they hate is just a bonus. Hurting the people they claim to care about? Well, they don’t really care about that.

If their voters fervently believe all their problems are caused by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles rather than carelessness, incompetence, and self-sabotage, it’s all the better for them. Instead of having to defend their lackluster track records and inability to govern, they can just point to the hyperventilating talking heads on Fox and present them with a conspiracy theory in which they must cower in fear as secret UN/Illuminati/Antifa/MS-13/Soros’ Jew World Order agents skulk around their small towns and quiet suburbs. Should they forgo these handy excuses, they’ll have to face real accountability and they’d rather avoid that as much as they can.

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And this brings us to this election year in which an emboldened Trump has been given the green light to meddle as he pleases, is retaliating against the impeachment witnesses, had the Attorney General effectively bar any investigations into his behavior, meddling in prosecutions of his associates for crimes they’ve committed, and is spending a billion dollars on a social media disinformation campaign while the GOP bulldozed any potential for another Republican to challenge him. The right-wing political machine is ready for war as the Democratic Party effectively shit the bed in Iowa and its base engages in infighting instead of talking about the critical issues the electorate that doesn’t pay attention to the Twitter primary actually cares about as they did in 2018, as rightfully outlined by James Carville.

The left is disorganized and the right is filled with authoritarians who fall in line at the snap of their leaders’ fingers. Meanwhile, the Republican lawmakers who could put a stop to this turn a blind eye to Trump’s purges of the intelligence community and installation of pliant sycophants who will refuse to challenge him in place of those willing to tell him truths he doesn’t want to hear, berating top generals about whom he talks as if they were his personal servants, and scaring the living crap out of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Instead, they line up behind him because apparently, they hate anyone to their left much more than they worry about the safety of their country and its future, dedicating their entire existence to “triggering soy boy libs” instead of actually serving the interests of the nation they claim to love.

Because this election is not going to be a referendum on how much like Canada, Norway, and Sweden we want to become, we need to focus on what’s really important. This year is about something as basic as whether we want to remain a democracy which truly respects the rule of law and holds its leaders accountable for using the power of government and partisan tribalism to try and place themselves above it. It’s about organizing people who see political conflicts as disagreements to make a stand against those who see elections as fighting on the front lines in an existential war and are willing to let the country and its ideas burn if they can’t get their way. This is not how civilized nations are run. It simply can’t be.

And as we’re debating whether we’re going to remain a nation of free elections and laws rather than an authoritarian kleptocracy where politicians pick their voters, some things are going to be left by the wayside. By sitting out this election or actively sabotaging candidates who don’t live up to your personal standards you’re not going to get universal healthcare, parental leave, fixes to and expansions of public pensions, enforcement of voting rights, and reforms to immigration laws. You’re just helping destroy more of the infrastructure that could make all of that possible in a political feat equivalent to holding someone else’s — and your own — breath until you get your way.

Diverse urbanites are the majority of the country and they want to live in a civilized nation that rejects knee jerk authoritarianism, listens to its highly trained experts, and explores new frontiers of commerce and ideas to improve their daily standard of living. They’re not listing every single micro-aggression they’ve ever received and digging through 30-year-old op-eds for justifications to hate a candidate for failing their purity test. They’re very suspicious of big, magical solutions and they’re very middle of the political road when it comes to the plans they think are realistic. And goddammit, they have had enough of being snidely dismissed by the GOP and their shrinking, graying, ever angrier base as lesser Americans or second-class citizens.

In 2020, we have one job. To give a wanna-be authoritarian and his cadre of toadies, enablers, and propagandists, as well as the simpering cowards who lack the spine to stand up for the nation’s basic principles, the boot. Everything else is secondary. Why? Because if we fail to show that putting party and personal loyalty over country is a recipe for defeat at the ballot box and that abuse of power and crimes committed while in office will be remembered and punished, no matter how hard your servile underlings try to make them go away, we’re not going to have the luxury of discussing how to fix anything the far left wants us to address. We’ll be too busy trying to survive a neo-feudal economy run by lawless demagogues and kleptocrats.

Opinion // Donald Trump / Republican Party / William Barr