The Republican Party has become an extremist cult, bereft of policy prescriptions, contemptuous of science and facts. It has entirely abandoned both the values that made this nation the envy of the world and the political consensus that has endured successfully for so long.
Republicans began journeying down this perilous path in the mid-1990s. Under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, they began to abandon bipartisanship in favor of unabashed obstructionism, opposing anything Democrats proposed. Their rhetoric followed suit as they turned policy debates into pitched battles, painting the opposition as the “enemy,” one that must be trounced at all costs. Instead of seeking compromise, they turned politics into a zero-sum game: if one side was to win, it followed that the other side must lose. Meeting halfway was out of the question.
Part of that all-or-nothing strategy mandated the use of outright lies and, to quote former Trump shill, Kellyanne Conway, “alternative facts.” This was a tactic straight out of Joseph Goebbels’ Nazi playbook. It worked beautifully. The theory, proven over and over during the Third Reich, was that if you told a lie often enough and shouted it loudly enough, people would believe it no matter how preposterous it was. Donald Trump learned this via his Birther canard, which he exploited so effectively that it became the platform for his road to the White House. Now he’s doing it again with the oft-refuted lie that the election was stolen from him.
Along the way from Gingrich to Trump, Republicans discovered that hate, fear, anger and lies were highly effective building blocks upon which to campaign. Policy proposals were abandoned in favor of fealty to an aspiring autocrat and resort to culture wars. Nothing was too extreme, petty or ridiculous to be discounted as a political wedge, be it turning tragic, brain-dead Terri Schiavo into a political football, fake hysteria about supposedly gay Teletubbies, “canceling” Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potatohead, or politicizing rational and essential public health measures such as mask wearing and physical distancing during a virulent pandemic.
Democrats recoiled in disbelief that an American political party would stoop to such depths to secure and retain power, and that a large segment of the voting public bought into this nonsense and did not care if democracy perished. Moreover, they continued to play by the rules when their opponents so clearly favored a scorched earth, take no prisoners approach. They remain rule-bound today despite a mountain of evidence that this plays right into the Republican strategy.
President Biden’s hope for bipartisanship is a non-starter. Republicans demonstrate daily that they have no intention of reaching across the aisle unless it is with a figurative, fully-loaded AR-15 assault rifle. If one side treats politics as a jihad while the other continues to believe that compromise is a worthy goal, you know who is going to prevail. It’s time for Democrats to throw off the shackles of polite restraint and go for broke. That means getting rid of the filibuster and going it alone to pass legislation critical to saving democracy and improving people’s lives. Waiting for Republicans to come to the table as honest brokers is waiting for Godot. It will never happen.
The GOP’s recent performance art ought to be enough to wake Democrats up:
- Republicans calling the January 6 attempted Trump coup d’état in which five people died and 140 law enforcement officers were injured just another “normal tourist day” at the Capitol;
- Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-SS) equating mask mandates with the Holocaust;
- Liz Cheney’s prospective primary opponent who statutorily raped a 14-year old calling their relationship “like Romeo and Juliet;”
- Arizona’s Rube Goldberg recount borne of the Big Lie;
- Matt Gaetz urging a crowd to “use the Second Amendment” to rebel against the government; and
- Republicans’ refusal to support a bipartisan January 6 Commission that they themselves negotiated.
This is all the proof one needs that trying to work with these people is a waste of time and energy. The argument that ending the filibuster sets a dangerous precedent that Republicans will exploit the next time they are in charge is no longer relevant. If Democrats do not act now to save themselves and us, there will be nothing left worth saving.
The country cannot viably function long-term without two legitimate political parties. Eventually, that will catch up with us to our detriment. Meanwhile, Democrats must go it alone. It is up to them to prevent today’s GOP-crafted culture war from segueing into an actual bloody shooting war that will tear this country apart.
May 28, 2021